Nehemia Levy, one of the two Israelis murdered in the incident on the eve of the last day of the Succot holiday when he went to help an injured woman, was a resident of Jerusalem 's Muslim quarter. Here on the Aish website is a useful history of the area, which at the turn of the 20th century, had a majority of Jewish residents. (With thanks: Rona)
Some twenty years ago, Nehemia and his wife Netta moved into Beit Witenberg on HaGai Street in the Muslim Quarter. This large complex had been purchased by Rabbi Moshe Witenberg, a wealthy Eastern European Jew, in the 1880s. Rabbi Witenberg used part of the building to construct a magnificent Chabad synagogue with an extensive library, rented out twenty apartments, and used much of the building for his charitable institutions. Rabbi Witenberg died childless in 1899, after insuring with the Turkish authorities that the property would be consecrated as a charitable foundation and remain in Jewish hands. In 1920, Arab rioters attacked the Witenberg complex, burned down the synagogue, including its many Torah scrolls and priceless Chabad manuscripts, and looted and destroyed the apartments.
Although the original residents were afraid to return to Beit Witenberg after it was reconstructed, Jewish immigrants from Hungary moved in. They stayed there until driven out by the Arab riots of 1929, in which 133 Jews in the so-called “Muslim Quarter” were murdered. (An official census conducted by the British Mandate government in 1922 had found that the majority of residents of the “Muslim Quarter” were Jews.) In the wake of the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936, the “Muslim Quarter,” including its many Jewish-owned properties, became Judenrein.
After Israeli forces liberated the Old City from Jordanian rule in the Six Day War of 1967, Jews slowly returned to the Jewish Quarter. Reclaiming Jewish properties in the Muslim Quarter, however, was much harder. It took many years of legal action, much money, and the dedicated efforts of Ateret Cohanim to return scores of properties to Jewish hands. Finally, in 1987, a mezuzah was once again affixed to the entrance of the Witenberg complex.
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