This Week 82 Years Ago

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Some of us recall the human tragedy behind the relatively recent expulsion of 10,000 residents from Gush Katif. The trauma, the upheaval, and the shocking impact on the families was beyond words. Especially, when it was our own Israeli Government who was behind the expulsion. They claimed it was for the “sake of peace.” This peace never came. The expulsion was a disaster on every level.

82 years ago – there wasn’t a Jewish State. 82 years ago there wasn’t a Jewish army, police or protection for Jewish residents living in Jerusalem. 82 years ago we were living under the British occupation and had to contend with many hostile and hate filled Arabs during the pogroms of the 1920’s and 30’s. Many of these pogroms were spearheaded by the Nazu paid Mufti- Haj Amin ElHusseini. The British sided with the local Arabs and had to placate the Arab world in the Middle east at every juncture. Protecting Jews simply wasn’t on their agenda.

The Yemenite Village of Shiloach – also known as Kfar HaShiloach was a truly inspirtional Zionist and messianic success story. After the first two Yemenite families arrived to Jerusalem in 1882, trying to fulfill a hidden prophecy of redemption written in the Song of Songs, more families arrived from Yemen to establish a thriving neighborhood on the slopes of Mt Olives overlooking the City of David on the outskirts of the walled Old City.

The beginnings were most difficult for these “pioneers” who weren’t your “standard Ashkenazi” style Jewish Olim, and who were sadly – initially shunned by the local Jewish institutions. However, after an injection of funds and help from Yisrael Dov Frumkin who established a cooperative society called “Help for the Destitute” – the Yemenite Village flourished in the Shiloach.

At its peak, it’s believed that there were 144-150 Yemenite Families who lived in the area, together with another group of Sefardi families. Life centered around the beautiful Synagogue – Beit Knesset complex, which comprised of 3 small prayer and study rooms, under the beautiful domes.

Sadly – the Arab riots and pogroms of 1929 had a devastating effect on the neighborhood and even though some families were protected by the then  ” Arab Muchtar” of the village (Gozlan family), the Jewish neighborhood started to dwindle.

By 1937-38, many hostile Arabs from Hevron came to the area and made life intolerable for the remaining Yemenite families. Requests from various Jewish institutions and the Yemenite families themselves for British help – all went unanswered. The British occupiers weren’t prepared to quell the Arab violence, and weren’t prepared to add British policemen to the neighborhood to protect the Yemenite residents.

AND SO ON AUGUST 10th 1938, the British authorities forcibly removed the Jewish Yemenite residents (around 35-40 families who remained by 1938) from their homes and from the Shiloach.

For the record – the British authorities did promise in WRITING from the High Commissioner, that the Jewish refugees would be able to shortly return to their homes. That was written on the 24th of August 1938.

A promise never kept.

The upshot of these riots in 1938, and the British failure to protect the Jewish residents – was a destruction of Yemenite homes and the neighborhood. There was a desecration and ransacking of the synagogues, including tearing and burning of Torah scrolls, Arabs then squatted in old Jewish homes or illegally built on Yemenite Jewish land and all was seemingly lost!

This was the situation – Until 2004 – when Ateret Cohanim with the help of Canadian, Israeli and American donors and investors, helped revitalize Jewish life in the area.

Today there is life once again in the Yemenite Village. The Beit Knesset – Synagogue complex is back in Jewish hands and undergoing restoration. (waiting for more donors with money and a heart). We have a play area (known as the country club) for kids. There is a beautiful library and there are close to 100 children and 23 beautiful ideological Jewish families living in the area.

Baruch Hashem, Kfar HaShiloach is “alive and well,” but we still remember with satisfaction and with a humble smile – that terrible week 82 years ago in 1938!

Help Rebuild the Yemenite Village

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Daniel Luria
Article by Daniel Luria

Daniel Luria is the Executive Director and International Spokesman for Ateret Cohanim. He is considered a global expert on Jerusalem, with a focus on urban land reclamation initiatives. he is a sought after speaker, guide, and informal educator in relation to his work in Jerusalem.


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