יום חמישי י"ב בתמוז תשפ"ד 18/07/2024
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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

Jewish Settlement in Yerushalayim

The tale of Jewish settlement in Yerushalayim; a history beginning from the times of Dovid haMelech and spanning up until the present day. During almost all of the intervening years there was a constant Jewish presence in the holy city, a presence more constant than in any other centre of Jewish residence.

20/10/2009 09:00
All aspire to ascend to Yerushalayim, the city to which all Jewish eyes are uplifted, eyes revealing an intense desire and longing for the Redemption.

With the conquest of Eretz Yisrael under Yehoshua, the land was divided between the twelve tribes according to the divisions laid down in the Torah; Yerushalayim was located in the portions of Yehudah and Binyamin. However, the Jews were as yet unable to conquer the city in Yehoshua’s lifetime, and it remained in Jebusite hands. The Medrash relates that it was not due to insufficient military might that bnei Yisrael were unable to capture Yerushalayim, but rather because of an oath that Avraham Avinu had sworn to the Jebusites at the time when he had buried Sarah Imeinu in the Cave of Machpeila.

Bnei Yisrael first approached Yerushalayim after the petira of Yehoshua ben Nun, as is related in the book of Shoftim (Judges), chapter one; “And it came to pass after the death of Yehoshua, that bnei Yisrael enquired of HaShem, asking; ‘who should be the first among us to rise up against the Canaanites in war?’ And HaShem answered that Yehudah should arise……….And bnei Yisrael fought in Yerushalayim and captured it, and they smote its residents with the sword and set fire to the city.” After having captured Yerushalayim and burning it down, the tribe of Yehudah in fact neglected the city and did not settle there. The part of the city that fell within Binyamin’s boundaries remained in Jebusite hands, since bnei Yehudah had not conquered it, and the Jebusites continued to live there until the times of Dovid haMelech.

Dovid haMelech was crowned as King in the city of Chevron and he ruled the kingdom from there for seven years. After this period of time, Dovid haMelech captured the Zion fortress from the Jebusites - this is the area now known as ‘Ir Dovid’ or ‘The city of Dovid’ – and he then came to dwell there. Thus for the remaining thirty-three years of his reign, Dovid haMelech ruled over Eretz Yisrael from Yerushalayim.

In his old age, Dovid haMelech desired to know the number of Jews alive, and had a census made. Afterwards, HaKadosh Baruch Hu sent Gad the Seer to Dovid haMelech, and told him that he could choose one of three possible punishments for making the census. The first possibility was for a famine to fall over the land for a period of seven years; the second possibility was that of being pursued by enemies for three months; and the third was a plague of pestilence that would attack bnei Yisrael for three days. Dovid haMelech told Gad; “Let me rather fall into the hands of HaShem, since His mercy is great, and let me not fall into the hands of men”, and he chose the option of plague. After the plague had struck, HaKadosh Baruch Hu cancelled the decree against Dovid haMelech and stopped the plague on Har haBayis, which was then known as the ‘Jebusite threshing floor and store-house’. At the conclusion of the plague Dovid haMelech built an altar to HaKadosh Baruch Hu on that site, in accordance with the prophecy of Gad that he had communicated to him. He then bought the site for fifty shekels of silver, in order to build the Beis haMikdash there.

Dovid haMelech did not merit to build the Beis haMikdash himself. He was instructed by HaKadosh Baruch Hu to leave the work to his son Shlomo haMelech, who laid the foundation stone for the edifice in the fourth year of his reign over Israel. The First Beis haMikdash when completed stood for four hundred and ten years. After the death of Shlomo haMelech, his son Rechavam reigned in Yerushalayim. It was during this time that the kingdom was divided, ten of the tribes appointing Yeravam as king over them. Rechavam was left with only the tribes of Yehudah and Binyamin. The royal house of Dovid haMelech continued to hold onto Yerushalayim, in spite of the many wars that took place over the years and the exile of the Ten Tribes from Eretz Yisrael; the kingdom of Yehudah controlled Yerushalayim until the time of the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash at the hands of Nevuchadnetzar the king of Babylon. After the destruction of the Temple, most of the Jews remaining were exiled to Babylon; only a tiny community of Jews remained living in the holy city, under the leadership of Gedalia ben Achikam. But merely a few months later, Gedalia ben Achikam was assassinated by Yishmael ben Netania, and most of the few remaining Jews of Yerushalayim escaped to Mitzrayim. Yet even after these events, a tiny number of Jews did remain in the capital city.

