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Jerusalem families share what’s kept them in the Holy City for generations

CM 20/05/2021 6

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The Mizrachi family 
(Jerusalem since 1620)
In 1620, Baruch Ben David El-Mashreki (Mizrachi) moved to Jerusalem and bought a house there. Since that time, the descendants of the Mizrachi family, including Rabbi Nissim Chaim Moshe Mizrachi (who served as the Rishon LeZion from 1745 to 1749), Yitzchak Navon (Israel’s fifth president), Yitzchak Abadi (who served as a translator in the British Mandate) and many lawyers from the Shamir family, have made Jerusalem their home. 
Adv. Shmuel Shamir, a resident of the Talbiyeh neighborhood in the capital who recently celebrated his 98th birthday, was interested in the history of his family, and so he began researching his family’s ancestors. “My family was always connected to a specific house in Jerusalem,” Shamir recounts. “The story begins with the living testament of Baruch Mizrachi, one of my ancestors, from 1643, in which he instructed his children and descendants never to sell or mortgage his house until the Messiah comes and all the dead will be resurrected. And to this day, every generation has followed this directive, and the house is still being passed on to each new generation.”
The Shamir family succeeded in retaining ownership of the house until 1948, when the War of Independence broke out and the Jordanians took over control of Jerusalem’s Old City. Then, during the Six Day War, the State of Israel took back control of sections of the capital from the Jordanians in exchange for monetary compensation, and forced out the Arabs who’d taken over the Jewish families’ homes in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The Mizrachi family chose not to receive compensation for the expropriation of their home, and instead settled for a plaque that was placed on the outside of their home commemorating the historical significance of the building. “Jerusalem’s preeminent mayor Teddy Kollek declared that Baruch Mizrachi could get his house back when the Messiah comes, and all the subsequent mayors of the capital continued proffering this promise,” Shamir adds. 
How much time did you spend researching your family tree?
“Quite a few years. I created a family tree that goes back all the way back to 1617. In addition, I am a cofounder of the Israel Genealogy Society, and I published a book of historical stories about my family.”
Shmuel’s son Adv. Tzvi Shamir, who lives in Pisgat Zeev, adds that he and his father both lead historical tours of Jerusalem. “We are especially interested in mapping out and locating sites in Jerusalem,” explains Tzvi. “As lawyers, we have been involved in numerous legal cases focusing on land disputes in Jerusalem. My whole life is focused on Jerusalem, which is the most beautiful and interesting place in the whole country. My family is connected to so much of the city’s history. My son, Guy, is continuing on with the research of our family lineage, and we are proud to be one of the most veteran families in all of Jerusalem.” 
The Schwartz family 
(Jerusalem since 1808) 
The Galina family 
(Jerusalem since 1847)
The first wave of aliyah among the followers of the Rabbi Elijah Ben Solomon Zalman (aka the Vilna Gaon or HaGra in Hebrew) from Lithuania began in 1808. Among them was a member of the Schwartz family who initially moved to Tiberias before settling in Jerusalem and beginning the family’s long line of butchers. 
Rabbi Mordechai Abraham Galina, a Ruzhin Hassid from Chmielnik in the Ukraine, arrived in Jerusalem in 1847. He changed his name to Shor in an effort to circumvent certain bureaucratic steps required to acquire a permit to sell wine (his brother-in-law, Rabbi Baruch Shor, already had a license), and in 1848 Galina founded the family winery near the Western Wall. 

