BLOG SNIPPETS

FROM CENTRAL PRISON TO UNDERGROUND MUSEUM

This new blog reflects on the importance of preserving and commemorating the history of the Jewish underground prisoners, recognizing the significance of their struggle for freedom and independence. They emphasize the need to remember the past to honor the contributions of those who fought for a better future. Overall, it offers a moving account of the Museum of Underground Prisoners and its impact, encouraging readers to visit the museum and learn more about this important chapter in Jewish history. The story ends eye to eye with the gallows.

 

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FEINSTEIN AND BARAZANI AND THEIR IMPENDING DEATHS

The decision of Feinstein and Barazani to perish à la Samson from the Biblical story together with the British may have been made, but that does not mean that it is easy to implement. There are quite a few practical problems that need to be solved very quickly. They don’t have much time left. Everything seems to go according to plan when only hours before their execution things change dramatically by people with good intentions. For them, there is only one option left: to end their lives with a big bang. Together.

 

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FEINSTEIN AND BARAZANI AND THE LONG SHADOW OF OCTOBER 7

There are moments when it just doesn’t feel fine to continue blogging about the past while horrible things happen in the present: the Hamas massacre of October is such a moment. However, as the cliche says: life goes on. So, the blog continues and the clock turns back to 1947. With the British Mandate trying to suppress Jewish resistance, inside the Central Prison of Jerusalem, a tragedy of epic proportions starts to unfold. Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani are making plans to humiliate the British.

 

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FEINSTEIN AND BARZANI: TWO YOUNG FUTURE LEGENDS

The central prison in Jerusalem, located in the impenetrable Russian Compound. A place where you could not go in easily during the British Mandate in the mid-1940s. And once you got in there, the question was whether you would ever get out alive. A blog about two young Irgun and Lehi fighters and their path to prison and, eventually, mythical immortality. 

 

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A PEACEFUL RABBI IN THE SYNAGOGUE OF THE ARMED RESISTANCE

The stories from the Achdut Yisrael Synagogue about the British Mandate keep on flowing. About a bible that left its owner shortly before his execution in 1947 and its return to Jerusalem in 2007. And then there is a tiny corner inside the synagogue always reserved for one of the most legendary Jerusalemites of his era: Rav Aryeh Levin. 

 

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BLOODY RESISTANCE AND THE WORLD TOUR OF A TORAH SCROLL

A visit to a synagogue during Shabbat in Even Yisrael can be a slightly different affair than you would expect. A two-hour-long journey through the final years of the British Mandate with fierce Jewish resistance against Arabs, Brits, and fellow Jews. All this against the background of two Lehi fighters ending their lives at the gallows in Cairo and the travel of a unique Torah scroll from Cairo to Montreal and finally to the Achdut Yisrael Synagogue in Jerusalem.

 

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IRON, LION, ZION IN EVEN ISRAEL

 

Shabbat in Even Yisrael: Ethiopian Jews use this day of rest to relax and do whatever they want, more or less. A walk through the streets and alleys on our way to a special synagogue. After going through the blue gate expectations are mountain high. Unfortunately, they turn out to be too high. The central square is empty. The synagogue seems closed. That’s all. Just before leaving with a feeling of disappointment, a figure appears from behind. In the end, this figure manages to save our day. However, at that moment we don’t know what the future has in store for us. He takes us upstairs to the Achdut Yisrael Synagogue: A call to arms.

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SCANDAL: HERESY IN THE NEW JERUSALEM!

 

Even Yisrael: The first neighborhood of the Nachlaot welcomes a new resident: A prominent Torah scholar, held in high esteem by both secular and ultra-orthodox Jews. However, this person has some revolutionary thoughts and concrete plans about education. For him, life is more than the study of the Torah. This idea alone infuriates the old rabbis in the Old City. They decide to go on a collision course with this heretic. Get him out of town!

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JERUSALEM: A LITTLE HEART IN THE SKY

 

It all starts as an ordinary day at shuk Mahane Yehuda. Then, at the top of the hour, the air raids signal starts wailing. Suddenly life comes to a literary standstill. For two minutes Jerusalemites are united in their thoughts with all the victims of war and terror since the birth of the State of Israel. In sharp emotional contrast, its 75th birthday is celebrated that same evening. The next day the real party starts in Sacher Park and in the skies over Jerusalem.

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HOW TO START YOUR FIRST DAY IN JERUSALEM?