The Babylonian exile lasted for seventy years, during which control of Yerushalayim passed from Babylonian hands to those of the empire of Persia and Medea. After seventy years had passed from the time of the exile of King Yehoiakim, fifty-two years after the destruction of the first Beis haMikdash, the Jews began to return to Zion. The return took place in three stages. During the first stage, Zeruvavel ben Shaltiel ascended to Eretz Yisrael, and with him 42,360 other Jews; these had the encouragement and backing of King Cyrus of Persia, who had agreed to rebuild the Beis haMikdash. These Jews who now arrived in Eretz Yisrael did indeed begin the reconstruction process, but after just a year of labour, King Cyrus ordered the building works stopped, as a result of pressure from anti-Jewish elements in the Holy Land. It took another eighteen years for the rebuilding to recommence, until seventy years had passed from the time of the burning of the first Temple; the building of the second Temple took four years to complete. When the edifice was finished, the second stage of the Jewish return to the Holy Land commenced, with the arrival of Ezra haSofer and thousands of other Jews accompanying him. The final stage of the return of the Jews to Eretz Yisrael from Babylon was when Nechemia ben Chakliya returned. It is not recorded how many Jews returned with him, but it is written that King Darius sent a contingent of soldiers with him to serve him. Nechemia ben Chakliya then proceeded to repair the walls of Yerushalayim until they were once again complete and intact.

The Second Beis haMikdash stood for four hundred and twenty years. At the beginning of the Second Temple period, the Jews were still subordinate to foreign powers who ruled over them in the Holy Land, such as the Persian Empire, and later on, the rule of Alexander of Macedonia. Towards the middle of the Second Temple period the revolt of the priestly Hasmonean family against the Greeks and the Greek culture they sought to impose took place, which heralded over a hundred years of independent Jewish rule in Yerushalayim and the whole of Eretz Yisrael.

However, this was followed by the rule of Herod, who was a lackey of the Roman Empire. His rule was followed by some sixty years of Roman control over Yerushalayim, punctuated by the rule of Agrippas who was appointed as king. After his death, rule was restored to the Roman appointees, during which time the Jews revolted against the Roman rulers, the Roman army was dispatched to quell the uprising, and, under the leadership of Titus the Rasha, the second Beis haMikdash was destroyed and the city of Yerushalayim was burned to the ground. Hundreds of thousands of Jews died at the hands of the Romans in the course of the battles for the Holy City.

After the destruction of the second Temple and the razing of Yerushalayim, only a few houses remained in the city which had not been utterly destroyed, and in them, Jews continued to dwell. These last few houses were subsequently destroyed by the Romans in the aftermath of the Bar Kochva revolt, after the quelling of which the Romans forbade Jews to live in Yerushalayim, and not only that, also decreed the death penalty on any Jew found entering between the walls of the Holy City. On the site of Yerushalayim, the Roman Emperor Hadrian built the pagan city of ‘Iliya Kapitolina’. Jews were permitted but once a year to enter Yerushalayim and mourn her destruction.

After approximately three hundred years, the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar allowed a slow return of Jews to Yerushalayim; there are those who assert that he even contemplated permitting the reconstruction of the Temple. At any rate, for a period of around a hundred years, the Jews rejoiced in their renewed ability to visit Yerushalayim, and great multitudes of Jews from all over Eretz Yisrael converged upon the Holy City, principally on the three Pilgrim Festivals; as of yet, there was no permament established residence between Yerushalayim’s walls. It was during this period that the Roman Empire was divided into two, when its western part was conquered by the Berbers who invaded from the north towards western Europe; the eastern part became known as the Byzantine Empire. Byzantium then ruled over Yerushalayim for some three hundred years, after which, at the beginning of the seventh century according to the christian calendar, the Persians rebelled against Byzantine rule, with Jewish support. After the Persians had conquered Yerushalayim, Jews returned to live in the Holy City, yet it was to be a short-lived settlement, since they were soon once again expelled, this time due to tensions between them and the christian inhabitants of the city. Even during the brief period of time during which the city returned to Byzantine rule, Jews remained forbidden to enter Yerushalayim.

