Featured Article: History of the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva in the Old City

The story of the Yeshiva's entrance to the building in the Old City... The long abandoned yeshiva building of the Lelov Rebbi, the chance meeting, the Arab dwellers, the war of Mayor Teddy Kollek against Shuvu Banim, "Ghandi" Zeevi and his connection to the Yeshiva, and more...

Yeshivas Shuvu Banim
Yeshivas Shuvu Banim

As part of a series in the ‘Hitchadshut’ magazine on the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva, the holy Yeshiva of Rabbi Eliezer Berland shlit”a in Jerusalem’s Old City, we bring you this installment which was first published in Hebrew in the Hitchadshut Magazine of Adar B, 5776, and now is presented for the first time in English.  This is the story of the Yeshiva’s earlier years, when following the Six-Day War, the entire Old City, including formerly Jewish buildings were still in the hands of the Arabs.  In it, we see how through amazing Divine providence, and under the leadership of Rabbi Berland shlit”a, Shuvu Banim took the former yeshiva of the Chasidim of Jerusalem, after abandonment and neglect for close to fifty years, and redeemed it from its illegal Arab occupants and turned it into the holy abode of avodas Hashem that it is today.

Winter 5741 (1981 L’Minyanam): The growl of his old truck engine echoes far away as he makes his way at late night hours from Bnei Brak to Jerusalem towards the Kosel HaMa’arvi [Western Wall].  This isn’t the first time that Rabbi [Moshe] Zevulun Dachbash, a long-standing student of “Shuvu Banim,” has left his house in Bnei Brak towards Jerusalem in order to pray Tikkun Chatzos and the morning prayer at sunrise by the Kosel HaMa’arvi.  Rav Zevulun, who drinks with thirst every day the words of his Master and Teacher Rav Berland shlit”a, heads towards the Kosel.  This is after hearing in the fiery shiurim of the Rav about the exaltedness of prayer at the Kosel.  In his heart, he resolved to visit the Kosel every day.  If in the beginning he made the journey himself, after a while also his wife became infected with his enthusiasm, and from then on the young Dachbash family (which then numbered four) would make its wake every night to Jerusalem, equipped with warm clothes, pillows, and blankets to protect them from the cold Jerusalem nights.

The traffic supervisors situated at the Kosel plaza at first ignored the truck which was parked every day at the Kosel plaza, with the hope that this was transient behavior.  However, when they saw that it turned into a fixed ritual, they declared to Rav Zevulun in no uncertain terms, that the next time that he would park his truck at the Kosel, he would be fined.  This obstacle which popped up suddenly, in addition to the difficulty of bringing the entire family from Bnei Brak to Jerusalem and back, brought the Dachbash family to search after an apartment in the area of the Old City.  Money, of course, wasn’t a common thing by them, and they, therefore, searched for an abandoned ruin which they could turn into a temporary dwelling for their young family.  In fact, in the Old City of the 1980’s, it was possible to find ruins and abandoned apartments.  The Dachbash family found what they sought, which brought them to move their dwelling from Bnei Brak to Jerusalem, after, of course, making the place inhabitable.  Thereafter, Rav Dachbash found himself spending his nights at the Kosel in hisbodedus, Tikkun Chatzos, and prayer at sunrise, not knowing that this situation would bring in its footsteps the entire “Shuvu Banim” Yeshiva to Jerusalem… All this happened at the end of winter 5741 (1981 L’Minyanam).