 

A classic start on our first day in Jerusalem: drinking a cup of coffee at the intersection of Agrippas and Kiach Streets. Enjoying the crowds and the traffic in their daily struggle with each other. And then, back home, sirens, a terrifying lot of sirens: Terror has struck Jerusalem. A Palestinian terrorist plows his car into the public at our ‘coffee intersection’. Chaos and despair. A few hours later Yom Hazikron, the day to remember all the war and terror victims since ’48, starts. What better place to remember than at the same crossing?

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INSIDE THE HOME OF A LEGEND: RAV ARYEH LEVIN

 

Ask someone in Jerusalem about rabbi Aryeh Levin and a smile will appear on his or her face. Rav’ Aryeh was the tzaddik of Jerusalem and his golden heart and personal way of dealing with each and everyone, no matter their background, status or how they practice their religion, remains an example for many. His modest home is in the heart of the Nachlaot and is visited by thousands each year to have a look at it. From the outside. We were offered a unique look inside. Welcome to the home of the legendary rabbi of prisoners and leppars. Only for Friends of the Yeshive.

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REUNION IN THE NACHLA’OT

 

After two years of Corona travel bans, we finally can return to Jerusalem. After a long stroll through the rainy, chilly, and deserted streets of the Nachlaot we arrive for our traditional first stop at the yeshiva of ‘our’ rabbi. The one who years earlier introduced to the real Nachlaot. The reunion feels like no empty years have passed, however, personal disaster has struck Mordechai. Before he tells his tragic story, he takes us down underground, inside a former cistern turned into a canteen.

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NO BULLETS WILL STOP NAHALAT SHIVA

 

For many decades Nahalat Shiva had a negative image of poverty, crime, neglect, and so on. For the local authorities and developers the perfect excuse to demolish the neighborhood and replace it with a modern, thus faceless new one. However, protests in the sixties put an end to this dreadful idea. Later the new neighborhood reinvented itself as a modern, trendy, hipster quarter within an authentic environment. All this attracts young, financially independent youths looking for evening relaxation. Ingredients that are contrary to the ‘beliefs’ of terror group Hamas. One evening they decide to pay Nahalat Shiva a final visit.

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SISTERS OF NAHALAT SHIVA ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES

 

The First World War leaves deep wounds in Jerusalem, and Nahalat Shiva in particular. Especially young women are hard hit, mainly from the orthodox communities. They see no other way than earn a living in prostitution. The hypocritical British don’t want to see all this in ‘their’ Old City. They send them to Nahalat Shiva, out of sight for the foreign visitor. After a while, women won’t langer wait until men come up with a solution for their plight. They decide to fight themselves out of their misery. Hardcore girl power long avant la lettre.

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THE TWIN SYNAGOGUES OF NAHALAT SHIVA

 

In 1873 the first synagogue outside the Old City is built: For Nahalat Shiva an important element in order to attract more potential residents. The shul is of Ashkenazi origin. In 1888 it gets a new neighbor across the street: a Sefardic synagogue. The so-called Twin Synagogues are born. They were both saved from the ball and chain and are alive and kicking over 150 years later. The perfect place to find some peace and quiet when you become tired of the hectic Jaffa Road, only a few minutes walk away from the twins.

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YOEL & YOSEF: MEN WITH A MISSION

 

The struggle of men like Yoel Moshe Salomon and Yosef Rivlin to make living outside the walls a success proves to be a difficult process: Convincing the Old City-residents to make the dangerous step proves problematic. Fortunately, money is a proven way to convince people. Not much later the opposition of the Azkenazi leadership proves futile, as one by one even the old rabbis only see advantages. They become silent supporters of the two forerunners. After his adventure in Nahalat Shiva Salomon goes a step further and tries his luck in founding Petah Tikva. Yosef-the-Shtetlmacher remains in Jerusalem, his mission here is far from over.

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YOSEF RIVLIN: TOUGH LIFE OF A HERO

 

Founding a neighborhood may sound like fun, but for Yosef Rivlin is an act of redemption. Rivlin literary risks his life in building Nahalat Shiva, located in an empty area full of murderous Bedouin tribes and wild animals. Once he thinks living is safe enough inside the courtyard, disaster strikes when his wife is savagely attacked by a knife-wielding Arab. She manages to kill him and she survives, but not for long… For Yosef life goes on. There is no time lose when you want to build as many neighborhoods as possible. Aren’t setbacks just part of any life?

