Highlighting the permanent Jewish presence and the relevance of Jewish contributions in Eretz Israel as well as the continuous connection between Diaspora Jews and Eretz Israel throughout the centuries between the Destruction of the Second Temple and the onset of modern Zionism, through a series of one-page notes distributed weekly.
DID YOU KNOW THAT... in 1700, R. Yehudah HaChasid arrived in the Land of Israel with a large number of followers? R. Yehudah HaChasid (1660-1700), a great Polish scholar and preacher, left home in 1697 with about thirty families and travelled throughout Europe. Wherever they stopped he urged repentance, asceticism, and Aliyah, in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, which in his view was imminent. In the process, he gathered a large number of followers, estimated during his passage through Italy at around 1500. Ultimately, the group headed to Israel, the largest group to make Aliyah in a couple of centuries. The voyage was rather difficult. About one third of the group perished due to illness and poor travel conditions. Finally, on Oct 14, 1700, between 500 and 1,000 people reached Jerusalem. The arrival and settlement in Jerusalem was not easy either. The inflow of such a large contingent put an enormous pressure on the local community of around 1,200, a community that relied mainly on charity from abroad. To this one should add the fact that the new arrivals were suspected of Shabbateanism, i.e., of being followers of the false messiah Shabbatei Tzvi [1626- 1676]. Although this was not the case about the group as a whole, it is possible that there were indeed Shabbateans among the hundreds in the group. Regardless, this led to them being received with suspicion and hostility. Finally, and to make matters even worse, R. Yehuda HaChasid died only a few days after their arrival, on Oct 17. Eventually, most of the group dispersed. The remnant settled in about forty dwellings in what is now the Jewish Quarters of the Old City. In the location of an old synagogue from the 1400s, they built a small synagogue in honor of R. Yehuda HaChasid, aptly named R. Yehudah HaChasid Synagogue, a structure that is known today as the Hurba Synagogue, the Ruin, after having been leveled to the ground in 1720.