One of the most interesting things about Israel is seeing the juxtaposition of old and new standing side by side. Mamilla is the perfect example. This modern upscale neighborhood and mall stand adjacent to the ancient Old City walls of Jerusalem, outside the Jaffa Gate.
History of Mamilla
Interesting remnants of ancient history can be found in the area called Mamilla. There is the now dry Mamilla Pool which was probably built by Herod the Great. Here Christians were massacred by invading Persians in 614 and an ancient chapel was found containing hundreds of human skeletons. Today the chapel is covered by the Mamilla Mall. Mamilla is also home to a historic cemetery and alongside it are stone-carved Crusader sarcophagi.
During the 400 years of Ottoman rule, the area around the city walls stood barren. When conditions became overcrowded within the walls, some structures were built outside in the Mamilla area. Makeshift stalls set up shop along the walls. These were removed by the British when they took control following World War I, but vendors soon reestablished themselves.
Until 1948 Mamilla was a mixed Jewish and Arab commercial district. When the 1947 UN Partition Plan was announced riots broke out and the area was ransacked. Following the War of Independence, the city was split between Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1967 and Mamilla ended up along the armistice line between the Israelis and Jordanians. The area was dangerous and vulnerable to Jordanian sniper fire.
It became a poverty-stricken neighborhood, and home to new immigrants (many Kurdish Jews). Since 1967 there has been a government renewal program that allocated land for commercial use, residential housing, and hotels. It took 16 years for authorities to agree on the plans but finally, construction began.
Mamilla consists of terraced residential housing, luxury hotels, an exclusive gated community, and the open-air Mamilla shopping mall, built on top of an underground parking lot. It is also home to the expansive Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem, scheduled to open in 2021/2022. The most interesting part of Mamilla for visitors is the pedestrian open-air mall which takes you all the way to the Jaffa Gate entrance of the Old City.
The $150 million mall is home to luxury brand stores like Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Rolex, and Nike. Other stores include local brands such as Castro and Steimantzky. The single-lane mall has art galleries, Judaica stores, Dead Sea stores, and several excellent eateries. For a truly magical experience, enjoy dinner on the Mamilla Hotel rooftop terrace overlooking the Old City.
To explore Mamilla, join one of our Jerusalem Private tours.