History

Beit Hadassah - From Historic Hospital to Symbol of Rebirth

The residents of Beit Hadassah know their building and neighborhood have a rich past.

7.12.15, 18:02
(Photo courtesy Shavei Hevron)
 
The historic Beit Hadassah complex in the Old City of Hebron dates back to 1893. The first floor was built with funds donated by the Jewish communities in North Africa. Its creation was initiated by Rabbi Haim Rahamim Yosef Franco (1833-1901), a noted scholar known as the HaCharif and chief rabbi of the community.

The building was originally called Chesed L'Avraham, (Kindness of Abraham) and was utilized as an infirmary and aid center for the needy. In 1911, an additional floor was built with funds donated by Jewish communities of India and Baghdad.
    
Later, the Hadassah Organization sponsored a medical clinic which granted free medical assistance to both Jewish and Arab residents. The noted pharmacist Ben Zion Gershon worked out of the adjacent building. Rabbinic leaders of the Jewish community such as Rabbi Hanoch Hason, Rabbi Joseph Castel and their families lived in adjacent buildings in the complex as well.
 
In 1929, the hospital was the site of some of the worst of the rioting that killed 67 Jewish residents. The clinic was looted and burned.
 
The liberation of Hebron in 1967 was accompanied by efforts to return to these homes. Abraham Franco, the grandson of Chief Rabbi Haim Rahamim Yosef Franco, turned over the property deed to the new leaders of the fledgling community seeking to be repatriated to the city. 
 
In 1979, a group of women took the initiative and along with their children, entered Beit Hadassah. They camped out at the building for one year under extremely difficult conditions. Prime Minister Menachem Begin stated at the time, "Hebron is also [part of] Israel. I will not allow for any place Israel to be 'Judenrein.'" They were eventually joined by their husbands.
 
In 1980 Beit Hadassah, along with the Hason and Castel family homes, were rebuilt and the new families were able to have a sense of normalcy.
 
Ultimately, zoning approval was obtained, which served as a basis for the renewal of the community. During this period, Beit Hadassah and other historic buildings were renovated. They were redesigned by the noted architect David Cassuto and re-inaugurated on January 20, 1986. Cassuto also helped plan and rebuild other historic synagogues throughout Israel.
 
In 1999,  the foundation for the Beit HaShisha building was laid as a tribute to the early pioneers of the reestablished community where growing families live today.
 
Today, about 30 Jewish families live in these buildings which now include a synagogue, museum, playground, and guesthouse areas.