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City of David

Rabbi Meir Goldberg

As we approach the saddest time of the year, Shivah Asar B’Tammuz, the Three Weeks, and Tishah B’Av, we visit Yerushalayim’s Old City

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

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1) City of David

Yerushalayim is hinted at in the Torah as the city ruled by Malki-Tzedek, friend of Avraham Avinu. About 2,800 years ago, it was conquered by Dovid Hamelech from the Yevusi and turned into the capital of our people. It had the two most beautiful buildings in the world, the First Beis Hamikdash and Second Beis Hamikdash. But because we didn’t learn Torah to connect to Hashem and because we couldn’t get along with one another, they were taken from us.

2) Rulers and Conquerors

The Romans conquered Yerushalayim almost 2,000 years ago. Since then, the city has gone through many rulers, including Arabs, Christians from Europe, and the Ottoman Empire (which is now called Turkey) that took over in the 1500s. The Ottoman King Suleiman built the walls around the Old City that we see today. Until about 300 years ago, there were few Jews living in Yerushalayim. When the Ramban came there in 1267, he only found two other Jews in the city.

3) The Churva

In 1700, a big tzaddik named Rav Yehudah Hachassid brought about 500 Jews with him to live in Yerushalayim. They borrowed a lot of money from local Arabs to build themselves a beautiful shul for Ashkenazim, because there were only Sephardic shuls in Yerushalayim at that time. But they couldn’t pay back the money they borrowed and the Arabs destroyed the shul. It became known as the Churva (destroyed) Shul. The Arabs were so angry at the Ashkenazim that they threw every Ashkenazi out of the city.

4) The Perushim

About 100 years later, a group of talmidim of the Vilna Gaon came to live in Yerushalayim. They, and some of the chassidim who also came to Yerushalayim, were called perushim — holy Jews who separated themselves from the ways of the world to dedicate their lives to Torah, tefillah and chesed.

The perushim rebuilt the Churva Shul and made it so magnificent that it was the pride of Yerushalayim. The gadol hador of our generation, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zy”a, had his bar mitzvah in the Churva Shul. But in 1948, when Israel became a state, the Jordanian Arabs attacked the Old City of Yerushalayim and captured the shul. They blew it up and it was once again destroyed until it was rebuilt a few years ago.

5) The Kosel

Have you ever been to the Kosel or seen a picture of it? The most significant place for Klal Yisrael is the Har Habayis (the Temple Mount) where the Beis Hamikdash stood. More than 1,300 years ago, the Arabs conquered this area and built mosques (buildings where they pray). These mosques are still there on Har Habayis and are not places we go to. We daven at the Kosel Hamaaravi, the Western Wall of the walls that surrounded the Beis Hamikdash. For hundreds of years, Arabs used the Kosel as a garbage dump. But we never forgot the Kosel and always came back to daven there.

When the Jordanians conquered the city from the Israelis in 1948, Jews were not allowed to go to the Kosel. Finally, in 1967, the Israeli army recaptured all of Yerushalayim. As soon as the city was secure, thousands of Jews flocked to the Kosel to cry and daven there, for the first time in 19 years.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 667)

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