As one of the first structures to be erected outside the borders of Old Jerusalem, the Montefiore Windmill was meant to be a symbol of progress and industry but almost immediately stopped working until the site was brought back to life over a century later.
Built by English Jewish philanthropist Moses Montefiore, the windmill was meant to be a beacon of Jerusalem’s future in the new city. The four-bladed tower was finished in 1857, providing a place where citizens moving into the area could base new industry around. Designed in the style of European windmills, the site was equipped with a mill to grind wheat among other mechanical workings. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions, the wind in the area was not strong enough to reliably power the mill, which itself had not really been designed to deal with the hardier crops of the area. While the windmill did manage to inspire people to relocate to the area, the site itself was only in operation for a relatively scant 18 years before it was made obsolete by other methods of flour production.
After its obsolescence, the windmill sat empty for decades until it found use during the Israeli War of Independence as a watch post. It was during this time that British forces actually blew the top off of the disused tower in an action known as, “Operation Don Quixote.” From this time on, the damaged building sat empty until 2012 when, as part of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel, the windmill was completely restored.
Today the Montefiore Windmill still stands as a monument to the creation of modern Israel and offers visitors a museum devoted to the life of Moses Montefiore himself. The bottom of the windmill also serves as a tasting room for the Jerusalem Winery. The blades now spin five days a week and will hopefully continue to do so for longer than they did in the 1800’s.