A former leprosy hospital in Jerusalem was sponsored and built by a German patroness and architect. For many years it was operated and administered by the Moravian Church, and later by the Israel Ministry of Health.
In recent years it was turned into a center of design, art, media, education and modern technology.
The German architect, archaeologist and Protestant missionary Conrad Schick, was born in Bitz in Württemberg district on 22 January 1822. After finishing his theology studies in Basel in 1846, he moved with his friend Ferdinand Palmer as a Protestant missionary to Palestine.
His technical talent was fully demonstrated in Jerusalem, where as an autodidact architect, he designed and built several important buildings, such as the famous Beit Tavor and Hansen House (1887).
His numerous archaeological researches in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, where he worked very often with Arab partners, are also significant. These extensive activities, including numerous professional publications, brought him great world fame.
The German Baroness von Keffenbrinck-Ascheraden motivated by meeting the leprosy-affected inhabitants during her first visit in Jerusalem in 1865, initiated the construction of the first leprosy hospital in Palestine.
Together with the Swiss missionary and the Jerusalem Protestant Bishop Samuel Gobat, she formed a team under whose direction the first building for this purpose was built (1867). The running of the institute was entrusted to members of the Moravian Church, who had experience with caring for leprosy affected people in other parts of the world.
In 1881 the Moravian Church became the owner of the property. Following 20 years of successful operation, the management decided to build a bigger leper home: on April 24 1887, the Jesus Hilfe Asyl, commonly known as the Leper Home was ceremonially opened. In 1950, the Moravian Church sold the property to the newly established State of Israel which then named it the Hansen Government Hospital.
Source of all historic photos: Moravian Archives, Herrnhut, Germany
During the second half of the 20th century, with change in health services policy, fewer patients lived in the compound, and in 2000 it was finally closed.
One of the last nurses in the hospital - Mrs. Ruth Wexler - had the idea to tell and preserve its unique human and cultural story as well as the architectural treasure. In April 2009 the public was invited to come in for the opening of an art and historic exhibition. Subsequently, at the request of Nir Barkat the mayor of Jerusalem, the compound was handed over to the Jerusalem Municipality and turned into a thriving center open to the public. Indeed her initiative bore fruit.