Jerusalem of the West

Jerusalem of the West

Jerusalem of the West was a term sometimes used to describe a place where Jews had settled in Europe or Northern Africa.


"Is Amsterdam, then. A Jewish town?"

"Nay; but ‘tis the Jerusalem of the West."

Dreamers of the Ghetto, Israel Zangwill, 1898. [1]

In Europe, Amsterdam was commonly associated with the term and was called Jeruzalem van het Westen in Dutch.[2] Jews settled there in the 17th-century[3] and in 1672, there were and estimated 7,500 Jews living in the city.[4] Holland had a reputation of hospitality and tolerance which was rare in Europe at the time. It was "the first city in Europe where Jews were free from persecution and where they enjoyed religious liberty, ample economic opportunities and social equality."[5] The epithet signalled that the Jews felt comfortable in the city.[6]

In Northern Africa, Tlemcen in Algeria was called "Jerusalem of the West". In the 15th-century, the town was considered a major Jewish spiritual centre.[7] André Chouraqui believed that there was a genuine geographical correspondence between the town and Jerusalem. He wrote: "We were living our dream in the midst of the beautiful countryside of the Maghreb. Tlemcen...resembles the city of David in altitude, climate, fauna and flora, to such an extent that we called in the Jerusalem of the Maghreb."[8]

Other towns given the appellation include: Toledo,[9] Vilna[10] and Antwerp.[11] Many others towns in northern Africa were also called symbolically after Jerusalem: Ghardaia, Mzab (Second Jerusalem), Djerba, Tunisia (Ante-chamber of Jerusalem, Jerusalem of Africa), Ifrane, Morocco (Little Jerusalem).[12]

See also

  • Nowa Jerozolima, a small village established in 1774 for Jewish settlers in Mazovia, Poland.
  • Mokum, Yiddish word meaning "safe haven", given to a number of towns in Holland and Germany.


  1. ^ Dreamers of the Ghetto, Israel Zangwill, 1898. pg. 82.
  2. ^ Ridley Haim Herschell. The Voice of Israel, 1845. pg. 27.
  3. ^ Antonie Wessels. Muslims in the West: can they be integrated, Peeters Publishers, 2006. pg. 9. ISBN: 9042916842.
  4. ^ D. van Galen Last, Rolf Wolfswinkel. Anne Frank and after, Amsterdam University Press, 1996. pg. 17. ISBN: 9053561773.
  5. ^ Beth Hatefutsoth: the first years, Beth Hatefutsoth, the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, 1983. pg. 53.
  6. ^ D. van Galen Last, Rolf Wolfswinkel. Anne Frank and after, Amsterdam University Press, 1996. pg. 12. ISBN: 9053561773.
  7. ^ John Hunwick. Jews of a Saharan oasis: elimination of the Tamantit community, Markus Wiener Publishers, 2006. Back Cover. ISBN: 1558763465.
  8. ^ Susan Slyomovics. The walled Arab city in literature, architecture history: the living Medina in the Maghrib "Geographies of Jewish Tlemcen." Routledge, 2001. pg. 81. ISBN: 071465177X.
  9. ^ Homero Aridjis, Ilan Stavans. 1492: The Life and Times of Juan Cabezon of Castile, UNM Press, 2003. pg. 1. ISBN: 0826330967.
  10. ^ Notable American women: a biographical dictionary completing the twentieth century, Harvard University Press, 2004. pg. 154. ISBN: 067401488X.
  11. ^ Jonathan Irvine Israel, R. Salverda. Dutch Jewry: its history and secular culture (1500-2000), BRILL 2002. pg. 291. ISBN: 9004124365.
  12. ^ Marie-Noëlle Bourguet, Lucette Valensi, Nathan Wachtel. Between memory and history, Volume 2, Taylor & Francis, 1990. pg. 81. ISBN: 3718650673.

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