50 Years Back – Nissan 5692 (April 1932)

The “Chayei Olam” Yeshiva moves its place of residence from the Old City to the New City in Jerusalem.  As a first step, in Nissan 5692 (1932 L’M), they lay the cornerstone for the new building at the intersection of Yeshayahu-Kikar Shabbat (as the intersection is known today), and through this they essentially join other Jewish families who moved to live in the New City as a result of pogroms by their Arab neighbors, which broke in full force in the year 5689 (1929 L’M).  In the year 5696 (1936 L’M), the last students abandoned the yeshiva building, located on Rechov Maaleh Halediya, and the place remained abandoned and desolate.  In the year 5708 (1948 L’M), after a bitter battle, the entire area fell into the hands of the Jordanians, while amongst dozens of Haganah fighters, only 27 remained alive.  Here is the place to note some shocking historical details which were revealed after the founding of the state.  One of the difficult questions involving the fall of the area of the Old City at the hands of the Jordanians was why reinforcements didn’t arrive to help the fighters.  The author of the book “Hakarav al HaRova” – “The Battle for the [Jewish] Quarter” – Aharon Altshul (Leron) (whose son Rav Erez learned in Shuvu Banim), related to students of Shuvu Banim the hard truth – the secret behind this mysterious story:  The secret agreement signed between Ben Gurion and Abadallah, the King of Jordan, which said that “Israel” would relent on the entire Old City, including the Kosel and the rest of the unique places in it, in exchange for the area of the Kinneret and the cities near it in the north.  Therefore, Israel left the battle for the Rova to the Hagana fighters, and other than that didn’t send assistance from its side, something which, understandably, brought about the fall of the Rova into the hands of the Jordanians, who took captive all the men, and expelled all the women and children.  Jewish homes which were left desolate and abandoned quickly turned into the estates of Arabs, and likewise all the Jewish institutions there.  Also the lot of Yeshivas Chayei Olam was similar, and the place which was a Beis Midrash for Torah and prayer for years – ‘foxes dwelled in it’ – turned into the dwelling of gentiles, who even built in it a goat’s pen!

The abandoned yeshiva building
The abandoned yeshiva building

5727 (1967 L’M)  — The Six-Day War

The Six-Day War initiated a major historical change when the Old City and the crowning glory – the Kosel HaMa’arvi – with miracles, wonders and Divine assistance were redeemed from the hands of the Jordanians, and the Jewish people once again found themselves praying on the soil of the holy Kosel.  The State of Israel began the work of construction and rehabilitation of the houses and courtyards in the Old City.  However, out of sheer stupidity, it limited and constricted the boundaries of the Jewish Quarter.  As a result, many streets which were once part of the Jewish Quarter, in which Jewish life [once] flourished, remained in the hands of the Arabs, but this time with the stamp of the State of Israel, which bestowed “Protected Citizen” documents to the Arabs of the area.  This meant that they couldn’t be removed from the houses which they plundered (they were only required to pay the previous Jewish owners “Damei Mafteach[1]” – something which, of course, was never carried out).  Also, the street in which our Yeshiva is located – Maale Halediya – remained outside the boundaries of the “new” Jewish Quarter.  As a result, the Arabs continued to dwell in the many Jewish institutions and courtyards which had [previously] been within it, including the Chayei Olam Yeshiva building…

Yeshivas Shuvu Banim
Yeshivas Shuvu Banim

5738 (1978 L’M) Agudat Atara L’Yoshna

The sad situation brought about the founding of the “Atara L’Yoshna”[2] non-profit organization, which set itself the goal of rehabilitating and redeeming the Jewish homes in the area.  The organization consisted of eleven men, mostly residents of Jerusalem, amongst them Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl—Chief Rabbi of the Old City, Rav Simcha HaKohen Kook—Chief Rabbi of Rechovot, and also the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l was amongst the founders of the organization.  In the book, “Yerushalayim Habilti Noda’at” “Unknown Jerusalem” (authored by Rabbi Shabbatai Zecaria who was also amongst the founders of the organization), the organization’s activities are described during those years, on Rehov Maale Halediya.  The “First House” which the organization received for rehabilitation was the Beit Edat HaMa’arvim – the North African Community House (located opposite the entrance to the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva).  This house had functioned previously as a sort of shelter for the poor of the North African Jewish community.  A children’s Torah school and synagogue were established there for the community.  The house at the time was called “Beit HaKollel.”  This was one of the first houses set up by Jews in the Muslim Quarter.  The formal entrance to the North African community house was on Chanukah 5739 (1979 L’M).  Evidence of this we find in a quotation from the Maariv newspaper of January 1st, 1979 – “A large group of Hesder yeshiva students settled, at the end of last week, in the heart of the Muslim Quarter in the Old City in Jerusalem. This is a precedent to Jewish settlement outside the boundaries of the Jewish Quarter between the containing walls.  They dwelled in the residence house, which is Jewish property that stood abandoned over the course of many years.  The 3-story building is owned by the Kollel of the North African community, and is found in the alleyway called “Maale Halediyah” which overlooks the Temple Mount and on the building’s gate is a telltale sign of Jewish ownership, which is two Stars of David engraved on the iron doors.”

