A favorite spot for the “upsherin” of little three year olds is the Kever of Shimon Hatzaddik, which is found
in the Sheik Jaraah neighborhood in Jerusalem. Shimon Hatzaddik was one of the last remaining members of the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah. He served as kohen gadol for the first forty years of the second Beis Hamikdash. Tannaim of his time were called Rabi and he is the only Tanna we find that chazal call “Hatzaddik.”
Shimon Hatzaddik influenced not only the Bais Hamikdash and Yerushalayim, but the whole world.His influence affected the wars of the nations of that era. In Maseches Menachos it is told that Alexander the Great knew if he would be successful in the next day’s battle if he envisioned Shimon Hatzaddik. As his name tzaddik implies, he was the foundation of the world, as it says “tzaddik yesod ha’olam", the tzaddik is the foundation of the world. Therefore he could tell us in the Mishnah (Avos 1,2) on what the world stands on: Torah, avodah and gemilus chassadim.
kever. Since the Arabs closed the kever of Shmuel Hanavi north of Yerushalayim in 1730, the kever of
Shimon Hatzaddik became a prime place for the celebrations of Lag BaOmer.
In 1876 (5636), the mayor of Jerusalem offered to sell the cave of Shimon Hatzaddik to the Jews, including the surrounding lands with its orchard of eight olive trees. This was considered a heaven-sent opportunity to gain control over the holy site, after an Arab who lived on the site had made it difficult to visit, demanding payment. Together the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities collected 15,000 francs to buy the land. The community leaders, Harav Meir Auerbach and the Chacham Bashi Harav Avraham Ashkenazi, signed a contract that same year, making the whole area a Jewish possession.
Fifteen years later, in 1890-1, a Sephardi Jewish colony called Nachalas Shimon was built on the properties,
just west of burial cave of Shimon Hatzaddik. In 1927, more extensive construction began when a group of modern houses was built for a largely Ashkenazi population with the name Nachalas Yitzchak.
The 1929 riots forced the residents to leave their homes. They returned as soon as things calmed down. In 1947, there were about 100 Jewish houses in the neighborhood. However, In March of 1948, the British
ordered the residents to vacate their homes within two hours, due to increasing Arab violence. In April of that year, the infamous Hadassah convoy massacre was perpetrated just around the corner. 78 Jews were killed byArab rioters, while British personnel cooperated with the perpetrators.
In late 1998, there was a re-dedication of the old shul on the site, after Palestinian Authority agents had attempted to take over the building. Two months later, the first Jews moved into six apartments that the “Settlers of Zion” organization, headed by Rabbi Benny Elon and the Beit Orot yeshivah, had been forced to reacquire.
On lag BaOmer the following year, thousands dedicated the renewed Jewish neighborhood. The Jewish neighborhood consists of a handful of houses among many Palestinian residents, and a private company funded by the Ministry of Housing patrols the area round the clock. Legal battles have continued on and off, occasionally accompanied by Arab violence directed at the Jewish residents, even though Jews have purchased the houses, twice.
Published in Hamodia