Originally, this street in Yerushalayim was named for the Crusader queen Melisende — who succeeded her father Baldwin II, a knight of the First Crusade in 1131 — as queen of Jerusalem. She ruled for 30 years, till 1161.
Helenei Hamalka was queen of Hadayev (Adiabene) at time of the Second Beis Hamikdash. She converted
to Judaism and lived a life of exemplary piety. When a famine befell Yehudah, she procured great quantities
of grain and figs from Alexandria and Cyprus, which she distributed. She sat in a sukkah during the festival
of Sukkos. Everything she did was in accordance with the rulings of the Sages (Sukkah 2b). She assumed a nazirite vow for seven years while still in her native land. When she ascended to Yerushalayim to bring the nazirite offering, the Sages informed her that that the nazirite vow may not be fulfilled outside the Holy Land; thereupon she kept the nazirite vow for an additional seven years.
Helenei gave two magnificent gifts to the Beis Hamikdash. Recounted in Yoma (37a and 37b) is a description of the first gift, a golden nivreshes (an elegant, burnished mirror constructed of highly polished gold) that she donated. This hung over the door of the Heichal and was strategically placed so that when the sun’s first rays shone on it in the early morning, it sparkled and everyone in Yerushalayim knew when the exact time when one can begin to recite Krias Shema had arrived. This nivreshes was a rather unusual, but very effective timepiece.
The second gift was a placard made of gold, with the parashah of the sotah ritual inscribed on it. Rechov Helenei Hamalka starts out as a side street off Rechov Yaffo. It goes upward toward Rechov Munbaz, a street named for one of Helenei Hamalka’s sons. It then swerves steeply downhill, until it reaches Rechov Shivtei Yisrael, which transverses it. Theincline of Rechov Helenei Hamalka becomes very gentle as it winds its way downward to meet up with Rechov Haneviim. This last section has magnificent buildings with large gardens on it, and the air reverberates with the sound of songbirds.
At 21 Helenei Hamalka is the building that was used to broadcast “The Voice of Jerusalem” during the
British Mandate of Palestine. On Aug. 2, 1939, the I.Z.L. (Irgun Zvi Leumi) blew up part of the building, bringing the broadcast to an end.
Published in Hamodiah 15 Sept 2011