5742 (1981 L’M) – Redemption of our Beis Midrash

Now came the turn of the Chayei Olam Yeshiva building (the Beis Midrash of Shuvu Banim today).  As said, a number of Arab families lived in the building, and in order for the state authorities to recognize Jewish ownership over a particular house or courtyard in the area, they were required to provide documentation proving the identity of the property owners.  At the beginning there was difficulty in locating the documentation, but afterwards, within a bundle of documents handed over to Dr. Aryeh Kimmelman (who was involved in locating the relevant registration documents of the Jewish houses in the area) was found the document which appeared to be the registration document of the property.  In faded handwriting it was written on the document “The Talmud Torah of Rabbi Dudel.”  After brief clarification, it emerged that this was in fact the sought-after document – the purchase document of the yeshiva courtyard.  As known, one of the first founders of “Chayei Olam” was the Admor of Lelov, the Tzaddik Rabbi David [Dudel] Biderman zt”l.  So the document was presented before the “general trustee” and the courtyard was released.  When the people from “Atara L’Yoshna” arrived in the courtyard of the yeshiva, one of the Arab residents who lived in the courtyard all of those years requested to vacate his apartment in exchange for the “damei mafteach” payment – the name of the resident was Shichda Salman Jabar al Shiuchi.  At the same time, the “Chayei Olam” Yeshiva entered the picture.  Negotiations began between the Atara L’Yoshna organization, Chayei Olam, and the Arab residents.  The negotiations succeeded and it was resolved that the Chayei Olam Yeshiva would lease the courtyard to the Atara L’Yoshna organization with a “protected lease” [i.e. indefinitely] and the organization, on its part, would pay the Arab resident the “damei mafteach,” and the payment would be deducted from the lease money which the organization had to pay to the Yeshiva.  Also an agreement was made with the Arab resident in which he promised that in exchange for the damei mafteach he would vacate the courtyard.  Understandably, the damei mafteach payment to the Arab, along with the cost of rehabilitating the building, whose condition was very bad, cost a considerable fortune, with Atara L’Yoshna turning to benefactors to donate the fortune from their pockets for the sake of this “Minituare Beis HaMikdash.”

In this way, they got to a precious and important Jew living in the United States, Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Dweck, who saw in this a unique opportunity to found a yeshiva for the name and memory of his grandfather, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Dweck zt”l, who was one of the great kabbalists and who translated the book “Shevet Musar” into Arabic.  Therefore, Rabbi Avraham Shlomo undertook this important matter, while donating a large sum with the hope of achieving his dream, calling the yeshiva after his [grandfather’s] memory “Bircat v’Shavu Banim.”

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Dedication plaque
Dedication plaque to the memory of Rabbi Avraham Dweck, grandfather of Yeshivas Shuvu Banim’s benefactor

Nisan 5742 (1982 L”M)

Rabbi Avraham, who lives in the United States, comes for a visit to the holy land.  Excited and moved, he makes his way to the Old City in order to see with his own eyes the yeshiva which he dedicated.  However, here a great disappointment awaited him.  In his visit to the building, he revealed that besides for a few Jewish families who lived in the yeshiva courtyard, no yeshiva existed there.  He felt that his dream which he hoped to fulfill blew up in his face.  He made his way to the Kosel HaMaarvi, where he broke out in heartrending tears.

