Renovating the Tomb of David
King David's Tomb complex and Last Supper Room on Mount Zion are important religious, historical sites, which draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Despite this, site was neglected for many years, but has recently been restored
Amos 9:11-12. "In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the tribes who are called by my name," says YHWH who does this. (Cf. Acts 15:16,17)
The article was published in the December edition of Teva Hadvarim magazine
Republished without the permission of the author but hoping to obtain that permission.
King David's Tomb Compound 1880
Ever since the Six Day War, a number of bodies have been active at the site of King David's Tomb in Jerusalem – the Diaspora Yeshiva*(below)* is in charge of most of the structures around the main building, the Ministry of Religious Services manages the room of Zion – the tomb and the entrance rooms, and the Interior Ministry maintains the Last Supper Room and the adjacent rooms.
Smaller bodies such as the Sephardic Yeshiva and private citizens and associations, as well as Christian bodies including Vatican representatives in Israel, also show interest in the site.
The complex fell under many different rulers throughout the years, including the Christians, Muslims and Ottomans. The site was captured by the Palmach's Harel Brigade in the War of Independence, and became an important base on the front line that cut the city in two until the Six Day War.
Archaeological bodies (now known as the Israel Antiquities Authority) began operating at the site immediately after the establishment of the State of Israel, as a solution to the problem of damage caused to the antiquities.
The authority would mainly carry out specific archaeological works for infrastructure purposes, but did not aim to carry out overall renovations or maintenance.
David's Tomb compound (Photos courtesy of Antiquities Authority)
In 2007, the authority learned that the Diaspora Yeshiva was performing construction works south of the tomb's courtyard, which could have led to the collapse of the structure's southern wing.
Construction was halted, and the yeshiva was ordered to submit blueprints offering a solution to the problem before resuming construction. This move was the first step in creating a pattern of planning and coordination to maintain the site together with the Antiquities Authority.
The two-story complex contains a series of small rooms arranged around an open courtyard.
One of the rooms before renovation
Works being carried out on the walls of the structures were also halted. Work was only resumed after the property holders submitted the required blueprints. The works were performed by a contractor with experience in preservation and infrastructure, who renovated and installed toilets in the rooms. The rooms are now used as guest rooms.
Room after renovation
Following the success of these two projects, the Jerusalem Development Authority decided to merge the development and preservation of the complex with the government's Old City project.
This enabled the complex to be viewed as a single unit for the first time, both with regards to the study of the site from a historical and archaeological aspect, and with regards to the physical and practical aspect of maintaining and preserving the site.
Pilot plans were then drawn up for the renovation and preservation of the compound's main courtyard, including the corridor at the northern entrance.
Hall before renovation
Before the project was launched, the 1,290 square foot courtyard was in a dire condition – poor infrastructure under the flooring, lack of an upper drainage system, poor electric and telephone infrastructure, improvised stone benches and more.
The site was completely renovated. Reinforcements were placed, the walls were cleaned painted and plastered, banisters were installed, the site was made accessible for the handicapped, stone benches were built, and more.
Hall after renovation
Further renovation, which was not included in the original pilot, was done ahead of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI last year, initiated by the Jerusalem Development Authority. These works focused on the large hall east of the main courtyard and the public toilet that was installed near the hall several years ago.
Comprehensive work was also carried out on the Last Supper Room ahead of the pope's visit. Due to drainage problems on the roof of the structure, rainwater seeped into the building and the interior plaster began to peal. Lacking proper maintenance, some of the engraved texts on the walls disappeared, and the pillars in the area were covered with layers of dirt. Therefore, a great chunk of the work was dedicated to sealing off the northwestern part of the structure's roof.
The Jerusalem Development Authority also plans to reinstall signposts all over the complex to make getting around easier.
After the completion of the pilot works, plans were launched to preserve and restore the rest of the areas in the complex, including the room of Zion, the tomb and the rooms leading up to David's Tomb, the walkway and the room east of the walkway used as a space to light candles in. Plans to renovate the hall toilets and roof are also in motion.
Shachar Poni, Israel Antiquities Authority
It is written in the words of our Sages of blessed memory, "The end of a matter is better than its beginning." "When the end is good then everything is good."
Be that as it may, you students are at the beginning of your path, and all of you know that the beginnings are difficult, but at the end is success! This is the Foundation of our existence that despite all our tribulations, we have the power and the strength to assert our right. The Jewish people lives! It is particularly true in very hard times such as these when the situation becomes increasingly difficult day by day. We see coming true the words of the Kabbalists, that before the Messiah comes at the end of the time of the exile there will be a period of darkness. However, at the same time there will be the light of the holiness of the Torah which will be attained easily and will spread freely. This is precisely what we are doing here at the Yeshiva. We also enable everyone, at whatever level of Jewish learning, to attain an academic degree so as to facilitate earning a livelihood. We also provide the opportunity to come to Mt. Zion next to the tomb of King David who symbolized peace and unity and who prayed for Jew and gentile alike, whether righteous or wicked.