“I grew up hearing stories about our family’s Jerusalem roots,” recounts Rachel Gviretz, an eighth generation Jerusalemite from the Shor and Schwartz dynasties who lives in the city’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood. “There’s just something about living in Jerusalem that does not exist anywhere else in the world. My son, who lives overseas, says that in Jerusalem people were intrusive in his private life, but I love that people here care for each other. In fact, this was especially helpful this past year when the COVID-19 epidemic broke out. In my experience, when two Jerusalemites meet each other, they can usually discover a mutual acquaintance within a couple of minutes.”THE SHOR family at the Kotel. (Photos: Courtesy)THE SHOR family at the Kotel. (Photos: Courtesy)
Tamar Hayardeni, Rachel’s daughter, who lives in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem, offers guided tours of the capital. “My aunt is a nurse at Laniado Hospital in Netanya,” explains Hayardeni, “and when I was pregnant with my twins, she suggested I come there to give birth. I told her I couldn’t bear the thought of giving birth to my children, who are 10th generation Jerusalemites, in any other city other than Jerusalem. I feel such a strong connection deep down in my heart to all the past generations of Jerusalemites in my family. And I very much hope that my children will continue this tradition.”
Do you feel like the city has changed recently?
“Jerusalem is changing all the time, but that doesn’t affect its essence,” replies Rachel. “That’s what makes it such a magical city.”
“The biggest change, in my opinion,” continues Tamar, “is that its focus has become more economic and focused on the individual, whereas in the past people were more concerned about safety and community. It’s become so expensive to live here, and as a result many people who grew up here cannot afford to pay the sky-high rental prices, which is such a shame. I personally cannot imagine living anywhere else.”
The Yedid family 
(Jerusalem since 1900)
“My family can trace its roots in Jerusalem back to the year 1800 when my maternal grandfather made aliyah from Syria and bought land in Mevaseret Zion,” explains Shaul Yedid, who currently lives in the Givat Massua neighborhood in Jerusalem. “Soon afterwards, though, the land was expropriated since it was deemed no man’s land, and so they left and resettled in Jerusalem in 1900. My father made aliyah to Israel from Aleppo, Syria in 1900.”
The Yedid family quickly became established in the construction business. “As a teen, I would often help my father build synagogues and other buildings. Later, after I began working as a driver for the Ben-Zvi Institute, I got the idea to begin researching my family tree, and then I was invited to hear and give lectures about Jerusalem’s historical significance. I’ve even had the opportunity to participate in a number of excavations in the city.
“One of my favorite Jerusalem stories is about my mother, when she was pregnant with me in 1942. As the story goes, as soon as she started feeling contractions, she walked all the way from the Pargod Theater in Nahlaot to the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus where she gave birth to me.” 
In the Six Day War, Yedid fought in the well-known battle that took place at the Western Wall. “I’ll never forget the moment when we could finally hoist up the Israeli flag. Then all the Jewish residents of the nearby Yemin Moshe neighborhood just outside of the Old City came to applaud and hug us with gratitude. That was probably the most thrilling moment of my life.”
Did you ever considering moving away and living somewhere else?
“I was offered an apartment in Ashdod, but I feel like I’m connected to Jerusalem through my umbilical cord. For me, Jerusalem is not just a city – it’s my heart and soul. I will never be able to leave Jerusalem.”
Yedid’s grandson, Maor Shamai, spent many years after his IDF service traveling around the world engaging in self exploration. He even spent time living in Brazil with his wife. And yet, despite all his efforts to loosen the hold this city has on him, something about Jerusalem keeps drawing him back. “When we got back from our sojourn, I decided that I’m never going to live anywhere else ever again,” Maor said.
What was it like growing up in a family of veteran Jerusalemites?
“My grandfather loved letting us sit on his lap as he told tale after tale about his escapades in the city. Now, whenever family members come visit Jerusalem from around Israel or from overseas, I take them on a tour of the city and recount for them all my grandfather’s stories.”
Do you think your children will also decide to continue your family’s tradition of residing in Jerusalem?
“I sure hope so. Jerusalem is full of secrets, and the only way to uncover them is by living here.”MEIRA SAREL and family.MEIRA SAREL and family.
The Imber family 
(Jerusalem since 1922)
“I’ve been living in the city for almost 100 years,” declares Meira Sarel, 96, who lives on Jabotinsky Street. “My parents made aliyah in 1922 as part of the Third Aliyah,” recounts Sarel. “At first, they lived in Tel Aviv, but my father was sick and could not work, and my mother found work in Jerusalem, so they moved there, and that’s where I was born.”
Sarel is related to Naftali Herz Imber, the author of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah”. “My father’s grandfather was a cousin of Naftali,” Sarel explains. “I can still feel the embarrassment I experienced back in my literature class in school when we learned how Naftali used to wander around Jerusalem drunk, and then everyone turned around to stare at me with big eyes.”
Meira’s granddaughter, Maya Sarel, who lives in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood, had been pining to return to Jerusalem for four years, and was finally able to return when the COVID-19 epidemic broke out. “I’d moved to Holon for my studies,” explains Maya “but I just couldn’t get used to not living in Jerusalem, and I would fantasize about returning to the city of my birth. I mean, I loved living in the Tel Aviv area and having lots of fun places to go out with friends, but when I was furloughed because of COVID-19, I moved back in with my parents. I’ve found a new job here in Jerusalem, and I never plan to live anywhere else ever again.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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