28 Nisan, 5742 (April 21, 1982) – Early Morning Hours – The Pivotal Meeting

As mentioned, Rabbi Zevulun Dachbash visits the Kosel every day and says Tikkun Chatzos, does Hisbodedus, and afterwards prays at sunrise.  Also this morning of 26 Nisan was similar to his other mornings.  However, here suddenly the chilling sound of crying reached his ears.  The sensitive heart of Rabbi Zevulun didn’t allow him to continue in his avodah.  He searched for the source of the weeping, when his eyes see a middle-aged Jew whose body is tossed from side to side from the intensity of his weeping.  Rabbi Zevulun approached him and tried to get him to talk – “The worry in a man’s heart [should be] spoken.”  Rabbi Avraham was calmed a bit and began to detail before Rabbi Dachbash his entire sad story.  “What can be done, how can I help you,” Rabbi Dachbash asked.  “Look,” Rabbi Avraham answered.  “If you bring me now a group, yeshiva students, who can come here and make their place in the building, I’ll give them the place which I donated!!”  Upon hearing his words, Rabbi Zevulun’s eyes lit up.  “You won!! You won!!  You have a yeshiva without people, and I have a people without a yeshiva.  Come and I’ll show you them…,” Rav Dachbash said, while describing to Rabbi Abraham in short the “Shuvu Banim” Yeshiva which is found in Bnei Brak, and which recently opened a branch by the name of “Derech Emuna” in Jerusalem.  During that period, Rav Berland shlit”a would travel from Bnei Brak to Jerusalem, and go back and forth between the two branches, even several times a day, until the Rabbanit traveled with Mrs. G. Goldblum to Jerusalem to search for a building that would be suitable for relocating both branches together.  After not finding a building which met all the requirements, the Rabbanit came to request from the Rav shlit”a, who asked the Rabbanit to wait a little bit longer… After a few days, Rav Dachbash and Rav Dweck met, while the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Berland shlit”a, was praying for the day when the entire Yeshiva could move to Jerusalem.  And so [the Rav and the students] walked through Damascus Gate to the yeshiva on Rechov Lapidot.  There they arrived at around 7 in the morning.

Beis Midrash as found
The abandoned Beis Midrash as it was found at the time when the Shuvu Banim students first entered

The Move to the Old City

Nothing had prepared the students of “Derech Emuna” – “Shuvu Banim” for the new turn of events which they were about to go through in the next moments.  Like every morning, they sat down for breakfast, with our Rebbe the Rav shlit”a sitting with them at the head of the table, while reading out loud from the Likutey Halachos which was open in front of him.  But suddenly the door of the Beis Midrash opens up and at the entrance stands Rabbi Zevulun Dachbash, escorted by another Jew.  The Rav immediately rose from his place and sat them next to him, while presenting the Likutey Halachos to Rabbi Avraham and pressing him to read.  Rav Dweck, who already wants to tell the Rav the goal of his visit, begins to read and after about ten rows stops, intending to begin to tell his story.  The Rav stopped him, urging him to continue reading.  So in the end he read at least three pages.  When he finished, the Rav said to everyone to say Bircas HaMazon, and he went outside with him for a short conversation.  The conversation didn’t last for more than twenty minutes, after which the Rav entered the yeshiva with the announcement, “The whole Yeshiva, including the branch in Bnei Brak, are moving to a new home in the Old City.”  The Rav divided the yeshiva students into two groups, with one group assigned the responsibility of updating the Bnei Brakers of the turn of events and to inform them that they must organize all the possessions of the Yeshiva and to load them into a moving truck.  The second group would organize things here [in the Jerusalem branch], whether this involved ordering a moving truck (from Damascus Gate) and loading the equipment onto it, or whether this involved the rest of the necessary matters, with the assigned hour for the move and entrance to the building in the Old City set for 11 in the morning.

Shuvu Banim sign
A Shuvu Banim student next to the sign that was brought from the yeshiva in Bnei Brak (as indicated on left side of blue stripe on top saying “The Knishta Chada Institutions of Breslov Chassidus in Bnei Brak”)

Here is the place to point out the great wonder which the Yeshiva students saw – as they point out today – how in a short conversation of twenty minutes the Rav reached such a pivotal decision, that this basically shows that the Rav with his prayers and longing for Jerusalem was already ready and prepared for this day.

As the Rav instructed, a portion of the Yeshiva students accompanied the moving truck, and the second group, under the leadership of the Rav marched by way of Damascus Gate to the direction of the Chayei Olam Yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter.  The sight which was revealed to them was terrible: abandoned, stench, dust, and sand.  Arab residents next to a goat pen, which was located where today the yeshiva’s kitchen is found.  The pen “contributed” a great deal to the cleanliness of the area…  It’s worth pointing out that Arabs didn’t live on the second floor, and this was because of a tradition that they had amongst themselves that every [time a] family went in to live there, the children would jump head-first to the first floor and die.  Therefore, they locked certain rooms there.  On the third floor, only walls existed without a roof, and, of course, with lots of sand and filth, as a result of the place being exposed over the course of some 50 years.

The Rav ascended to the second floor and entered the room where today is located the library next to the tea room.  The Rav settled down there and learned the chapter from Likutey Moharan which speaks about a Torah scholar who is vengeful and vindictive like a snake.

Of course, the very fact of taking the place caused a clash with the people of the “Atara L’Yoshna,” who didn’t understand from where Yeshivas “Shuvu Banim” landed from, and with whose authority did they go in.  However, after a short time, all the disputes were settled and the verse was fulfilled, “V’es v’hav v’sufa” according to the Sages interpretation: “They didn’t move from there until they were made into companions.”  This is the always the way of the Rav: not to remain in conflict and arguments, and to increase peace and unity in the world, and especially in this instance, where the goal of everyone was to return the “atara l’yoshna — the crown to its former [glory],” that the place which had served as a Beis Midrash bustling with Torah and prayer should return to its former status, something which was done on a very exalted level by the students of Shuvu Banim, who involve themselves in avodas Hashem in a phenomenal fashion, with the saying of Tikkun Chatzos, and amazing persistence in learning Torah in depth and breadth, with prayer at length and with melody, and the rest of the avodas Hashem which is done in this holy abode, as all its visitors attest to.  Also the people of Shuvu Banim build the third floor and expanded the rest of the floors.  Renovated, adorned, with no remnant of the Arab habitation remaining.

On Thursday, they moved all of the possessions of the Yeshiva, and set up for our Rebbe the Rav shlit”a a temporary apartment in the Jewish Quarter, and Shabbos prayers were held in the home of Rabbi Dachbash, whose home was in the Jewish Quarter, as mentioned.  Over the course of the shiur on Shabbos, the Rav spoke about the building which they received, and said that this building was prepared for “Shuvu Banim” from the Six Days of Creation.  The Rav shlit”a pointed out the fact that Dweck called the Kollel “Bircat Avraham v’Shavu Banim,” and one only needs to move the letter vav of “V’Shavu” to the middle and it’ll be “Shuvu Banim,” a clear indication that this was divinely ordained.

Learning on roof
Learning on the roof of the Yeshiva across from the place of the Holy Temple
Study room
One of the first study rooms in the Yeshiva

Teddy Kollek’s Campaign

The main obstacle which arose for “Shuvu Banim” was in the character of Teddy Kollek, historic mayor of Jerusalem.  He went out on a massive campaign against Yeshivas “Shuvu Banim”.  The massive campaign, which reached the Knesset, sent the message that the Chareidim are harming the delicate harmony which was formed between Arabs and Jews – the unwritten status quo – a laundering of words which doesn’t say anything.  What stood behind the campaign was apparently the desire of the mayor to buy the votes of the Arabs of Jerusalem in the mayoral elections.

There were stages where this reached such a consensus that the State of Israel prepared the entire police force and the entire army in order to evict “Shuvu Banim.”  Veterans of the Yeshiva recall days when the Kosel Plaza was filled with policemen and soldiers from the best units, who waited on stand-by, so that at a moment’s notice they could remove them from the Yeshiva.

In retrospect, it’s possible to say that the practical effort which caused that, in the end, they didn’t use these forces and didn’t evict Shuvu Banim was that one of the students of the Yeshiva (R’ Baruch S.) went through the Kosel Plaza and saw the powerful forces waiting on standby, approached them, and said, “Beware of us.  We’re not regular Chareidim, despite being dressed like them.  We are graduates of Special Forces units who did teshuva.  We have weapons (this was, of course, nonsense, because outside of the “Tikkun Klalli,” which was the spiritual “weapon” for every problem, no one had a thing).  They “bought” the story, and from the fear that if they go in to evict the students with force, they would meet resistance that would result in terrible bloodshed, they canceled the idea.

Rehavam “Gandhi” Zeevi and his Connection to the Yeshiva

In addition to the campaign of Teddy Kollek, there were some parents of ba’aley teshuva from the Yeshiva who tried to go out on a slander campaign against the Yeshiva.  They founded an organization for “Parents—Harmed by Baaley Teshuva” with the slogan “I had a son.”  They wanted to recruit the rest of the parents, but with God’s help, it didn’t work out for them.  One of the personalities who stood at the “right hand” of the Yeshiva (here “right” has a double meaning) was Minister Rehavam Ze’evi Hy”d, who was the father of one of the students of the Yeshiva.  “Gandhi” (as he was called) would often visit the Yeshiva, while taking advantage of his visits to learn with his son, and to pray with the students of the Yeshiva.  He also tried to help the Yeshiva financially, while also recruiting his friend Ariel Sharon, who would eventually become Prime Minister.  Ze’evi’s good relationship with “Shuvu Banim” and his appreciation for the students of the Yeshiva, and at their head our Rebbe the Rav shlit”a, was expressed by the fact that he would even stand up for them in the face of his colleagues who were influenced by the media lynch against the Yeshiva, as the following story testifies to:

One of the times, after Ze’evi’s visit to the Yeshvia, while a portion of the students of the Yeshiva were escorting him on the stairs descending to Ma’ale Halediya street, Ze’evi encountered a group of officers who were on patrol in the area, under the command of Amir Heshin, who served as an advisor of Mayor Kollek on Arab affairs and who had been one of Ze’evi’s commanders (today he is one of the major commanders in the area).  Heshin, who didn’t understand what brought Ze’evi to visit a Chareidi yeshiva which at the time stood in the eye of the storm, was answered that Ze’evi’s son was one of the students of the Yeshiva, and for that reason Ze’evi had come to visit the Yeshiva.  At his point, Heshin found the opportunity to gore the students of “Shuvu Banim.”  Tell me, he turned to Ze’evi, what’s with these Chareidim that they insist on specifically remaining here?  Teddy Kollek offered them numerous alternatives (as is known, he offered to Shuvu Banim a building in Givat Shaul).  Ze’evi, who as known was quick to the draw – he would leave all of his debaters astounded, answered on the spot, “That question they asked Yosef Trumpeldor (who was one of the Hagana leaders who settled in Kfar Giladi).  They asked him, why don’t you settle in Kiryat Shmona and further south, and despite this, he was stubborn, and in the merit of this we have today [according to his thinking] the entire Galilee panhandle.”  On hearing these words, Heshin’s face changed colors and astonishment spread over his face: “How do you dare to compare these Chareidim to Josef Trumpeldor the Zionist, who sacrificed himself for the Land?” he asked Ze’evi.  And Ze’evi continued to whip his commander, “What’s the difference?  Just as in his merit we have a portion of the Land, so too in the merit of these yeshiva students we have this building.”  And here the argument between them basically ended.

