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Mar 13, 2008

Greens affect the status of Purim in Jerusalem

Purim in Jerusalem is always an interesting discussion.

Because the original Jerusalem was a walled city - from the time of Joshua - Purim is celebrated on the 15th of Adar instead of on the 14th as it is celebrated in most places.

The discussion, though, is what is considered Jerusalem. Today's Jerusalem is many times larger than the Jerusalem of old. Jerusalem was easy to define when it was just the Old City, and even when it had expanded to a few more neighborhoods just outside the walls.

But nowadays, with jerusalem having expanded in all directions many miles away, west to Har Nof, north to Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, French Hill, Neve Yaakov, etc., south to Talpiot and Gilo, the discussion becomes much more interesting.

How far outside of ancient Jerusalem can still be considered Jerusalem? Is it whatever the Municipality of Jerusalem declares as being part of the city? Whoever pays the arnona tax to Jerusalem? The ramification of the question is what day to celebrate Purim if you live in Har Nof or Ramot, for example.

A common factor when discussing Jerusalem is the territorial continuity. As long as there is housing with no break up to where you live, generally that will be considered, at least according to most Poskim, as Jerusalem. Places that are a bit further spread out, with gaps of land in between, are more difficult to decide.

I remember from when I lived in Har Nof that there were a number of people, mostly followers of Rav Moshe Sternbuch I belive, who held that Har Nof is questionable whether it qualifies as Jerusalem or not. As a result, they would read the Megilla on both the 14th and the 15th (Note - this is a minority opinion). I do not know if this applies anymore and what they do because the areas in between Har Nof and Givat Shaul have been built up and filled in in recent years, so there is a much greater level of territorial continuity connecting Har Nof to Jerusalem than there used to be.

The other side of Jerusalem, the north side, is an even bigger problem. Ramot and Ramat Shlomo are really far away from Jerusalem, and there are large tracts of empty land separating them on the roads toward Jerusalem. But they are part of modern Jerusalem. So do they read on the 14th or 15th of Adar?

I understand that due to this being an unresolved question,, they too read on both days. I do not know if this is a minority opinion in Ramot, or what percentage of the people do this, but I know it is done. I understand that Rav Ovadia Yosef is one of the poskim who say that people living in these areas should read on both days, so I assume there are a lot of people who must be keeping two days (not like in Har Nof where it was a small number of people, in my day)

Some people tried to solve the halachic dilemma this year. the assistant mayor of Jerusalem, Eliezer Samchayoff came up with a solution in which he would create territorial continuity. Doing that would solve the problem and Ramot would become halachically, according to everybody I guess (if that is possible), part of Jerusalem.

Samchayoff's solution was to place 30 caravan houses in the empty areas between Ramot and Ramat Shlomo. This would cover the gap of about 700 meters, by being placed at intervals that the local Rabbis with the advisement of Rav Ovadia would declare as being proper to effect the continuity.

As the project was being put into place and being prepared to be implemented, the "Green" groups protested it, saying that because these caravans were going to become permanent (which would be necessary to create the territorial continuity), they cannot just be put down, but they would need building permits from the government.

Due to the short time frame involved, Samchayoff scrapped his plans for this year, but expects to be able to have everything in place for next Purim.

So the residents of Ramot who follow those poskim still need to read the Megilla on both the 14th and 15th this year.

I can only imagine the internation stir this would have caused had it gone into effect - we would have seen headlines saying Israel is destroying the peace process by unilaterally building in Jerusalem.


  1. This year it has no effect on megilla reading as the 15th is on Shabbos, so everyone reads on the 14th.

  2. i don't want to sound like i agree with greens, but the caravan plan does seem a bit over the top. after all, the issue of jerusalem's geographical continuity as far as halakhah is concerned can't be a new one.

    shabbat shalom

  3. According to Rav S.Z. Auerbach those from Yaffo to Ramat Aviv read on the 15th b/c it is part of the city of "Tel-Aviv YAFFO". Yaffo had a wall around it. According to him it goes by the name of the municipality.

    -The Real Mara Dasra

  4. The 'doubt' from Rav Sternbuch about Har Nof goes much further back. At one time, some rabbanim held that Yeshivat Aitz Haim (cheder) at the entrance to Yerushalayim was already outside Yerushalayim. One year Rav Mordechai Eliyahu mentioned in a shiur (must have been late 70s or early 80s) Rehov Gesher Hahaim, named for Rav Tukachinsky, was also the line where Rav Tukachinsky held that Yerushalayim 'ended' for the purposes of Purim.

    Things change as the contiguity of buildings/neighbourhoods changes. I remember when there was no Har Nof. Now the line of homes is nearly unbroken.


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