Etz Chaim Yeshiva Building Saved from Destruction

Following the dramatic decision to save vast Jerusalem Forest areas from the massive Safdie construction program, conservatives have now won another round, saving the 100-year-old Etz Chaim yeshiva.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:08

The regional committee for planning and construction in the Jerusalem area ruled at the end of last week to accept the main objections to a new construction plan in downtown Jerusalem. The plan called for the destruction of the historic Yeshivat Etz Chaim yeshiva on Jaffa Rd., adjacent to the Machaneh Yehuda market.

The objections were submitted by the Council for the Preservation of Sites, the Society for the Preservation of Nature, and the Jerusalem Courtyards Association. The rejected planners wished to destroy the yeshiva compound, adjoining storefronts and a historic kindergarten, and build two 15-story buildings for offices, businesses and homes.

The Etz Chaim Yeshiva was founded in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1855 by the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem's Ashkenazi community, Rabbi Shmuel Salant. His student and grandson-in-law, the renowned Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tukichinsky, later headed the yeshiva, and in 1908, he oversaw the purchase of the plot of land on which the yeshiva building now stands.

Other heads of the Etz Chaim Yeshiva were Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer and Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach. The saintly Rabbi Aryeh Levine, the subject of the book A Tzaddik in Our Time by Simcha Raz, served as mashgiach [spiritual supervisor] of the yeshiva. At present, the yeshiva is not functional.

The building was included on a list of historic sites to be preserved that was prepared by the Jerusalem municipality 20 years ago.

The kindergarten, which was the second Jewish kindergarten built in Jerusalem in the 18 preceding centuries, will be photographed and dismantled, and elements thereof will be integrated into the new construction.