ירושלים תלפיותאדיטור Talpiot Construction

soldat juif2

Image of a Jewish soldier
 of the British army, Nathan Glass, guarding the building .Early 1940s.

2ירושלים תלפיות Ein Gedi Street in the 1940s


Beit HaMidrash HaGadol “Teferet Israel” named after Shai Agnon is the central synagogue of the Arnona-Talpiot neighborhood.

In the early years of Talpiot, two builders’ shacks stood in the neighborhood’s wooded grove. After they were no longer of use for their original purpose, one of them became a synagogue serving both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi dwellers.

One of the first to pray there was the writer and local resident Shai Agnon – the first Israeli winner of the Nobel Prize. He described the shack and the prayers in his story “Siman” (“A sign” – in the book “The Fire and the Trees” Tel Aviv, 1967). Therein is found the essence of our synagogue.

The current building’s construction began in the 1930’s. Early plans for Talpiot intended its highest point to serve as a center for cultural, communal and commercial activity. The synagogue was erected in the area intended for a cultural institution. Apparently the original intention was to include a synagogue in the edifice.

The cornerstone was laid in 1933, in the presence of HaRav Avraham Yossef HaCohen Kook Ztz”l.

The 1936-39 Arab riots forced a halt to the construction, and the orphaned shell stood abandoned.

In 1939, as World War II broke out, the British confiscated the building. Next to it was erected a Gafir (native police) post, to protect the road from Jerusalem to Ramat Rachel and nearby villages. Part of the building contained a police station, with the remainder serving as a warehouse.

After independence, the newly established State used the unfinished building as a warehouse for Ma’abarat Talpiot (transitional housing for new olim) – storing tents, beds, and equipment for the residents.

In the 1950’s the building was leased to the Hebrew University, and served as a warehouse for the Medical School.

In the 1960’s, the building was returned to the Jerusalem Municipality. A conflict arose between the Municipality and the Talpiot residents, led by Mordechai Caspi and Shai Agnon. The resulting court case was decided in favor of the neighborhood. The Municipality was ordered to restore the building at its expense, with the assistance of the Jerusalem Fund and, apparently, with a contribution from Shai Agnon of part of his Nobel Prize monetary award. It’s been told that Ariyeh Klein (deceased 2015) claimed to have convinced Agnon to contribute part of his prize to the synagogue restoration, with words to the effect that “...in 400 years the name “Agnon” might not be known, your books might already be forgotten, but if you will cause a synagogue to be named after you, your name will remain in people’s consciousness for hundreds of years…”

In the early days, only the entry vestibule from Leib Yaffe Street was used for prayers, and only on the High Holidays. The remaining area of the ground floor remained a warehouse. The neighborhood was sparsely settled, and the area sufficed – except for “Kol Nidrei” and “Neilah”. Before Yom Kippur of 1973, the warehouse was cleared, and the great hall was also returned to the synagogue.

In 1972 the Municipality leased the building to the members’ corporation. In Elul of that year (actually, 1971) the synagogue was inaugurated anew, with a procession transferring the Torah scrolls from the old shack. The synagogue was named after Shai Agnon, acknowledging both his role in the “redemption of the shul, and his regular participation in the “shack” minyan.

During the 1970 the lower story of the synagogue was used by a kindergarden. Today it contains a beautiful library.
The addition of “Beit Hamidrash HaGadol Tiferet Israel” to the name stems from an agreement with a defunct synagogue in Montreal, Canada, which transferred part of its assets – mainly Torah scrolls – to the shul, principally to maintain a remembrance of that Beit Midrash.

The old shack became the neighborhood’s Sephardi synagogue. After several years, its members built a magnificent synagogue in the neighboring lot. The shack was then used by a religious Scout troop (“Flame”) until the Municipality ordered its destruction, due to its frail condition. Mif’al HaPais (Israel’s Lottery) financed a new building for the Scout troop on Nahum Shadmi Street. Shai Agnon member and architect David Cassuto located the plot, drew up the initial plans and supervised the construction of the building for the troop. He also lead the troop in its early years! Today this building serves an additional minyan in the neighborhood – “Mizmor LeDavid”.

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