- Yoel Moshe Salomon

Yoel Moshe Salomon

 

Yoel Moshe Salomon, Mordecai's second son, attended a Kheder from an early age, where he already stood out as a brilliant student.  Every one of the community's rabbis wanted to teach him the Torah.  The family didn't have much money, and his aunt would give him a small coin every month to buy paper and ink, and that is how he began writing literature and poetry.  He continued his Torah studies alongside his literary pursuits, and soon gained a reputation as a genius.  At 18 he married Frumah, who bore him13 children and shared his arduous life as pioneer in Eretz Yisrael

 

Three years after his wedding he travelled to Russia for rabbinical studies and was ordained as a rabbi, but he refused to be employed as one.  In Russia, Yoel Moshe met Michal Cohen, who would become his partner in years to come.  From there he traveled to Germany, to learn the printing trade, and he worked for several years as a trainee in the town of Konigsberg.  The rabbis back home were awaiting his return to Jerusalem, hoping that one day he will succeed the city's chief rabbi and become one of its spiritual leaders.  But they were to be disappointed.  Upon his return, Yoel Moshe chose printing as his trade and opened "Salomon Printing House" together with his friend Michal Cohen.  Their first creation was a shoshanata-a greeting card folded in the shape of a rose ["Shoshanna" in Hebrew].  Later the printing house edited and published the first Hebrew monthly, HaLevanon, which circulated in the local Jewish community but was also sent to the Diaspora. Yoel Moshe published in this monthly articles on the idea of Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael (among other topics) and so had planted the seed for his future deeds.  About a year later, the partners had to close the monthly down because of disputes with a competing printing house.  They took their printing equipment to Egypt, where for two years they continued printing books and pamphlets. 

 

When a cholera epidemic broke out in Egypt, the partners returned home, but the epidemic soon spread to Jerusalem.  Yoel Moshe contracted the disease but survived. His parents, however, died from cholera.  Yoel felt that the crowded conditions within the walls of the Old City were to blame for the vast number of casualties.  That is why he began to preach building new neighborhoods outside the walls.  The only buildings outside the walls at that time were the church in the Russian Compound and Mishkanot Sha'ananim, Montefiori's residential project designed for Jewish workers.  But the latter was mostly empty, since people felt too exposed to robbers to live there.  Yoel and six of his friends bought a plot of land outside the walls and courageously built the first private neighborhood in modern Jerusalem, known as Nakhalat Shiv'a ("the homestead of the seven").  Yoel and his friends had few resources, and were looking for ways to finance the construction of the neighborhood.  Since they were unable to raise the funds needed as a group, each one borrowed small sums of money individually, and everything was put in a joint fund.  In addition, each one committed to donating annually to the joint fund twelve and a half Turkish Liras.  Using this fund they were able to build two houses every year, until finally the whole neighborhood was erected.  This method was imitated by many, and that's how most of the new neighborhoods in Jerusalem were built. 

 

Yoel Moshe Salomon followed in his father's footsteps and devoted much of his time to charity work.  He travelled to Europe to raise funds and came back with enough to build She'arei Tsedek hospital.  He was also personally involved in saving Bikur Kholim hospital from bankruptcy.  Yoel Moshe Salomon contributed to "kenesset Yisrael," an institution of the Ashkenazi community, which function was to adjudicate and settle disputes.  The Knesset had two houses.  The first comprised 23 public figures and property holders and the second seven rabbis.  Of the 23 public figures, five were elected to the representative committee and Yoel Moshe was among those. 

 

In the following years, Yoel Moshe Salomon began looking for new ways to settle the land, and that is how he arrived to the Shfela region (the central plains of Israel) and began to acquire land with the aim of building a Jewish agricultural settlement, as his father Mordecai had envisioned.  Despite the danger of malaria and the many hardships of farming, Yoel Moshe Salomon succeeded in bringing settlers to the area and together they build Petakh Tikva, known as "the mother of the settlements." 

 

Yoel Moshe Salomon was an energetic, robust man to his dying day.  His hair never turned grey and his sharp memory never dulled.  He died at the age of 73 from angina pectoris, after suffering from this disease for an entire year.  Thousands attended his funeral, held in Mount Olives, and every one of the great rabbis eulogized him.  Years later, his wife Frumah was buried next to him.