- Mordechai Zoref Salomon

Mordecai Tsoref Salomon


Mordecai devoted his life to developing work opportunitie for the Jewish community, a novel idea at his time.  His first efforts were to promote Jewish agriculture. When he was 26 he leased some land for farming near Jerusalem from a wealthy Arab by the name of Mansur.  When this project failed, Mordecai didn't despair and found another tract of land a few hours walking distance from Jerusalem, in the village of Gezaza.  This land was fertile and suitable for horticulture and for raising cattle.


Mordecai applied to Moshe Montefiori for help in purchasing this land.  He send Montefiori a well thought-out proposal, which included detailed blueprints for a new settlement - a Jewish agricultural settlement designed to absorb around a hundred settlers.  The letter also detailed the projected cost.  It is an impressive document that laid the foundations for the very idea of agricultural settlements in Erez Yisrael.


While Montefiori was most impressed by Mordecai's letter, he turned down his request because many community leaders saw this idea as dangerous and blasphemous and wrote to Motefiori with their strong objection.


Mordecai then took up other projects and abandoned the dream of agricultural settlements. It is his son, Yoel Moshe Salomon, who would in future years bring his father's unfulfilled dream to fruition.


Mordecai travelled to England and tried to recruit the support of Montefiori and the Baron de Rothschild in building a textile factory in Erez Yizrael, but one again he was turned down.  A seed was planted, however, and many years later Montefiori would build the first textile factory in Jerusalem, and he would also buy the first orange grove in Jaffa.


As he grew older, Mordecai devoted his life to realizing his father's dream - the building of the great synagogue in the HaKhurba compound.  His work was double-tiered: he sought to obtain from the Ottoman regime a new firman [royal mandate] for the construction of the synaguge, and he tried to raise money among the Jewish European communities.


Mordecai travelled to Turkey, negotiated with the authorities for an entire year, and after gaining the support of Montefiori and Lord Napier-the British Consul in Istanbul-the new firman was obtained and the door was thus once again opened for the rebuilding of HaKhurba.  Mordecai spend eight years in Europe to raise funds for this purpose.  He lived long enough to return to Erez Yisrael and witness his father's dream come true.


In the next few years, Mordecai continued his diverse projects for the community. He envisioned and built Har Zion yeshiva.  He bought a fig orchard and a vineyard in Ben Hanina, near Jerusalem.  In addition, he bought a lot inside the Old City, on which almshouses would be built after his death.


In 1865, a cholera epidemic in Jerusalem took the lives of hundreds, and Mordecai and his wife Hasa among them.  They both died in October 1865.


Mordecai Tsoref's Personality

Much like his father before him, Mordecai devoted his life to his people and to his community.  He too was a visionary, even if his plans did not always materialize.  His vision was so far reaching that he can only be described as a pioneer of Zionism, even if the Zionist movement had not yet been born.  His courage and determination led him to pursue goals that no other man dared reach, and when he didn't succeed in one direction he typically chose a new one.


Y. Lochman wrote in the newspaper Ha'aretz in 1934:

"Jerusalem is where the settling of our land began; here the first visionaries of the yeshuv awoke to this idea and here began the activities that made that dream possible.. .  Alongside the poor, drowsy Jerusalem there came a completely different Jerusalem, one which fought for national renewal and recovery, and laid the foundations for generations to come. . . The beginning was over a hundred years ago, and the man of action was Rabbi Mordecai Salomon, father of Yoel Moshe Salomon . . ."