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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gan Habor - Givat Shaul©.

By Vardah Littmann

More then thirty-six years ago when I was in seminary, a friend and I spent Shabbos in Givat Shaul. The hostess wanted to impress us with the sites of the area and took us to see Gan Habor. I cannot remember if the park was already filled in or it was still a deep pit that had to be descended into in order to play there. (I have a vague recollection it was a pit). I also cannot remember if I was impressed or not. However I do know that recently when I toured the neighborhood to learn about it, I remembered that there was a Gan Habor. 

Givat Shaul stands 820 meters above sea level. Its land was purchased from the Arab villages of Deir Yassin and Lifta by a society headed by Rav Nissim Elyashar, Rav Arieh Leib Dayan, and Rav Moshe Kopel Kantrovitz in 1906.

The three founders, wanted a housing solution for lower income families of Yerushalayim. Being that it was so far from what was then the city helped make the price attractive. In the year 1906, when it was bought, desolate countryside stretched all the way to Machaneh Yehudah, making the Givat Shaul site seem miles away. It was considered undesirable real estate, and so they were therefore able to purchase more land for their money. Additionally, the area was sandwiched between the Arab villages of Lifta to the north and Dir Yassin to the west.

The name Givat Shaul is first mentioned in the passuk (Shmuel I 15:34) as the home, and apparently the center of government, of Shaul HaMelech. As a result, many people erroneously think the neighborhood is named for and is the approximate location of the Biblical Givat Shaul. In fact, his capitol was probably located on Tel el-Ful (literally, Hill of Beans), the site of Gibeah, near Pisgat Ze’ev. 

Givat Shaul (the modern neighborhood) was named as a tribute to Harav Yaakov Shaul Elyashar, who served as the Rishon LeTzion (Sephardic Chief Rabbi) from 1893 to1906. He authored the sefer Yisa Brachah (the word Yisa in Hebrew spells the initials of his name) and was the father of one of the founders of the suburb,
Rav Nissim Elyashar.

Rechov Amram Gaon has a very precipitous incline that used to be twice as steep. The rise on Rechov Amram Gaon was so sheer people joked that it was the place from where the sa’ir la’azazel was thrown down on Yom Kippur during the times of the Bais HaMikdash.

The building seen at the top of the slope is now the Ner Moshe Yeshivah. It used to be a therapeutic community home called Rosental.

At the end of the street is a playground called Ha’bor (the Pit). Originally, there was a large pit in which the park was situated. Today the pit has been filled in, making a sweet, little, round recreational area, but the name still stuck

A mezuzah is to one’s right on the upper part of the doorway as one enters a home or room. Metaphorically, Givat Shaul can be visualized as the mezuzah of Yerushalyim since it is to the right and higher up as you enter the city on Highway One.

Standing in Givat Shaul itself beneath Migdalah Saul on Givat HaZofim gives you a panoramic view of the whole of the Holy City and its surroundings. Just as a mezuzah protects the space within, so too does Givat Shaul at the gateway of Yerushalyim protect the whole vicinity that is seen from Givat HaZofim, with this neighborhood’s constant Torah learning and observance in its many educational institutions, shuls, and homes.  

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