A towering Montefiore vision

This is the remarkable story about two Jerusalemites – a leading rabbi and his Kablan colleague – who together have a vision which they believe will soon become reality – to establish a museum in honor of Sir Moses Montefiore inside the  historic water tower in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood in Jerusalem, one of the five Jerusalem neighborhoods named after Sir Moses.

In the Kiriat Moshe neighborhood in Jerusalem, there stood for many years a neglected and abandoned water tower, whose history began in the sixties of the last century, and which they are now seeking to turn into a museum commemorating Sir Moses. At the base of the tower there already exists a delightful synagogue hall, and the dream is to turn the entire tower into an amazing observation point overlooking all the Jerusalem neighborhoods which commemorate the name of Sir Moses Montefiore, as well as to enable an overall view of the Holy City of Jerusalem in all its glory.

In 1911 there was established by Shmuel Kook, the brother of Rav Kook of Blessed Memory, on the spot where the tower currently stands – a textile workshop whose workers, in keeping with the wish of Rav Kook, would study Torah and also work for a living.  And this is what happened up to the War of Independence.

In the second decade of Israel’s independence, years after the workshop had closed, it was decided to erect a tall tower especially on the site, which would serve both as a water tower and also – and above all – as  a secret lookout point facing the nearby Jordan border up until the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem. But with the reunification of the city, the need for an observation tower declined, and the water flow was also relocated. The site was abandoned, neglected, and became a nest for hornets, pigeons and all kinds of diseases.

And now in our day the tower has become a wonderful center full of activity and, if the dream will be fulfilled, also a unique museum which will tell the story of one of the greatest of Jerusalem’s builders and of the Jewish world as a whole: Sir Moses Montefiore.

Recently, through the tremendous efforts of the Shafran and Wasserteil families, the tower was given the name “Asher Tower” after Rabbi Asher Wasserteil of Blessed Memory, whilst the street was named  Rabbi Shafran Street in honor of the great Romanian rabbi and father of the Shafran dynasty, Rabbi Bezalel Zeev Shafran (the Rabaz), all of this executed by decision of the Jerusalem Town Council. The main part of the tower today serves as a synagogue named after the distinguished Rabbis Shafran and Wasserteil of Blessed Memory, but it secretes within it many projects that concern the development of the site as a whole in the foreseeable future, both with regard to its inner space which can be turned into a museum and also an educational center for  visitors in the fields of medicine, science and halacha (Jewish religious law) – the areas of expertise of the “Merhavim” Center headed by the rabbi of the place, Rabbi Professor Yigal Shafran, a world authority on medical ethics. And the tower, located at the highest elevation in the neighborhood, commands a view of the entire environment of the city, its exits and entrances. Thus it will be possible to pray in the tower as well as to enjoy  the services of  a library and study and guest rooms, and also to gaze at broad expanses of the city and to tell the story of the city of Jerusalem from the days of King David and until today.

As we have said, it is the only point in Jerusalem in which it is possible to maintain a synagogue  and an impressive conference hall in its base, as well as to serve within its inner  space as a museum and center of science, medicine and halacha, as well as enabling a spectacular panoramic view of the  magnificent Jerusalem landscape in all its glory, redolent with memories of the past and a future outlook, without requiring widespread building and years of waiting. And indeed, such a museum and such an observation point are planned, with G-d’s help, to arise at the top of the tower – after it has been renovated according to a program prepared by a team of top international architects. A chain of special electrical effects, laser rays and lighting which will be automatically operated from the tower to foci many kilometers distant from the place, neighborhoods in the city, historic sites  etc.,  enabling the spectator to identify them from high up.

Already today the lower level of the tower has been turned into an entrancing and unique synagogue in the sprit of religious Zionism, together with a Torah and scientific center, and it already serves today as a beacon and spiritual center for the surrounding neighborhood. In this center there take place a wide range of cultural, scientific and halachic events, Torah lessons and prayer and hosting of visitors.

The full and soon-to-be-realized vision for the ancient water tower is to establish a museum exhibit in memory of Sir Moses Montefiore in the central part of the tower. Youth, soldiers, guests and those interested, will arrive at the museum by means of a transparent-sided lift  on the north side of the historic building and will receive a lesson  about the history of the  city and  Sir Moses Montefiore with a panoramic view of all the city, so that many people, including IDF invalids and the handicapped  will be able  to experience the special enchantment of Jerusalem. And this will also include  instruction about Sir Moses, about the place and its surroundings, with the walls decorated and describing also the activity of Sir Moses and his pivotal place in the general history of the nation returning to its ancestral homeland so that the place will subsequently also become an historic monument to the victims of the Holocaust and all the IDf soldiers and others who fell in Israel’s wars, and who sacrificed their lives for the newborn State, for the city of Jerusalem and for Montefiore’s dreams.

The proposed museum will cover all of the’ tremendous contributions made by Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore to Jerusalem and the Jewish People and to England  and be a beacon of historical and educational interest which will attract not only large numbers of Israelis of all ages but also visitors from all over the world eager to learn more about this iconic Jewish personality and his memorable achievements. Rabbi Shafran will be happy to hear from any persons interested in sponsoring such an important museum.

For further information please contact David Herman, Jerusalem at email:

About the Author
London-born David Herman came on aliyah in 1966 after graduating from Cambridge University. In the 1960s, he founded the Good Times Publishing Company specializing in publishing newspapers in simplified English, French and Arabic for the Israeli school system. David currenty works as a translator, and is also very active in the field of songwriting and performing under the musical name, David Ben Reuven.
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