Tour of Mea She'arim
Welcome to Mea She’arim - a special and magical Jerusalem neighborhood, built as a continuous wall of houses. The neighborhood has six gates: the Middle Gate, the Jerusalem Gate, the Lifta Gate, the Rehaiim Gate, the Tavech Gate and the House of David Gate. Look at these special gates, which in the past closed as night fell and reopened in the morning. In some places the gates still stand, rusting as they exist.
From there we will continue to one of the most interesting synagogues in the neighborhood, Beit Baruch, located at the corner of Shoni HaMa'agal Street and Shas. A mikveh was built in the neighborhood and there was no money to complete the construction, until in 1866 a Jewish man named Baruch son of Rabbi Moshe Schwartz arrived, who said he was ready to complete the construction of the mikveh and established the first Hassidic synagogue outside the walls.
One of the special things in the neighborhood are the cisterns. 3 cisterns were planned in the neighborhood. The first cistern was to be built on Hevrat Shas Street inside a special garden. The cistern stands there to this day. The third cistern is on HaChnasat Orchim street near the Beit Midrash of the Hasidim of Toldot Aharon.
At the corner of Nahum Belcher and Shas streets, a synagogue was built in 1858, financed by Sarah Liba Davis. She donated money for the construction of the synagogue and a number of apartments for the use of impoverished Talmudic scholars. There were twelve apartments which were allocated by lottery once every three years. The original entrance was from Chevrat Shas Street, but today it is from Nahum Belcher Street. The synagogue has a reputation for being the place of study of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.
In the center of the neighborhood stand the famous Shtiblach of Mea Shearim and few know that the concept of Shtiblach came from here. Here all the inhabitants of the area gathered for prayer in times of trouble and siege or in thanksgiving. The Gabai of the Shtiblach, Rabbi Avraham Levinson, was one of the dignitaries of the neighborhood, and the Shamash, Rabbi Shabbat'le was one of the dignitaries of the community. Adjacent to it is the Mea She’arim mikveh, together with the foundations of the neighborhood. From the heating element in the mikveh came the steam pipe and at the beginning of Shabbat the mikveh attendant would open the tube which released a loud sound to announce the arrival of Shabbat.
When Mea Shearim was founded, the children were sent to learn in the Old City. The distance and dangers were great and it was decided to establish a Talmud Torah in the neighborhood. Initially, the children studied in five small rooms built in the neighborhood in 1851. Later, funds were donated to build a large building in the courtyard called "Hatzer Avraham" and after a decade the Great Yeshiva and Talmud Torah were built. In the war of Russia with Japan the standing of the Yeshiva increased and it served as a shelter for refugees from Yeshivot Mir, Radin, Slobodka, and more. The lower floor houses the Klilat Shaul Synagogue - on the ceiling of the Yeshiva there are magnificent paintings of the twelve tribes and the twelve months of the year painted by the painter Yitzhak Beck.
In front of the Mea She’arim Yeshiva next to the Shtiblach above the cistern, the "Yeshuat Yaakov" Synagogue was established. In fact, this is the first synagogue in the neighborhood. Its location was determined in the Basic Regulations in 1804 and it was built from the contribution of Gavir Yosef Yehoshua ben Yaakov Goldzner Matrani. The Synagogue was built below street level in order to comply with the verse “From the depths I have called upon you, O Lord.” When the place became too small, it was decided to build another synagogue above the building and it was called "Tiferet Bahurim" after the "Tiferet Bachurim Movement" of Rabbi Elyashiv who came from Gomel in Belarus. The money was donated by two Jews from Bombay, India.
The next stop is the ancient synagogue of Chabad followers located on Baal HaTanya Street. The building houses two Batei Midrash: 'Torah and Piety' - the center of the Naturei Karta movement - and the building contains a Beit Midrash, Talmud Torah, Yeshiva, administrative center and archive. Further up the street is the synagogue of Chabad followers, built in part by a follower from Plock, Rabbi Moshe Kovelnik, the majority of the donation was made by Rabbi Moshe Yaffe - the son of the printer from Kapost. The Beit Midrash is also called the "Beit Midrash of the Kaposters". In the Beit Midrash there are prayers and studies in the Sefer HaTanya and the 19th Kislev celebration is the main event in the Beit Midrash run by the elders of the Hasidim.
One of the regulations of the Mea She’arim neighborhood was the establishment of entertaining guests, and at 2 Yeshuat Yaakov Street, an 'Eshel Avraham' reception point was established. The building was erected by Moshe Ben Eliezer of Brisk and had four one-storey houses and over time, when the number of guests increased, ten more rooms were built. Today, the place is used for residential apartments and hospitality activity has moved to Shas Street, a corner of hospitality. Every afternoon, dozens of people gather for a hot meal, and hundreds of dishes leave here by couriers to homes.
From there we will continue to some important synagogues in the neighborhood. The first of these is the Synagogue of the Chassidut Toldot Avraham Yitzchak. This is a building that originally belonged to Toldot Aharon, and after the death of the Rebbe, his sons divided up the Chasidut and established separate courtyards. Opposite is the Sephardic synagogue "Ahali Shem Yaakov" founded by the widow of Rabbi Yaakov Levy who owned the liquor store in the neighborhood. The righteous Rebbetzin would ensure that prayers were held three times a day. Down the street is the Geffner family home, where 20 people and a huge charity industry were crammed into a two-room apartment. Today there is a Kollel in the apartment.