For the past five months, the residence of the chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, located on Rav Kook Street in central Jerusalem and considered a Jerusalem historical landmark, was in danger after parts of the structure were found to be in dire need of repairs. However, last Thursday, a legal solution was found to allow the necessary work on the historic building.
Following the resolution of the legal barriers to renovating the structure, the Jerusalem Ministry of Heritage is expected to allocate money to the restoration and preservation of the building's balconies, including the entrance staircase. The estimated cost is said to be NIS 450,000 (about $123,700 USD), thus preventing the site’s closure.
The Minister of Jerusalem Affairs MK Zev Elkin said, “Rabbi Kook’s house is a structure of historic importance, not only for religious Zionism, but for the entire State of Israel. Rabbi Kook made a significant contribution to the establishment of the state and the settlement of the land. Therefore, as soon as we heard that he Jerusalem municipality had to issue a demolition order on the building’s balconies, we worked to find a solution to save the place. I am happy that a solution was found, and the Rabbi’s house will be able to continue its activities.”
Last September, the Jerusalem Municipality issued an immediate demolition order for the four balconies and the entrance staircase to the building used by Rabbi Kook and his family during his tenure as Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel. Today it serves as a center for the commemoration of his legacy. Had the demolition order been implemented, it would have effectively forced the building's closure.
Upon receiving the order, members of the association operating the site contacted Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkinm explained the complicated situation and requested his intervention.
However, there has been a legal dispute that has been going on for many years between the association that operates the rabbi’s house and the haredi General Committee of Jerusalem (Hekdesh) that claims that the donor of the building left it to them. The donor left it to those who continue Rabbi Kook's Torah legacy and what that means is the matter in dispute. The dispute had made it legally difficult to allocate the money to preserve the balconies.
Minister Elkin appealed to the Jerusalem Municipality to postpone the demolition until a legal solution could be found. The municipality agreed to the request after the Council for the Preservation of sites conducted minimal maintenance that enabled the examination of the legal issue.
The ministry proposed a compromise plan in which the restoration work will be carried out by means of the municipality. The outline has been approved in principle by legal authorities and is to be implemented shortly.
In the early days, the building served as the Mecaz Harav Yeshiva until the number of students outgrew the study hall and it was moved to Kiryat Moshe. Merkaz Harav is the yeshiva where the great rabbis of religious Zionism studied Torah and turned into the leaders of the Rabbi Kook's Torah of Eretz Yisrael.