In the mid-seventh century of the common era, the Muslims conquered Eretz Yisrael. The Muslim armies besieged Yerushalayim which then surrendered to the enemy forces, after agreeing that no Jew would furthermore be permitted to reside within the city walls. This stricture remained in force for two years, after which Jews were again permitted to dwell in Yerushalayim. From then on, the Jewish population of the city grew greatly and Yerushalayim regained some of its lost stature as a Jewish kehilla. Indeed, the Holy City became a veritable Torah centre, largely due to the presence of the yeshivos that were then established there, Yeshivas ‘Gaon Yaakov’ and Yeshivas ‘Eretz haTzvi’. Leading Torah scholars headed these institutions, who were given the title ‘gaon’.

At the start of the eleventh century of the common era Muslim Saljukim conquered Yerushalayim. They proceeded to embitter the lives of its Jewish residents, who in turn fled to more northern abodes, such as Acco and Tyre. The once-prized yeshivos fled Eretz Yisrael with its population, settling in Damascus. Once again Yerushalayim was almost abandoned by its Jews, only a tiny number remaining, who suffered great poverty and tribulation.

The beginning of the twelfth century of the common era heralded the arrival of the crusaders, who flocked to Eretz Yisrael on the first crusade to banish the ‘infidel’. They conquered Yerushalayim and slaughtered its inhabitants, Jew and Muslim alike. The Jews fled to the great synagogue and barricaded themselves within, only to be consumed by flames of the crusaders’ torches, to die al kiddush HaShem. Thus the Jewish population of the Holy City was totally decimated, and they, along with muslims, were thenceforth forbidden to dwell within its walls. The crusaders set up their own kingdom in Eretz Yisrael with Yerushalayim as its capital, which was now almost entirely christian in population. After approximately ten years the severity of the ban on Jewish settlement in the city was eased and a small number of Jews arrived to live there. According to the testimony of the great traveller Binyamin of Tudela, around two hundred Jews lived in Yerushalayim during this period.

Towards the end of the twelfth century ce Yerushalayim was reconquered by the muslims under the leadership of Sultan Salah-a-Din. The Sultan permitted Jews to live in the Holy City and the population began to grow again. Rav Yehudah Alcharizi, in his sefer ‘Tachkemoni’, writes thus:

“From the day when the Yishmaelim conquered Yerushalayim, Jews were able to live there…… and in the year 4950 after the creation, HaShem awakened the hearts of the Yishmaelim and put in them a spirit of might and wisdom……… HaShem put this into their hands. And a cry went out to all the cities, to all, both young and old, saying; ‘speak to the heart of Yerushalayim’, let all who wish to dwell in her, of the seed of Efraim – let them come, also those from Ashur and Mitzrayim, and all those scattered and dispersed to the farthest reaches of the world.”

Yet despite the permission granted by Salah-a-Din to Jews, to reside within the city walls, the Jewish population of Yerushalayim did not expand over the next hundred years, since the city passed from one leader to another as muslim and christian fought for control. Each successive regime taxed the residents of the city harshly; these were scarcely circumstances conducive to an increase in Jewish residence in Yerushalayim.

At the start of the thirteenth century ce Yerushalayim was again in christian hands, and the crusader regime restored its kingdom with the Holy City as its capital. This time, however, the christian rulers acted benevolently towards the Jews and allowed them to live in Yerushalayim. Some of the great Rishonim ascended to Yerushalayim during this period, among them Rav Shmuel ben Shimshon and Rav Yonasan of Lunel. Several hundred Jews from France and England accompanied them, swelling the Jewish population of the city. However, this period was not to last long; already in mid-century the Mameluk muslims conquered Yerushalayim and they replaced the restrictions on Jewish residential expansion. It was during these years of Mameluk rule that Rav Moshe ben Nachman, the great Ramban, arrived in Yerushalayim. In a letter that he sent to his son, he describes the extent of the ruin of the city and the small size of its Jewish population. The Ramban founded the Yerushalayim synagogue subsequently called by his name, and expounded upon the greatness of the mitzvah of settling the land and the importance of the city of Yerushalayim. The arrival of the Ramban in Yerushalayim was in fact a turning-point for the renewal of Jewish settlement in the Holy City, and from then onwards many Jews came to dwell therein, greatly expanding its population.

