Jewish Homes in the Christian Quarter with Shalom Pollock and Ateret Cohanim Organization
On July 26, 2020, along with Shalom Pollock and a gang of Jews we discovered the Proud Jews making a stand for Judaism in Jerusalem living in the “Christian Quarter” of the old city. Like the Moslem Quarter, many of the areas of the Christian Quarter were originally Jewish and the Ateret Cohanim organization helps to reclaim the property for Jewish living.
Ateret Cohanim (Hebrew: עמותת עטרת כהנים lit. “Crown of the Priests”), also Ateret Yerushalayim, is an Israeli Jewish organization with a yeshiva located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It works for the creation of a Jewish majority in the Old City and Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Notable alumni of the yeshiva include Rabbi Nissan Ben-Avraham and Rabbi Eyal Karim.
While the activities of Atara Leyoshna focused mainly on locating Jewish assets in the Muslim Quarter and transferring them into Jewish hands through legal means, the activities of Ateret Cohanim involves acquiring houses in the Christian and Muslim quarters or renting them from government companies and populating them with Jews. The association owns many buildings in the Old City, where over 80 families live. Some estimate that 1,000 Jews are in the properties they control.
The head of the association is Mati Dan.
Since its establishment 30 years ago, Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim has resided in the heart of the (liberated) Old City.
The Yeshiva is the spiritual epicenter of a community of almost 1000 residents in the heart of the Old City in the so-called “Moslem” and Christian Quarters. This area was in fact, prior to the Arab riots, largely inhabited by Jews. It is on this historical basis that we refer to it now as the Renewed Jewish Quarter.
In keeping with the educational goals of our Rosh Yeshiva, Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner Shlit”a, the Yeshiva’s approximately 2000 graduates have established themselves in a wide variety of professions fields. Dispersed throughout the country, these men now serve as heads of educational institutions, pre-military and other yeshivot, as senior IDF officers and in key security positions. Others are active in law, media, hi-tech, management, and business.
At present, 250 students are learning in one of the Yeshiva’s three institutions:
- The Yeshiva Gevoha, the higher institute of Torah studies: 120 single students
- The Kollel: 80 married students
- The Pre-Military Academy: 50 students
Around 2000, Ateret Cohanim and another organization, the Ir David Foundation, began to acquire land in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem outside the Old City. They operate mainly in the village of Silwan, and at the Beit Orot Yeshiva on the Mount of Olives.
In the Old City, the yeshiva was involved in buying property from Arabs, Greeks, and Armenians. Ateret Cohanim reportedly owns more than 70 buildings in the Muslim Quarter. The property includes their yeshiva, the building that houses Yeshiva Shuvu Banim, several dormitories, a museum, and about 50 apartment units. Some of the property belonged to Jews who lived in the Muslim Quarter before they were driven out by pogroms in 1929 and 1936. Other properties belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church, in the Christian Quarter, prior to a disputed deal that involved the Patriarch Irineos, resulting in property tenants in the Christian Quarter being driven out. The 99-year lease from the Greek Orthodox Church of the New Imperial Hotel and the Petra Hostel near Jaffa Gate and of a third building from the Muslim Quarter, was finally confirmed by Israel’s Supreme Court in 2019, bringing to an end 14 years of legal disputes.
In May 2015, Ateret Cohanim reclaimed legal ownership of the Old Yemenite Synagogue in the nineteenth century Jewish Yemenite Village Kfar Hashiloach (Hebrew: כפר השילוח) neighborhood in the Jerusalem district of Silwan.
Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim
Torat Chaim Yeshiva
In 1886, Rabbi Yitzchak Winongrad established the Torat Chaim Yeshiva on ha-Gai Street, facing the Temple Mount. At its peak, about 300 students from all over the world, including Rabbis Tzvi Pesach Frank, Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and Aryeh Levin studied there. The ground floor of the building served as a shop selling vegetables which provided funds for the yeshiva’s maintenance.
In the wake of the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, the yeshiva relocated to the new city, leaving the building and its contents entrusted to an Arab watchman who faithfully preserved it until the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. This yeshiva was the only one out of approximately 80 synagogues and study halls that was not destroyed by Jordan during the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem. In 1967, the caretaker gave the keys to Chaim Herzog (in his function as the military governor of Judea and Samaria/the West Bank), telling him that “the holy place watched over me more than I watched over it” during those years.
Modern day Yeshiva
Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim (Hebrew: ישיבת עטרת ירושלים) is a continuation of the former Yeshiva, Torat Chaim, and is located within the same building as the old Yeshiva. In 1980, when Israel passed the Jerusalem Law, re-unifying Jerusalem, many began praying and learning again in the old Yeshiva building. In 1983, Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim began occupying the building, the first time the building was used for a Yeshiva in almost 50 years.
Face to Face
Little Shloimie was sitting on his Zadie’s lap as Zadie read him a bedtime story. From time to time, Shloimie would take his eyes off the book and reach up to touch Zadie’s white beard, and his wrinkled cheek. Shloimie would alternately stroke his own cheek. Finally Shloimie spoke up, “Zadie, did Hashem make you?”
“Yes, Shloimie,” he answered. “Hashem made me a long time ago.”
“Oh,” he paused. “Zadie, did Hashem make me too?”
“Yes, indeed,” he said. “Hashem made you just a little while ago.”
Feeling their respective faces again, Shoilmie observed, “Hashem’s getting better at it, isn’t he?”