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Ateret Cohanim, (lit. Crown of the Priests), also known as Ateret Yerushalyim, is a Religious Zionist yeshiva located in the Muslim Quartermarker of the Old City of Jerusalemmarker in Israelmarker. Founded in 1978, it uses the building of the historic Torath Chaim Yeshiva. The organization is also dedicated to helping Israeli Jews return to live in East Jerusalem and particularly to live in the Old City, which their Judeanmarker forbears built prior to exile by the Roman and Muslim conquests and settlements. Some estimate that 1,000 Israelis live in houses that Ateret Cohanim purchased in the Old City of Jerusalem since 1978.


Early 20th century photograph of the Torath Chaim Yeshiva

Torath Chaim Yeshiva

In 1886, Rabbi Yitzchak Winongrad established the prestigious Torath Chaim Yeshiva on ha-Gai Street, facing the Temple Mount. At its peak, about 300 students from all over the world, including the late Rabbis Tzvi Pesach Frank, Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog and Aryeh Levin studied there. The ground floor of the building served as a shop selling vegetables which provided funds for the yeshivas maintenance.In the wake of the 1936 Arab riots, the yeshiva relocated to the new city, leaving the building and its contents entrusted to an Arab watchman who faithfully preserved it until the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. This yeshiva was the only one out of approximately 80 synagogues and study halls which wasn't destroyed by Jordanmarker during the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem. In 1967, the caretaker handed the keys to Chaim Herzog (in his function as the military governor of Judea and Samaria/the West Bankmarker), telling him that "the holy place watched over me more than I watched over it" during those years.

Ateret Cohanim

On the first night of Hanukkah, 1978, eight young Orthodox Jews established a new yeshiva on the same premises.

Currently headed by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, it caters for 150 students from all over Israel, all of whom serve in the army.

The yeshiva was involved in buying property from Arabs in the Old City and its environs. Since around the year 2000, such activities are done by a separate organization carrying the same name. Currently, Ateret Cohanim reportedly owns more than 70 buildings in the Muslim Quarter, worth an estimated $10 million. The property includes their yeshiva, the building that houses Yeshiva Shuvu Banim, several dormitories, a museum, and about 50 apartment units. Some of the property once belonged to Jews who lived in the Muslim Quarter before they were driven out by pogroms in 1929 and 1936. Ateret Cohanim officials estimate that the cost to purchase the rest of the buildings in the Muslim Quarter is $100 million, with another $100 million for renovations.

In April 2009, members of the group entered and seized a house in East Jerusalem. Ateret Cohanim had previously tried to claim ownership of the same house but was rejected by court. A spokesperson for the group claims that they have bought the property.

External links

Further reading

  • A United Jerusalem - the story of Ateret Cohanim, Ann Johnson, Ktav pub., 1992, ISBN 0-88125-424-X


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