There’s another, hidden Jerusalem—a place of secluded courtyards, rich with the history of many peoples. It’s even near the city center. As the great Holy Land geographer George Adam Smith observed: “Among alien and far away races the sparks were kindled of a love and an eagerness for the City almost as jealous as those of her own children.”1 One of these “far away races” was the Russians, and it is their compound that we will explore.
Jerusalem’s expansion outside the Old City walls began in 1860, when Sir Moses Montefiore, an English Jewish philanthropist, built two rows of apartments to the southwest called Mishkenot Sha’ananim (“the Homes of the Blessed”), to house Jews who had been living in unsanitary conditions inside the city walls. That same year, the Russian government built a consulate, a cathedral and a number of hospices for Russian pilgrims within a compound on a flat hilltop near the Old City’s northwestern corner. This hill is where the Roman legions encamped during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., which effectively ended the First Jewish Revolt.