Receipts of Donations, Havazelet, 1871
This article entitled “Distribution Funds” was published in the Havazelet newspaper in 1871. The article lists the sources of donations from the Diaspora that were to be distributed among the residents of the Yishuv. It also itemizes the amount of money received from each city and how the funds were to be distributed. The cities on the list include Paris, Padoua, Amsterdam, Livorno, and London among others. There is a unique distribution for the Sephardi community in Jerusalem, whereby a third of the money is distributed to scholars, a third to the poor, and a third goes to the city’s expenses.
In the article there is an additional request that the Jews of “Arabistan and Hindistan” (Arabia and India) should keep the money that they had planned to contribute to the Jews of Jerusalem and wait until the emissary of the community arrived.
This article provides insight into the relationship between the Old Yishuv and the Diaspora toward the end of Ottoman rule in Israel. The Old Yishuv is the term used to describe the Jewish communities in Israel during the Ottoman Empire until the onset of the Zionist movement and the waves of aliya. The Old Yishuv consisted of families that had either lived continuously in Israel or arrived in earlier centuries. The people of the Old Yishuv lived primarily in the four holy cities, Jerusalem, Tzfat, Tiberius, and Hebron and did not, on the whole, believe in the ideal of settling the rest of the Land of Israel. They were ultra-orthodox Jews and were largely dependent on the Diaspora for the funds required to sustain both lives and infrastructure. A small percentage of this population did, however, make efforts to start new lives in other places in Israel, such as in the new neighbourhoods outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and in new towns that they established such as Petach Tikva, Zichron Ya’akov, and Rishon LeZion.
The Havazelet was first published in 1863 in Jerusalem. It was at times a monthly publication and at other times printed weekly, and for most of its print life it was edited and owned by Israel Dov Frumkin. The Havazelet reported at length on the difficulties facing the budding press in Israel. It was closed by the Turkish authorities a various points, most notably in 1877 for five months after the paper accused the Turkish of standing by while Arabs assaulted Jews in Hebron. In 1882, while Frumkin was visiting Russia, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda edited the newspaper and included articles about the Hebrew language. Once Frumkin returned, however, the newspaper shifted towards support for the orthodox population of the Yishuv, printing articles against the increasing pace of immigration to Israel, in favour of the strict adherence of the agriculture shmita (sabbatical) year, and against mourning the death of Herzl.
It is interesting to note that Frumkin also established the Montefiore Library in Jerusalem which, many years later, became the National Library of Israel.
This article can be used in Jewish Studies lessons when teaching about the history of Jerusalem and the ideological conflict between the Old Yishuv and the New Yishuv.
The details of the funds given to support the Jewish population in Jerusalem can also be used as an example of the Jewish value of charity and philanthropy. Higher-level classes can explore the different levels of charity as detailed by Maimonides and the Talmudic maxim that the poor of your own city come first as well as discussing the merit of supporting those who depend on charity as a way of living, such as the Jews of the Old Yishuv, or taking the approach of other philanthropists, such as Sir Moses Montefiore, who help by creating jobs so that people can support themselves.
Sociology or Jewish Studies teachers can explore the relationship between the Jewish community in the Diaspora and the Jewish community in Israel/Palestine, a complicated relationship to this day.
What is this source?
What appears in this article?
Where did the money distributed come from?
Who was the money distributed to?
Reading Between the Lines
What was the Halukka?
Why did the people of Israel need the charity at that time? Did they work? What did they do?
Why did Diaspora Jews financially support the Jews in Israel (the Yishuv)?
Did all of the Yishuv at the end of the nineteenth century depend on the charity of the Halukkah?
Some people living in Israel at the time, such as Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, objected strongly to the Halukkah.
Why do you think they objected?
How did they believe people should live in Israel?
Why do you think the Havatzelet publicised the list of funds donated to the Yishuv?
What do you think about living a life dependent on charity?
What would you suggest to these people if they were living today?
Where do you think charity is most needed today?
Should Jews donate to Israel or to Jewish causes in the Diaspora?
Why do you think so?
Write a letter from a charity in Israel to a wealthy donor, explaining why their support is required for a new project and why it is important to support projects in Israel.
Organise a debate about the Halukkah.
Divide the group into two – one group advocating the continuation of life supported by the Halukkah funds and the other group advocating self-sufficiency and the earning of a living.
Newspaper article regarding the “Distribution Funds” in the Havatzelet newspaper in 1871.
Honourable Rabbis, readers of the Havatzelet, Shalom,
I promised in Edition 11 of Havatzelet to provide to the honourable readers with a precise account of the charity and how it was distributed. I promised and I will fulfil my promise….
Here you are, the account from 10 Sivan 5630  to 10 Sivan 5631 .