Monday, October 04, 2010

More on the History of Shimon HaTzaddik

On September 8, 2010, the newspaper Makor Rishon weekend issue contained an article by Dothan Goren on the history of the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood.

A summary follows:

The Tomb of Shimon HaTzaddik (Simon the Pious) was well-visited during the 19th century, known as El-Yehuddiyah. Candles were lit at the tomb on Shabbat eve, on the New Month and on the anniversary of the death of Shimon HaTzaddik which is 29 Tishrei. Prayers for rain and prenuptial ceremonies were also conducted there. Sefaradim held ceremonies there on the day following Shavuot and it became a alternative location for the festivities of Lag B'Omer. Not only Jews but Muslims and Christians would attend the Lag B'Omer happening. This is found in the writings of Avraham Shmuel Hirschberg, Following the 1903 pogroms in Kiev, a special prayer day was conducted there for the victims and the remnants who needed help. Rachal Yanait visited the 1909 Lag B'Omer festivity and distributed a booklet on Bar Kochba. During the years 1912-1914, the sports club, HaMaccabi, conducted a march to the site for Lag B'Omer with sports exercises and speeches against Christian proselytizing and in favor of the Hebrew language.

In the years after mid-19th century, an Arab neighbor took advantage of a lessening of interest in the site and muscled in, charging a fee for entrance to the prayer sites. In 1872, Rabbi Yakir Giron came to Jerusalem from Turkey and was approached by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer to serve as the head of property purchasing in the city. On 17 Shvat 1873, Giron reported on the possibility of buying the section of land where the tomb is located. A down payment was sent and a plea was published in European Jewish press to collect further funds. In the meantime, Rav Kalischer thought to send the 100 families of Jewish community of Nicrest (?), Romania then under stress, to the neighborhood. In HaMaggid of 24 Iyar 1873, a report was published on the matter. The plan collapsed when Rav Giron died in February 1874 and Rav Kalischer lost money in a Jaffa real estate project.

In the winter of 1875-1876, following Rav Kalischer's death, Rabbis of Jerusalem raised enough money to purchase the olive grove property which included the tomb of Shimon HaTzaddik and another nearby burial area, Little Sanhedrin. Due to Ottoman land registry law, the property had to be listed as communal religious property with the Haham Bashi, Rabbi Avraham Ashkenazi, Rabbi Makalisch and Rabbi Meir Auerbach as sponsors. They deal was reported as completed in HaLevanon 28 Shvat 1876 at a cost of 5000 rubles. Its area was 24 kirat (kirat = 175 m2). On 8 Kislev 1889, a contract was signed to divide the plot between the Sefradi Association and that of the Knesseth Yisrael. Conrad Schick was the surveyor. On 11 Adar 1890, a section on the eastern side with a smaller section from the south were transferred to the Ashkenazim and the western section became property of the Sefaradim. On 7 Tishrei 1890, a ceremony was conducted to mark the beginning of the building project In Shvat 1891, the Ashkenzaim began a similar project but it was moved to the center of town (currently between the Nahlaot neighborhood and Betzalel Street). Thirteen apartments and one synagogue were constructed over the next decade. Yemenites were the residents. In 1907, a guest house was begun but only finished at the beginning of World War One. In 1916, 13 families consisting of 45 persons resided there.

West of Shimon HaTzadik, the Nahalat Shimon neighborhood was established. By 1897, there were 22 households of Haabi, Yemenites and Georgians. In 1908 there were 44 synagogues there and by 1916, there were 93 households with 259 persons. In the summer of 1918 for some months, Haim Weizmann assisted improvements on the property and the tombs with funds from the Zionist Commission. The area was overcrowded and suffered poor sanitary conditions. In 1938, the residents of Shimon HaTzaddik fled to Nahalat Shimon briefly due to attacks by Arab rioters and a synagogue was desecrated and many houses ransacked. In 1939, Nahalat Shimon numbered 440 persons.

In late 1946, the municipality approved a renewal development plan. Differences in redividing the plots between the Sefaradi and Ashkenazi communities prevented a Tabu registration. The resulting hostilities caused an exodus of the Jewish residents and the neighborhoods were desolated and taken over by the Jordan army.

- - -

No comments: