Walking though Mazkeret Moshe, we reach Rechov Rabbi Aryeh. Here we find the home of Rav Aryeh Levin, the Tzaddik of Jerusalem and Father of the Prisoners. He was the rabbi for the underground military groups before 1948. Many of them were arrested during their acts of sabotage and he would spend time visiting them. In addition, in his modest home, Rav Aryeh did the Goral HaGra and identified the 35 boys who were killed by Arabs and disfigured as they brought supplies to Gush Etzion in January 1948.
As you continue walking, you will cross Tavor Street in order to enter HaNatziv Street. Then Rand, Munkatch, and Knesses Gimmel will be on your left with Brodie, Knesses Beis and Minsk to the right. If you had continued on Tavor, then Knesses Alef would on the left slightly further on.
Seven New Neighborhoods
These seven chareidi neighborhoods, nicknamed ”’Der Shteterlach,” were built by the Vaad HaKlali with the encouragement of HaRav Shmuel Salant who saw the need for buildings beyond the walls of the Old City because of its terribly crowded conditions. The managers of the Vaad first wanted to build near the grave of Shimon HaTzaddik, but this did not work out. (That land would become part of Jordan from 1948-1967). They were able to buy land near Mazkeret Moshe and Ohel Moshe.
HaRav Shmuel Salant sent letters to Chutz laAretz requesting financial help and American Jerwy responded generously. Rav Naftali Zvi Porush, Rav Salant’s secretary was largely responsible for the project.
The first colony to be built in 1893 was Knesses Alef. It was made up of 13 one story homes, with the shul, Beis Rachel, in the center. This was where Rav Aryeh Levin used to pray. Older residents remember seeing him walking slowly to shul every day.
Rav Aryeh used to give a daily lesson in Ein Yacov to the congregation of Beis Rachel. When he heard that a couple was having marital problems, Rav Aryeh decided to speak about being nice to one’s wife in class in the hope this person would take note and remedy his situation. Rav Issar Zalman Meltzer attended the shuir. After the lesson Rav Issar Zalman came up to Rav Aryeh and thanked him profusely for making him realize that his was an area he needed to work on. Rav Aryeh was adamant that he had not directed his words at Rav Issar Zalman, but the latter insisted that he would seriously try and improve. Of late his wife, Bailah Hinda, was helping him to write his book, Even HaEzel, and he had surely pressured her. Now after this mussar by Rav Aryeh he would do his utmost to be nice to his wife.
The residents of Knesses Alef were Torah giants and great tzaddikim, and they lived in their apartments rent free. Building the suburb took ten years and even before its completion, it was apparent that many more apartments were needed. An adjoining parcel of land was purchased in 1908, and Knesses Beis was built there. It was slightly more luxurious as the homes had two stories. The Halperin Matzah Bakery was built behind it.
There is an interesting story behind the building of Batei Minsk in1894. The Rosh Kollel of Kollel Minsk in Yerushalayim received a telegram from the head of the Jewish community in Minsk. He was being implored to have the entire community daven at the Kotel for the son of the Rosh Khal. He had gone off the derech and threatened to not come home for the Pesach Seder. In Eretz Yisrael a mass gathering was held at the Kotel.
At the very same time the tefillahs were being raised on high, the errant son repented. With tremendous gratitude, the happy father donated money to build Batei Minsk which consisted of ten apartments for the members of the Kollel.
One of Jerusalem’s askanim, Rav Jacobson, received a letter from Rav Yaakov Yosef Brodie, a wealthy man in Warsaw who had not been blessed with children. He wanted to eternalize his name by building apartments for Torah scholars outside the Old City. He financed the purchase of another parcel of land near Knesses Alef and Knesses Beis in 1902. Since a foreign resident could not buy land, it was bought under the name of a Jerusalem resident and was considered hekdesh for poor scholars of the Prushim (Ashkenazi Lita’im) community.