Mamilla, The Jerusalem Border Neighborhood That Rose From The Rubble
An incredible story of destruction, division, unification, renewal — and now shopping — begins at Jaffa Gate a century ago.
Forty-six-year-old Yitzhak Penso was one of the first Jews killed in Jerusalem during the War of Independence. Penso had joined the Haganah at the age of 16, during the 1936-1939 Arab revolt against the British and the Jews in Palestine. During the Second World War he enlisted in the British Army and took part in battles in Libya, Egypt, and Italy – and survived. But on December 3, 1947, he was slaughtered by an Arab horde while attempting to rescue Jewish goods in the still-burning shops of the Mamilla Commercial Center.
Mamilla was a tiny neighborhood located on the seam that connects Old and New Jerusalem. Its incredible story of destruction, division, unification and renewal begins at Jaffa Gate where, in the early 1900’s, dozens of shops, consulates, banks and guesthouses completely covered the area from just outside the gate to today’s IDF Square.
At the time, this was also the city’s Central Station. Here camel convoys dropped off all manner of supplies, carriages came and went with passengers, and wagons moved food and goods from place to place.
Most of the original structures in Mamilla were built in the mid 1880’s by both Jews and Arabs as houses, shops and offices that served as an extension of the crowded commercial center next to Jaffa Gate.