Defiance at Beit Wittenberg

Daniel Luria, Executive Director of Ateret Cohanim gives over a powerful statement in the Wittenberg House, home of the murdered Rav Nechemia Lavi. Filming took place during an interview with the Nation. Learn more about Beit Wittenberg and its current connection to the unrest.

Beit Wittenberg is the Key to Jerusalem

When walking down Hagai Street these days, the tension is palpable. Most people see the area as historically Muslim, but Hagai Street running North South to Sha’ar Shechem (Damascus Gate) had bustling Jewish population until the 1929 and 1936 riots.

Unlike the alleyways that shoot off of it, Hagai Street is a main avenue replete with shops as well as Muslim and Jewish communities. The violence in the last few days is nothing new except now it is turning deadly. Jews are being taunted, harassed, and yes stabbed to death.

I asked myself yesterday as I headed to Beit Wittenberg about the significance of why the violence seems to be circling around this specific area. True the Arab population has long been cheered into raging mobs bent on killing Jews, but why on Hagai Street and most specifically the Beit Wittenberg area.

For that a little background on the house is necessary.

Reb Moshe Wittenberg made Aliyah in 1882 at the age of 62, from the town of Wietebsk, in Belorussia. He brought with him 500,000 rubles to buy large property in Jerusalem’s Old City. With the help Eliezer ben Yehuda (the reviver of modern Hebrew) he negotiated with the Latin Church and bought the property. The property housed 20 Chabad families giving the complex renewed Jewish life.

Moshe Wittenberg died in 1899 and bequeathed the property to a communal hekdash (set aside), which was recorded by Turkish authorities. The residents continued to live their, yet were driven out in the riots that would consume Jerusalem and the Land of Israel in the decades that followed.

After being reacquired through the efforts of Ateret Cohanim, Ariel Sharon bought rights to use it as his house in order to fully demonstrate Jewish sovereignty over the Old City.

I have of course left out one exciting fact that I believe is key to understanding the central role this house and complex plays in Jerusalem’s unfolding redemption.

In recent years it has been discovered that Beit Wittenberg is in fact the same Mediterranean Hotel that Mark Twain stayed in during his visit to Israel in 1867. It was that hotel that contributed to the inspiration in the section about Israel in his memoir Innocents Abroad.

So why is this so relevant to a Jewish Jerusalem?

The memoir Innocents Abroad details the truth of the barrenness of the Land of Israel at the time of Mark Twain’s visit. It is a refutation of years of Arab propaganda that the Land of Israel had no Jews in it and was home to an indigenous Arab population. More than this, Mark Twain’s account stands as a memory of a crossroads in Jewish History, just prior to the beginning of the return of the “remnant of Israel.” It is that memory that the Arabs are attacking when they focus on the area around Beit Wittenberg.

Understanding this piece of history is key to understanding the war being raged against Jewish control in Jerusalem. It is a focused and concerted effort to wipe out not only Jewish History, but American historical dynamism in the Land of Israel that has closely united the Judea-Christian culture specific to the West and the rebirth of the Modern State of Israel.

The battleground is more than the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem or the hills of Judea and Samaria, it is in fact a war to protect the truth and facts of the past in order to use them as tools to hold onto our future.

Great News from Kfar HaTeimanim

Very early Thursday morning…a few hours ago (TO AVOID UNNECESSARY FRICTION WITH SOME OF THE LOCAL ARABS DURING THE DAY) Jewish families and Yeshiva students entered a large premises, which is located in the old Yemenite Hekdesh in the Shiloach, on the slopes of Mt Olives overlooking the City of David and the Old City with Temple Mount.

The building is to be caled Beit Rachel.

The significant building complex is located in close proximity to all other Jewish buildings in the old Yemenite Village. (Beit HaDvash, Beit Yehonatan, Beit Frumkin and Beit Ovadia. It is also only a minutes walk from the recently redeemed sections of the original Yemenite Beit Knesset- Ohel Shlomo-Heichal Yonatan.(Named for Jonathan Pollard)

Some Basic History of the Area:
Yemenite Jews first arrived to Jerusalem in 1882. Kfar Hateimanim in the Shiloach was established. (BEFORE A SINGLE ARAB WAS LIVING IN THE AREA, which is today called Silwan by some people) At its peak 144-150 Yemenite Jewish families wereliving in the thriving and successful Yemenite Village on the slopes of Mt Zion overlooking the City of David, the Shiloach springs, the Temple Mount and the Old City.
1/ Attempt by extreme Arab elements including the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Husseini to “ethnically cleanse” Jerusalem and Israel of Jews in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Pogroms and riots throughout Jerusalem was the result.
2/ British authorities who were not willing and incapabe to protect the Jews of Shiloach, evacuated the last remaining 35-40 Yemenite families in August 1938 (77 years ago), with a promise that the JEWISH REFUGEES could shortly return to their homes. British promise never kept.
3/ Arabs squatted in private Yemenite homes and squatted in Hekdesh properties.
4/ Arabs desecrated the Yemenite Synagogues and destroyed many of the buildings in the area. (even taking stones from buildings, roof tiles, floor tiles, taps, doors, wondow frames.
In 2004 the first Jewish families returned to the old Yemenite Village.
TODAY: After 77 years, Jews have returned home, including to properties owned legally (and ratified by all Israeli courts) by the Heldesh Benvinisti.
It is hoped that Jews and Arabs will be able to live side by side with each other in peace and coexistence, like can be seen when Arabs legally move into predominantly Jewish neighbourhoods like Pisgat Zeev, Ramat Eshkol, French Hill, Armon HaNetziv.