We will conclude with the words of the prophet, "Behold days are coming says G-d and I will cause hunger to cease from the land, not hunger for bread or a hunger for water but to hear the word of G-d," so it will be said of our students, "Israel, in whom I (G-d), will glorify Myself."
Rabbi Avraham Goldstein
The Diaspora Yeshiva was founded in 1967 in order to help the large number of students from abroad who were searching for their spiritual heritage in the land of their ancestors. Our main teaching facility is on Mount Zion, adjacent to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Today, our yeshiva offers a wide variety of programs. In addition to our famous program for young English speakers, we also serve Russian and Israeli baalei teshuvah (beginners in Orthodox Judaism). We have a fine smicha program (rabbinical certification from the Chief Rabbinate) and dayyanus program (rabbinical judge certification also from the Chief Rabbinate) of which we are very proud, under the supervision of the Chief Rabbi of Beersheva, Rabbi Yehuda Deri, shlitah. The Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Dr Mordechai Goldstein has achieved a reputation as a remarkable innovator in the field of Jewish education. He has recognised the importance of the internet as a meduim to reach many Jews all over the world.
Our latest and most exciting project "Torah from Har Tzion" aims the Diaspora Yeshiva to disseminate Torah education through Internet technology. We aim to established an on-line Virtual Yeshiva on the Paltalk telecommunications network, which will provide real-time interactive video and audio Shiurim, classes and Torah studies from The Rosh Yeshiva and Rabbis from The Diaspora Yeshiva. At present we have dialy shiurim on Paltalk where we have 20 to 30 regular participants per shiur, however we envisage having over 100 students per class with the proper promotion of these shiurim and classes.
Research has shown that there is a tremendous need , by Jews all over the world , to acquire knowledge about their religion. We envisaged the taping of all shiurim and to have that available on our website, and to re-broadcast popular shiurim. It is further envisaged to esthablish a Certification Programme in Jewish Studies whereby notes and learning material will emailed to participants and live interactive discussions between teacher and students on line via the Paltalk telecommunications network.
Brief History of the Diaspora Yeshiva
In 1967 post-war Israel, there was an influx of young students from abroad who had come to aid the country during the war. Once in Israel in peace time, these young men began to search for their spiritual heritage in the land of their ancestors. To assist them in their search, Rabbi Dr. Mordecai Goldstein enlarged the facilities of what was then a small yeshiva in the Mekor Boruch area of Jerusalem to accommodate them. This was the founding of the Diaspora Yeshiva. As the yeshiva grew, it was granted the use of the women's section of the Chevron Yeshiva and later the Diskin Orphanage and kitchen facilities.
Subsequently, with the assistance of Dr. S. Z. Kahane, zt"l, then the Director of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the yeshiva was granted access to the Rambam Synagogue in the Old City. The yeshiva, with a rapidly expanding student body, soon outgrew this facility. Again, with the help of Dr. Kahane, zt"l, the yeshiva was granted a permanent home on Mount Zion. In 1968, the Diaspora Yeshiva established the first yeshiva facilities; Diaspora Yeshiva for young men on Mount Zion, and Machon Roni Women's Center in the Old City of Jerusalem for young women.
Methods and Goals
In keeping with the goal of maintaining the highest levels of scholarship and understanding, the yeshiva employs a highly specialized method of learning based on traditional methods. The wonderful depths of Torah wisdom are revealed to the student through an exciting question and answer format by which the student is stimulated to search for real truths and is responsible for his own conclusions. The most important aspect of this method is the crystallization of learning formulas, which the student himself can reproduce in independent study. A number of our student have gone on to publish various works of Jewish scholarship and translations of classic texts, including the works of the Ramchal on Talmudic methodology and rhetoric.
Genuine Torah learning demands an atmosphere of healthy confrontation. This means that our classes are a dynamic dialogue between students and teachers. There is room for everyone to state his true opinions and feelings; to ask, to argue and to discuss.
Tremendous effort is devoted to the acquisition of Yiras Shamayim (Awe of Heaven) and the correct attitude towards G-d, which results in Man having the proper relationship in connection to himself, his fellow man, and to the Almighty. Following the great rabbis of the Mussar movement, the yeshiva engages in deep study of the forces within Man. Students receive intensive training in mastering their emotions and feelings in accordance with Jewish values. An atmosphere is created in which students can offer and receive open constructive criticism potentiating personal growth. Great emphasis is placed on this point because in Judaism, learning and perfection of character are inseparable.
The yeshiva has throughout its more than thirty years of growth and achievement, maintained ongoing programs for Jewish youth, both for the post high school student and for more intensive study directed at professions such as Smicha, Sofrim, Mohelim and Shochtim. We welcome students of all backgrounds and levels of learning. As the Jewish world confronts the challenges of the 21st century, the yeshiva has continued to reach out to the Jewish nation with both traditional methods, as well as innovative and new techniques such as an on-line Rabbinical Program in conjunction with Maimonides University and other exciting Internet projects.