Ki Mizion Ma'aleh Sifrita Chava Rav Aviner

The Yeshiva and Jewish Settlement

Jews have always displayed self-sacrifice to live in Jerusalem

  Despite the fact that Eretz Yisrael was promised to the Nation of Israel from the time of our Forefathers, Avraham Avinu and his offspring displayed enormous self-sacrifice and paid a heavy price to actualize their right to this Land. Similarly, during the initial period of the return to Zion monumental efforts and large sums were needed to actualize our claim. The support of Moshe Montefiore, Baron Rothschild and others make it possible to purchase land in Jerusalem, Tzefat, Hevron and other cities. The first Jewish neighborhoods were built on these lands, and became the foundation of the Jewish Settlement. From them the flowering of the ruins of Eretz Yisrael occurred, in the length and width of the Land

From the Medieval Period Onward
When the Crusaders burst through the walls of Jerusalem in July 1099, the protectors of the "Syrian-Jewish Quarter" in the south-east part of the city were trampled, and nearly all of the Jewish residents of the city were murdered. After the Crusaders were expelled from the city (in 1267), the "Modern" Jewish settlement was established by the Rambam, in the area today called "The Jewish Quarter." After the Expulsion from Spain and the Muslim conquest, many Jews moved to Jerusalem. Jews were not permitted, however, to acquire land in the Old City until the middle of the 19th century.

Beginning in the 19th century, Jews arrived in Jerusalem from all corners of the world Yemen and North Africa, Turkey and Russia, Germany and Poland. Sefardic and Askenazic Jews, Chasidim and Mitnagdim, gravitated towards Jerusalem. They built houses, established yeshivot and shuls and opened businesses and small factories. Even then, they preferred to live near the Temple Mount over other places within the walls. Within a few years, Jews constituted 70% of the Old City's population.

In 1891, the famous educator, David Yellin related that during a Shabbat walk he saw that there were Jewish sites in the Christian Quarter (his writings, pp. 15-6). At the end of the 19th century, a small Sefardic community lived and flourished on "Rechov Ha-Notzrim" (Christians Street). The head of the community, Senor Meir Gani Mivan, established a synagogue next to a factory and his house next to a Greek church. His daughter, who today lives in Holon, showed us a picture of her wedding in the "St. John's Hospice" now a Jewish home called "Na'ot David."

The Jewish neighborhoods in areas outside of the city walls, today called "West Jerusalem," also flourished. More than 100 Sefardic and Ashkenazic families built houses in the neighborhoods "Nachalat Shimon" and "Shimon Ha-Tzadik," next to the grave of Shimon Ha-Tzadik (a Rabbi of the time of the Mishnah and one of the last of the Members of the Great Assembly), today called "Sheikh Garach." These neighborhoods are a few meters from "Orient House," the center of Palestinian activities in Jerusalem today. Tens of families lived next to Sha'ar Shechem (Damascus Gate) in "Beit Nisan Bak" (the House of Nisan Bak) and in the neighborhood of Jews from Georgia. In the area of Silwan and the City of David to the south, lived approximately 100 Yemenite families as well as some from Georgia and Morocco.

In 1921, when 2,500 Jews lived in Tel Aviv, 60,000 Jews lived in Jerusalem. Only 12,000 Muslims and 4,000 Christians resided there at the time.

As a result of the Balfour Declaration and the flourishing of the Jewish Settlement in the Land, a new Mufti arose, Amin Al Husseini, whose incitement lead to the Arab riots of 5780 (1920), 5781 (1921) and 5789 (1929). During these riots, hundreds of Jews were murdered and many more wounded. Residents of "West Jerusalem" (of the Old City), including approximately 1000 families from "Rechov Hevron" facing the Temple Mount, store owners on "Rechov Ha-Shalshelet" and in the new market in the Christian Quarter, and many others were plundered and expelled from their homes. The "Arab Rebellion" - the riots between 1936-1939, were a result of cooperation between Husseini and Adolf Hitler. In the end, the British expelled Husseini, who fled to Berlin. The Jewish Settlement of "West Jerusalem" was expelled from its place. Houses, shuls and many Jewish possessions remained there to be plundered.

 In the period before the establishment of the State in 1948, a tiny fragment of the Jewish Settlement remained fewer than 2,000 Jews, entrapped in the besieged Jewish Quarter. On May 29, 1948, after two weeks of courageous fighting, the Jewish Quarter succumbed. The Jews were again expelled from the Old City of Jerusalem. Despite the United Nations decision to internationalize Jerusalem, Jordan annexed the Old City, destroyed more than 80 shuls and yeshivot, desecrated the graves on Mt. Olives and forbade Jews from entering their holy places.

The reunification of Jerusalem in 5727 (1967) and the return of the Old City to the State of Israel posed many difficult questions before the heads of the State of Israel: What should we do with the Temple Mount? How should we relate to the general Arab population which includes terrorists, murderers and thieves who reside in the Old City and West Jerusalem? One can assume that other enlightened nations would have tried the sinners of war, but the State of Israel took the "Mosaic approach." The destroyed Jewish Quarter was reconstructed as a remembrance of the past. Outside the borders of the Jewish Quarter, the houses that had been shuls, yeshivot, factories and Jewish homes, were left in the hands of the non-Jewish residents, even though some were terrorists and thieves and were dwelling there illegally. We received the "fruits" of this peaceful approach during the Intifada.

The presence of tens of Jewish families and yeshiva students, each displaying enormous self-sacrifice and spiritual strength on a daily basis prevented the development of terror cells and drug dealers. Contrast this with the situation in Gaza, Shechem and Ramallah, where there is no Jewish presence to deter such developments.

The fact that the riots of 5789 (1929) and 5796 (1936) have not repeated themselves is thanks to the new Settlement in the western part of the Old City. Four yeshiva students have been murdered, but determination and cooperation with the authorities have proven correct the old approach of Zionism: Jewish settlement establishes the borders of the State!

Opening institutes of Torah learning, and establishing the young and fresh Jewish settlement in this area is doing its job. Friday night davening and reciting Tehillim at the Kotel, fixed prayer at the "Kotel Ha-Katan," welcoming guests, friendliness towards our many tourists, the sound of children playing in every corner and street, the sound of Torah learning of young and old, has begun to transform the character of this area back into what it once was. Soon, with the help of Hashem, you will be able to enjoy a "virtual" tour of the Jewish areas and historical sites which reside in the heart of the heart of the Nation the heart of our Holy Jerusalem.