Telz-Stone (Photo: Hagai Agmon-Snir/Wikimedia Commons)
When Mizrachi Leaders Built Charedi Neighborhoods in Israel
Shlomo Zalman Shragai (1899–1995), one of the great Religious Zionist leaders of the 20th century, served as the Mayor of Yerushalayim from 1950 to 1952 and the head of the Aliyah Department at the Jewish Agency from 1954 to 1968, when over half a million Jews made Aliyah. In his memoirs, Shragai shares the remarkable story of how he helped bring numerous Charedi communities to Israel.
I had two goals when I reached out to religious communities. I generally encouraged Jews to make Aliyah, but I specifically hoped to bring religious Jews to the land so their influence would be felt in the cultural and social fabric of Israel. I hoped that in the future we would reach a point where the religious community would be the majority of the population of Israel.
I began conversations with Admorim and their Chassidim, who were very interested in the idea of setting up Chassidic communities in different locations. This initiative led to the creation of Kiryat Sanz in Netanya, Kiryat Mattesdorf in Yerushalayim, Kiryat Sassov near Ramat Gan, Kiryat Itri in Yerushalayim and more. I also met with rashei yeshivah, and this led to the founding of Kiryat Telz (Telz-Stone) on the road between Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim. I have to mention the efforts of the Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir who helped the project find its funding, and David Ben-Gurion encouraged the initiative. In total we founded 15 such communities, totalling 50,000 people.
When I had the idea of creating Chassidic and yeshivah communities, the command of Rabbi Akiva rang in my ears: “Rise up and fill Eretz Yisrael with Torah!” (Bereishit Rabbah). This is an eternal command to Orthodox Jews from all denominations – from Mizrachi to Neturei Karta! If we really want the State of Israel to reflect Torah ways and values, there is only one practical approach, which is to get up and fill Eretz Yisrael with Torah. If religious Jews from Western countries do not come to Israel just because they are too comfortable there, by sitting there they are contributing to the secularization of Israel. Our approach is that rather than criticizing this or that aspect of Israel, they should get up themselves and make Aliyah, for the sake of Hashem and His Torah.
● Originally published in Sefer Shragai Volume 1, page 309 (published in Yerushalayim, 1981).