In the mid-fifteenth century ce the city’s rulers began to levy heavy taxes upon the Jewish population. The Jews struggled to comply and proffer the sums demanded, even selling a number of sifrei Torah in order to find the money. They also sent emissaries to various countries, appealing for financial help. The situation did not improve; the muslim rulers continued to impose their crushing burden of tax and the Jews suffered greatly at their hands. During this period, gedolei Torah such as Rav Eshtori haParchi and Rav Ovadia miBartenura came to live in Yerushalayim, despite the financial situation, and the population even expanded further, partly due to the Spanish expulsion which occurred at this time.

The beginning of the sixteenth century ce heralded the start of Ottoman rule in Eretz Yisrael. The Turks were largely tolerant of their Jewish subjects and relieved their crushing tax burden considerably. During this period plague broke out in the city and many of the Jews fled to surrounding villages to escape it; only the poorer segments of the population who were unable to leave remained.

Towards the end of the sixteenth century ce the Radbaz, Rav Dovid ben Zimra, came to head the Jewish community of Yerushalayim. It was during this period that the various charitable funds of the city were established, known as the kollelim, who supported the financial needs of the city’s residents. Numerous emissaries left the country to gather much-needed funds from the expanse of the Jewish diaspora.

Over all these centuries, the Jewish population of Yerushalayim was almost entirely composed of Sefardic Jews. It was only in the mid-seventeenth century ce that a limited number of Ashkenazic Jews came to dwell in the Holy City, and this trickle gradually strengthened with the arrival of Rav Yeshaya Horovitz, the Shlah haKodosh. Both Sefardic and Ashkenazic populations established many synagogues in the city; this time of expansion was briefly interrupted by the appointment of the wicked Ibn Farruch as ruler of Yerushalayim. He proceeded to persecute the Jews, seizing some and imprisoning them in order to demand huge sums of ransom. Among those imprisoned was the Shlah haKodosh, who managed to escape the prison and fled to Tzfas, and later to Tiveria. However, the Turkish Sultan soon banished Ibn Farruch from Yerushalayim and the Jews were freed of their persecutor.

At the start of the eighteenth century ce the group of Ashkenazi Jews led by Rav Yehudah haChassid arrived in Yerushalayim. After his sudden petira, the newly-arrived Jews found themselves deeply in debt to their muslim neighbours, and unable to find a solution to comply with the repayments. As a consequence the muslims expelled all Ashkenazic Jews from the city, forbidding them to return. Only a small contingent of Sefardic Jews remained within the city during this time. Any Ashkenazi Jew who wished to come and dwell in Yerushalayim would have to alter his mode of dress and disguise himself as a Sefardi. It was another hundred years before the Ashkenazic kehilla began to recover, with the arrival of the talmidei haGra under the leadership of Rav Menachem Mendel of Shklov.

During the eighteenth century ce the number of Jews living in Yerushalayim grew from a few thousand to many tens of thousand souls, a growth of hundreds of percent. In order to accommodate such a increase, new settlements were established outside the city walls, expanding the boundaries of Yerushalayim.

At the start of the twentieth century ce during the First World War the Holy City of Yerushalayim was captured by the British. The city’s Jewish population declined during this period, but soon restored itself after the war, so that on the eve of the War of Independence close to hundred thousand Jews were living there.

When the War of Independence broke out, fierce fighting took place over the fate of Yerushalayim. After the cessation of hostilities the city was divided, the Old City falling into Jordanian hands and the new city outside the walls belonging to the new State of Israel. The Jewish population of the new city increased greatly, whereas within the Old City walls not one Jew was to be found. In the year 5726 in the course of the Six-Day War the Old City was captured by the Jewish fighters and Jews returned to dwell therein. From then onwards, the population of Yerushalayim has only grown; today, it numbers some half-million souls.