Rav Berland with Zeevi
Rabbi Berland with “Ghandi” Zeevi H”yd (pictured on left)
Rabbi Berland with "Ghandi" Zeevi
Rabbi Berland with “Ghandi” Zeevi, Hy”d (far left)

The demolition order and the contractor’s punishment

One of the first things which the students of Shuvu Banim implemented was the building of the third floor, which was then just broken walls.  They began with the entrance room to the Heichal (where today is the place for netilas yadaim).  Teddy Kollek, who then was at the peak of his furious campaign against “Shuvu Banim,” succeeded in producing a demolition order for the small room.  He found an insolent contractor who took upon himself this terrible task, and he arrived which his workers with the goal of destroying the structure.  In those days, there was a special Jew in the Yeshiva by the name of Rav Fishel Grossberg, who was a great Talmid Chacham and a very learned elder around 90+ years old.  He had even been a student of Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, and a student of the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem the Gaon Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l.  He lived in the Beis Yisrael neighborhood and would make his way every day on foot in order to give over shiurim in Gemara to the students of the Yeshiva, who he loved greatly.  Our Rebbe the Rav said about him that he knew all of Shas with Tosefos by heart.  When Rav Grosberg saw the contractor start the demolition work, tears flowed from his eyes and he broke out crying and stood still in front of the contractor.  Only the contractor didn’t pay any attention and continued with his work.  Rav Fishel went and brought [the book] of the Rambam and opened it up to Hilchos Beis Kneset and read in the ears of the contractor the decisive words of the Rambam regarding one who destroys a synagogue – that his properties disintegrate, that his house would be destroyed on him, and all the more so if this is a synagogue in Jerusalem.  The contractor didn’t pay attention also to this, only dismissing him with “Thanks, I heard.”  Two years passed (over the course of which, baruch Hashem, the Beis Midrash was built from nothing in spite of the ire of all the opposition) and on one Motzei Shabbos, when the Yeshiva were amidst the songs of Maleva Malka with our Rebbe the Rav, suddenly a terrible sound of crying was heard from the entrance to the Yeshiva.  The students of the Yeshiva, who rushed to see what was the source of the crying, were stunned to see a broken man standing crying and shouting, “Bring me to the Rav.”  The Rav approached him, and it emerged that he was the contractor who at the time had demolished the entrance room, and now everything written in the Rambam was fulfilled in him.  He travelled to casinos and as a result of this, lost all of his possessions.  His many properties completely disintegrated, and not only that, even his wife left him – as written in the Rambam, and his house was destroyed on him.  Now, he came to request a way of repentance.  The Rav, of course, guided him and strengthened him, and he did teshuva for his actions and thus merited to be rehabilitated from his situation.

The Arab neighbors

When Shuvu Banim entered the location, several Arab families still lived in the Yeshiva courtyard.  At the entrance to the Yeshiva, where today is the generator, there lived an Arab resident Abi Senina and his seven daughters who the students of the Yeshiva coined “Tuvia and his seven daughters.”  From the other side of the courtyard, where today is the kitchen, an elder and his wife lived.  However, in the end, all the Arab residents abandoned the place.

Talking out the garbage

By nature of things, a place which had been desolate and abandoned for so many years gathered within it massive piles of sand and garbage.  So students of the Yeshiva relate that they removed from the place such piles that could fill some 50 garbage trucks!  A large portion of the sand they threw into a deep pit which was on the second floor, whose bottom they couldn’t see.

The Beis HaMidrash during that period

In those days, before the building of the top floor, the second floor served as the Beis Midrash (where today is the room of Rav Azizyan) and the dorms for the unmarried students, with all the rooms utilized for this need.  This is the point to note that the area which joins the two sides of the second floor was open during that period, since then there still wasn’t the addition which is found there today, above which is located the addition to the Beis Midrash and the women’s section, as shown by pictures from that period.

Shuvu Banim then
Yeshivas Shuvu Banim during that period

In this article we have focused mainly on the story of entering the building of the Yeshiva and all that involved.  In other articles we’ll focus on the unique atmosphere of the first years in the Old City, when  Rav Berland would come there every day:  the shiurim, Shabbatot, events, and more…everything, of course, with the addition of special and rare photographs from those days… Bezras Hashem.

Rabbi Berland at Yeshiva
Rabbi Berland at the Yeshiva building

[1] Damei Mafteah: literally “key money” – an arrangement once common in Israel, in which the renter would pay a significant sum of money to the owner for the right to lease the property indefinitely.

[2] Literally “Crown to its former [glory]”

see also:

Shuvu Banim Yeshivah rare documentary film in English


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