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After 150 Years: Jerusalem Home Becomes Jewish Again

150 years after its loss, Beit Shechter in Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter returned to Jews thanks to an American who bought it. Mezuzah slot found.
By Elad Benari and Hezki Ezra
First Publish: 5/27/2011, 4:47 AM / Last Update: 5/27/2011, 5:15 AM

A dedication ceremony, traditionally done for a newly purchased or refurbished home,  was held and a mezuzah was affixed on Thursday at Beit Shechter (Schechter house), located in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter, 150 years after the home was transferred to an Arab family when Jews had to leave the area. The house thus returned to Jewish hands.

The house had been purchased by Henoch Messner from New York, who came to Israel to take part in the dedication ceremony of the home which he redeemed at the heart of Jerusalem.

“I felt that if a there’s a house that’s available in Jerusalem, there has to be a Jew who’s willing to step up and buy it, and renovate it and move the new family in,” Messner told INN TV. “For that reason I did it. There are so many people who would like to see the neighborhood become free of Jews, and individuals need to stand up and say that this is our neighborhood and we’re coming back.”

Two days earlier, as renovations were taking place inside the house, the original slot for the mezuzah was discovered.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva, affixed the mezuzah into place, following which a special dinner was held and dancing took place.

The reclamation of the house was organized by Ateret Cohanim, headed by Mati Dan, the main catalyst in the home's recovery as it has been in other parts of the Muslim Quarter. The American Friends of Ateret Cohanim annual dinner will take place on June 1st in New York. 

“It is not just this house which belongs to the Jewish people, the entire land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people,” Rabbi Aviner said during the ceremony, and pointed out that “it is not just because of the slot for the mezuzah. Homes with no slots are also ours.”

Also present at the ceremony was MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union), who affixed a mezuzah in another room in the house and said: “Today we affixed a mezuzah at Beit Shechter in the so-called Muslim Quarter of the Old City, which was once the Jewish quarter. Some of the Jewish property here has been returned and some is still held by Arabs. Today we returned the mezuzah to its original slot. Although the Arabs tried to conceal the mezuzah slot, luckily enough it was discovered during the renovations. I’m glad to see another family sitting in the heart of Jerusalem.”