Jerusalem Built To The Sky And Feuding Synagogues Multiplied
One of the earliest Jewish neighborhoods outside the Old City has been revived in recent years, but retains its historic charm.
Agrippas Street is one of the oldest, but busiest byways in Jerusalem. But until the late 19th century, it was just a tiny path alongside a patch of ground owned by an Arab who didn’t want Jews on his property and took pleasure in shooing them away. Then one dark night in 1875, Jews from the newly established neighborhoods adjacent to the property got together, worked until dawn, and turned it into a public thoroughfare.
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The new road became known as BILA – an acronym for the Hebrew phrase “overnight” or “been laiyla”. Later on the name was changed to Agrippas, perhaps because 2,000 years ago or so, King Agrippas II paved the city’s streets with marble.
All sorts of tiny, historic neighborhoods extend out from Agrippas Street, like picturesque little Even Yisrael. Dating back to 1875, Even Yisrael was the sixth Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
The name Even Yisrael (stone of Israel) has two origins. The numerical value for the Hebrew word “even” is 53 — exactly the number of homes that were planned for the neighborhood. But there is also a biblical connection to the name. A passage in Genesis reads: “But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Stone (even) of Israel” [Genesis 49:24].