A memorial was held on Monday in the village of Shiloah (Silwan), a.k.a. the Yemenite village, for Shlomo Madmoni, who was murdered in 1939 on his way to save a Torah scroll and other synagogue property that had been damaged in the 1939 Arab riots led by Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini.
The memorial ceremony was initiated by the public council of the Shiloah village, headed by Gadi Bashari of the Directing Committee of the Central Zionist Archive.
A marble plaque was placed in memory of Shlomo Shlomo Madmoni and his efforts, and his son, Rahamim Madmoni, 86, said Kaddish.
The service was attended by the Minister of Regional Cooperation Ophir Akunis, who toured the Ohel Shlomo Synagogue in the Shiloah Village and learned about the progress of restoration work in the neighborhood, including the new Yemenite Heritage Center on the grounds of the old Yemenite synagogue.
The neighborhood was settled in 1881 by Yemenite olim who arrived in Jerusalem and were homeless and destitute. They found shelter near Mt. Olives, and Israel Dov Frumkin, the owner of the Havatzelet Hebrew-language newspaper, founded the association Ezrat Nidachim to support the Yemenites, with the help of Baroness Hirsch and other wealthy European Jews. A man named Boaz HaBavli donated to the association a plot of land on the western side of Mt. Olives. The land was completely empty and distant from the Arab houses to its north, and the Yemenites settled down on it, naming it Yemenite Village and, alternately, Shiloah Village.
At one point 160 Jewish families were living in Shiloah Village, some of whom were not Yemenites. The Ashkenazi Jews, who lived in the neighborhood, all of them Chassidim, were forced to dress as Yemenite Jews to avoid being attacked by the Arabs of the neighboring villages.
The Jewish residents were attacked and their homes were damaged in the Arab pogroms of 1921, and in 1929, the Arabs attacked the survivors, harming them and looting their property. The majority of the Jewish residents left then, under pressure from the British Mandatory government. The Jews returned to their homes after the riots, under the leadership of Rabbi Yosef Madmoni, the son of the founder of the village, and stayed there for several years. But following the pogroms of 1938, during the Nazi-incited Great Arab Revolt, the Mandatory government was not interested in allocating the manpower needed to protect the Jews of Shiloah and evicted them permanently.
When Rabbi Madmoni’s son, Shlomo, went back to collect the few precious objects from the Shiloah synagogue, he was murdered by his former Arab neighbors.
Minister Akunis said at Shlomo’s memorial service: “This is a historic day in a historic place. We are completing a circle that began with the Jewish settlement here in the village of Shiloah in the 19th century, with the arrival of the first olim from Yemen. We have come back to settle this place forever, we and have no intention of ever leaving it again.”
Rahamim Madmoni said: “It’s very moving to be here in the place where my father, may he rest in peace, went to save a Torah scroll. I complete the circle with my father and I’m sure that he is very proud at this moment. We continue the heritage of our ancestors, here and all over Israel.”
Bashari recalled that following the news of establishing the Shiloah Village Council, a woman from Boston named Rachel who is the granddaughter of Shlomo Madmoni contacted him to tell him excitedly about her connection to the place, which is how Madmoni’s son came to be and say Kaddish at his father’s memorial service in the Yemenite synagogue.
Daniel Luria, Exec Director Ateret Cohanim which is engaged in redeeming Shiloah Village and numerous other Jewish properties in and around Jerusalem, said at the ceremony: “Today we came full circle. 82 years ago, in January 1939, Shlomo Madmoni from the old Yemenite Village of Shiloach was murdered by Arabs simply for being a Jew and trying to salvage a Sefer Torah from his ransacked village. The British Authorities were helpless and refused to protect the Jews at the time, but today, with Israeli policemen standing nearby in the Jewish State of Israel, Reb Shlomo’s son said Kaddish and his grandchildren answered Amen, as they all stood at the memorial site overlooking the Shiloah, where Jewish life has been reestablished with 23 Jewish families. We have indeed returned home to the Shiloah and Shlomo Madmoni lives on.”