יום רביעי י"ז בשבט תשפ"ב 19/01/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

The City of Bnei Brak

Bnei Brak was established as the first Chareidi City in Israel

03/06/2009 10:43
In the centre of the country, in the heart of the Gush Dan region, is situated the city of Bnei Brak, an oasis of Torah and a beacon of spiritual light for the surrounding cities of Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv, and indeed, for the whole of the Gush Dan.
The first reference to Bnei Brak in the Tanach is in the book of Yehoshua, where it is enumerated as one of the towns located in the portion of the tribe of Dan. There it states; “….for the tribe of the sons of Dan according to their families, the seventh lottery was cast, and the borders of the portions were at Tzara’ah and at Eshto’el….and Yehud and Bnei Brak and Gas Rimon.”

During a later period, the town is again mentioned as the home-town of the Tanna Rabbi Akiva, as it states in maseches Sanhedrin; “Rabbi Akiva tarried in Bnei Brak.” Likewise, the Pesach Haggadah mentions Bnei Brak; “….it is told of how Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah and Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were sitting in Bnei Brak, and they recounted the events of the exodus from Egypt for the entire night…..” In maseches Kesuvos, Bnei Brak is again mentioned and praised for having good soil, and for being a place where the positive attributes of Eretz Yisrael were clearly apparent; “Rami bar Yechezkel came to Bnei Brak, where he saw goats grazing under fig trees – honey was dripping from the figs and it mingled with the milk that was dripping from the goats – and he said – this is [the meaning of] ‘a Land of milk and honey.’”

In the Gemara in maseches Gittin, Bnei Brak is mentioned as the location where the descendants of Haman came to learn Torah. Today the archaeologists reckon that the ancient city of Bnei Brak was in fact located further south of the city of today, in the vicinity of the Mesuvim interchange – the name is of course no coincidence, having been taken from the words of the Haggadah; “they were ‘sitting’ (Mesuvim) in Bnei Brak…..”

The modern city of Bnei Brak was founded on the 11th of Sivan in the year 5684 by a group of Jews originally from Warsaw in Poland, who had united together under the banner of the organization ‘Bayis v’Nachalah’. The group was led by Rav Yitzchak Gershtenkorn, and with the assistance of the Geula organisation, they purchased the land upon which the town would be erected from the arab owners of the village of ‘Ibn Ivrak’. The original intention of the founders was to establish a farming community, and thus at first their main source of livelihood was from orange orchards that they planted around the settlement.

The leader of the group, Rav Yitzchak Gershtenkorn, was appointed as the first mayor of the fledgling town. From the outset, Bnei Brak was intended as a chareidi town, all of whose inhabitants were shomrei Torah u’mitzvos. In the year 5693 Maran HaRav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz zt’l, the Chazon Ish, settled in the town, and his influence was soon felt in the town, as indeed it was throughout the Torah world. Another contributing factor to the town’s unique character was the arrival of the Ponovezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahanemann zt’l, in the year 5704. He had chosen the location of Bnei Brak to re-establish the Ponovezh yeshiva which was now transplanted from its original European soil; today, thousands of bachurim and avreichim learn in its various branches.

At the time of the establishment of the State of Israel in the year 5708, Bnei Brak’s population stood at some eight thousand inhabitants. A year later, the settlement gained ‘city’ status, and indeed, its population grew in leaps and bounds, buildings sprouting up from all sides where the orange orchards had once been located. Immigrants from Europe and the Middle East poured in and new neighbourhoods were established. Several Admorim chose to make Bnei Brak their place of residence, including the Rebbes of Vizhnitz and Nadvorna, and their chassidim followed, in order to live in their proximity. Thus, just ten years after the establishment of the State, the population had swelled to some forty thousand Jews, an increase of hundreds of percentage points.

For many years, Bnei Brak was the only wholly chareidi city in Eretz Yisrael. Many chareidim lived in other cities such as Yerushalayim and Haifa, but only Bnei Brak had a distinctly chareidi character. This was not achieved without difficulty; in fact, many battles had to be waged before the city’s streets were finally closed to traffic on Shabbos, as befitted a city almost all of whose inhabitants were Shabbos-observant.

The difficulties arose from the fact that a small concentration of secular families lived on the outskirts of the city, who were determined to impose their own lifestyle onto the city as a whole. The focal point of the battles against Shabbos traffic was on Rechov HaShomer, today called Rechov Kahanemann after the Ponovezher Rav. Every Shabbos, the city’s residents would congregate there to protest against the blatant and intentional chillul Shabbos of the secular, who chose purposely to travel through that street. If one would peruse the newspapers of the era, one would find colourful descriptions of the demonstrations on Rechov HaShomer, which frequently escalated into violence, perpetrated by the secular youth, who would throw firecrackers at the chareidi demonstrators, deliberately increasing the level of hostilities. Even when the city council attempted to defuse the situation and suggested to the secular residents that they travel instead on a bypass road that had been opened especially for them, they refused, insisting on continuing to travel precisely on Rechov HaShomer.
Prior to one particular Shabbos, the secular residents planned a procession of tractors, bulldozers and other heavy vehicles, which was to begin at the junction of HaShomer and Rabbi Akiva streets, at the place where most of the battles took place, and would continue onwards. Precisely that week, the rabbonim of the city issued a proclamation that the residents were no longer to go out to demonstrate on Shabbos, and when it became known to the secular residents that the regular protests of the chareidim would not be taking place that week, they decided to put their plans on hold.

One week, a tragedy occurred in the context of the battles for the holiness of Shabbos. A metal barrier made of chains had been erected to block off the street, and one secular protester decided to charge at it in his open-topped jeep, intending to shatter it and re-open the street. However, when the jeep hit the chain, instead of the chain breaking, the jeep flew up into the air, and the driver was killed.

Eventually, after countless demonstrations and huge pressure exerted by the city council and various community activists, the Ministry of Transport finally decided to close Rechov HaShomer on Shabbos, and since that day, it has indeed been closed on Shabbos and the Yomim Tovim, as are almost all of the other roads of the city.

Owing to Bnei Brak’s initial status as the only chareidi city in Eretz Yisrael, huge numbers of chareidi Jews came to live there, to the point where the overcrowding became a severe problem. Approximately twenty years ago the chareidi towns of Emmanuel and Beitar Illit were founded to address the lack of housing in the chareidi community, and more recently, the towns of Modi’in Illit (Kiryat Sefer/Brachfeld) and Elad were also established. These new towns provided a partial solution to the great demand for new housing necessitated by the high natural growth of the chareidi community, and also constituted a more affordable option for those who did not have the means to buy an apartment in Bnei Brak. Despite this, however, Bnei Brak remains one of the most densely-populated towns in Eretz Yisrael.

As of today, Bnei Brak’s population numbers over one hundred and fifty thousand people. All over the city hundreds of synagogues serve the residents, and the sound of Torah learning emerges throughout the day and night from its numerous yeshivos. In addition, the third pillar of the world after those of Torah and Avoda is also maintained to an exceptionally-high standard, as hundreds of gemachim (free-loan societies) are operational all over the city, giving assistance to all who seek it in every conceivable area.