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FRIENDS OF ZION

 

Yosef Rivlin: The story of the 18-year-old who manages to impress the old Sir Moses Montefiore and rejects his golden offer for a job in London. Contrary to the British millionaire Rivlin is penniless, but he manages to get in contact with the ones high in office. He assembles a group of like-minded adventurers and buys land from the Arabs. A story of creative thinking and how to remain focused no matter what others say or think. The Shtetlmacher is born. How nice it would be to end our story in the street named after Rivlin, at the Friends of Zion Museum? That turns out to be a misconception as they are not interested at all in Rivlin, Nahalat Shiva, or even Jerusalem. This a perfect example of where a nice exterior fails to match an ugly interior.

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MEA SHE’ARIM, WHERE STRICTNESS IS USUALLY THE ABSOLUTE NORM

Step into the captivating world of Mea She’arim, a neighborhood in Jerusalem where tradition reigns supreme. Through a lens that captures both the mundane and the extraordinary, this article offers a glimpse into a community where time seems to stand still. From the intricate patterns of clothing to the solemn faces in prayer, every image tells a story of devotion and adherence to age-old customs. Yet, amidst the solemnity, hints of modernity peek through, reminding us that even in the most rigid of traditions, change is inevitable. In Mea She’arim, the past and present dance in an intricate choreography of faith and resilience, inviting us to contemplate the timeless beauty of a culture steeped in history.

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MEA SHE’ARIM, A LOVE HATE RELATIONSHIP

It’s early hours and Jaffa Street is slowly coming to life. The first terraces are opening, and suppliers are rushing to their customers. It’s still Sukkot, a holiday for many, and the street has a joyful atmosphere. We set out to explore the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea She’arim, where they face strict dress codes and restrictions on photography. Despite the tensions, we navigate the narrow streets and see how the locals celebrate their traditional Sukkot, including the sukkahs and lulavs. But it is not all joy and smiles: We encounter hostility from some residents who hold extreme anti-Zionist views, advocating for the end of Israel. As we explore further, we witness the stark authenticity and conservative lifestyle of Mea She’arim, where time seems to have stood still. Despite the challenges, we appreciate the unique experience and cultural richness of the neighborhood.

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LIVE IN A TIME BETWEEN CHOLERA AND CORONA

I know, it’s pretty boring to be faced with the word ‘virus’ again. And in a blog about Jerusalem in the 19th century, no less. Unfortunately, like then there’s no escaping the virus: Not now, not back then. Back in 1866, a deadly cholera virus had Jerusalem in its grip. It caused devastation among the population behind the city walls, fueled by unsanitary living conditions, close quarters, and lack of medical care. Fast forward to 2021, and it’s like history repeating itself with the rules of hand washing, social distancing, and overstretched medical care. But back then, there was one place, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, where the virus couldn’t penetrate. Thanks to their closed-off water sources and clean living environment, they were spared the deadly dance of cholera. The contrast between the healthy inhabitants of Mishkenot and the suffering in the Old City was huge.
Fast forward to today, and Mishkenot is a haven for creative minds, a peaceful abode away from the chaos and austerity of the city. But its history is marked by tragedy and conflict. During the Independence War in ’48, Mishkenot Sha’ananim became a battleground between Jordan and Israel. Avraham Kirshenbaum, a local hero, held his ground against the Jordanian onslaught, single-handedly. He fought fiercely, but tragically, he fell at just twenty-two. while the past may be filled with darkness, there’s always hope for a brighter future. And that’s something we can attribute to… the Netherlands!

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FROM PAUPER TO MILLIONAIRE IN 150 YEARS: LIVING IN MISHKENOT SHA’ANANIM

The parking lot looks suspiciously empty, with only one taxi present – ours. Where is everyone? It seems like no one is here at this desolate place. We quickly realize there will be no story to find here, just a bland opening. So we head into the neighborhood, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, where it all began around 1860. The neighborhood, once home to daredevils and the poor, is now inhabited by those with money. We explore the area, noticing the silence and absence of people. We come across Montefiore’s Windmill, a historic landmark in Jerusalem. Sir Moses Montefiore, the British philanthropist, played a significant role in developing this area outside the city walls.
The clean streets and prosperous residents of Mishkenot Sha’ananim tell the tale of a successful transformation. Despite the challenges and dangers faced in the past, the neighborhood is now a thriving community. The story of Mishkenot Sha’ananim is one of resilience and progress, with a rich history of development and growth.

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THE RUIN IS NOT A RUIN ANYMORE: THE HURVA

Here he stands, almost posing for the photo, amidst the ruins of what was once Jerusalem’s main synagogue, the Hurva. It’s May 1948, the Independence War is over, and Israel has managed to prevent its annihilation. But the Jordanian troops conquer the Old City, symbolically defeating the Jewish resistance from the iconic Hurva synagogue. Fast forward to October 2019, and the Hurva stands proud again, rebuilt after years of delay. However, inside, it lacks the soul and history one might/ hope to expect. Despite its modern amenities, it feels more like a solemn library than a deeply religious place to connect with the past. Yet, its symbolism remains potent, a testament to resilience in the face of adversity. And as IDF recruits and schoolgirls gather outside, the message is clear: “We are here!”

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THE ORDEAL OF THE MONTEFIORE WINDMILL AND ITS DUTCH RESCUE

It’s time to leave Mishkenot Sha’ananim for the final climb, back toward the Montefiore Windmill. Departing without bidding the Mill a final farewell feels simply not right. The Mill has weathered all storms, from Montefiore’s first simple structure in the new Jerusalem to its prominent place today. Before people inhabited Mishkenot the Mill already stood, as a pre-testament to Montefiore’s vision of economic independence for the Jewish community. Despite challenges, including strong opposition from Arab monopolies, the Mill persevered. Its significance was even recognized in Nobel Prize-winning literature. After years of neglect, efforts to restore the Mill to its former glory finally succeeded in 2012, with contributions from an unexpected place: the Netherlands. Today, the Mill stands as a symbol of eternal youth, resilience, and hope, reminding us of the importance of preserving history amidst modernization.

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CHAIM FINISHED PRAYING

The search for Chaim continues, in the pitch dark and on slippery roads. Somehow it feels like Chaim is only one step ahead of us. Finally, the tireless rabbis find him in his cluttered and unchanged home. They discover various relics from Chaim’s past, including a dried-out Etrog and old family photos. Chaim shows a relic which he doesn’t know what it is. It’s a plastic animal with a very long neck. Despite their efforts, they are still looking for the coveted water buckets. Chaim is a brilliant, authentic character, surrounded by stuff that dates back to the moment his parents died, decades ago.It feels strange to leave Chaim behind in his place. All alone.

The rabbis suggest visiting yet another very modest synagogue where we meet the humble chief rabbi of Nachlaot. After a long, exhausting day, we can only conclude that this was an unforgettable experience. Our rabbis have managed to show us the essence of the Nachlaot. We feel fortunate.

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DUTCH IN THE NACHLAOT

The search for Chaim continues, who is believed to be in a shul and there are many of them. We stop halfway down an alley when the evening falls. Mordechai suggests we go inside, and we are greeted by Micha Razel, an ex-Dutch man who has lived in Nachlaot for many years. Micha shares his moving family history, including miraculous survival during the Second World War, and he reads a powerful poem, written by his father. Micha suggests coming along to visit his son Yonathan (far better known as the singer/ composer Yonathan Razel) at his kollel nearby. The place where married men study Torah. His son still speaks some Dutch and after a brief language mishap, we are allowed to take photos inside the kollel and observe the harmonious studying atmosphere. After that, we refocus in the darkness on finding Chaim. The feeling grows that we are closing in on him.

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SEARCHING FOR CHAIM

Phone! “Shalom, Mordechai here. Come down and bring your cameras.” We are finally going to meet Chaim, an over-80-year-old resident of Jerusalem’s Nachlaot neighborhood. Our rabbis, Mordechai and Shlomo, wave to us from across the street. We confront the evening rush hour, risking our lives but under rabbinical supervision. Finally, other side, we are transported back to the 19th century. There are synagogues on every street corner, ranging from lavish to simple. We enter a synagogue in search of Chaim. Our common mission tonight is to find and meet him.

We visit the stern Ohel Moshe synagogue where a worshipper’s telephone blasts out AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. No Chaim here. We move on to the Ades Synagogue, one of the most beautiful synagogues in Jerusalem. Again, no Chaim here. We continue to follow the rabbis through the streets and alleys of Nachlaot, determined to find Chaim. Finally

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