Every time my brother-in-law visits Israel, we grab a few hours – and a few books about Jerusalem’s neighborhoods and streets – and off we trek to different sections of Jerusalem to learn about the people whom the streets were named after. This is the second installment in a series of articles discussing the streets of Jerusalem and the stories behind their names.
One of the major streets in Har Nof is Hakablan, which means The Contractor or The Builder. Who is this builder?
Yitzchak Abud Levi was born in 1906 and lived until 1981, and was one of Jerusalem’s largest builders. Beyond these very basic facts, there exists precious little information about Abud Levi, as he successfully maintained his anonymity throughout his life. It is therefore somewhat perplexing why they named a street after him. Another unsolved mystery is why they named it Hakablan and not Yitzchak Abud Levi Street, although one can argue that that this secretive name fits well with his very private nature. As an aside, the Abud Levi family must have been awfully influential, as Al”ar Street in Jerusalem’s Talpiot Mizrach neighborhood is named in memory of Rachamim Abud Levi, another builder, who was probably Yitzchak’s brother or cousin.
Rav Ovadia Yosef lecturing PM Netanyahu. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/Flash 90
Ironically, Hakablan has become one of Jerusalem’s most famous streets, because half of the Knesset’s Shas party members live along this block. The magnet that attracted them was Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l who lived in a modest apartment on the street. Rav Yosef was one of the giants of the last generation, a towering halachic authority, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, and founder and longtime spiritual leader of the Shas party. To understand the impact that Rav Yosef had on the nation, consider that half a million people – with some estimates closer to one million people – attended his funeral three years ago, representing the largest gathering of people in the country’s history.
There are countless fascinating stories about Rav Yosef that provide insights into his personality and his priorities. Let me share with you one story that underscores Rav Yosef’s love and compassion for the entire Jewish nation.
Educator Adina Bar-Shalom with her father. Photo: Oren Nahshon/Flash 90
When Rav Ovadia Yosef was in his early eighties, he suffered a heart attack and the doctors decided that they needed to perform surgery immediately. Rav Yosef pleaded to postpone the surgery for three hours and be taken home. After the surgery, Rav Yosef revealed that he suffered his heart attack while writing a responsa for an aguna (a woman who is in a position where it is unclear if she is still considered married according to Jewish law). Rav Yosef feared that if he died on the operating table, the woman may not find a Rav who would permit her to remarry. He therefore felt obligated to finish the responsa before undergoing surgery.
Understandably, many Jerusalemites have been lobbying to change the name Hakablan Street to Harav Ovadia Yosef Street, and there is a strong possibility that this will occur sooner than later. However, in truth there may not be a better name to memorialize Harav Yosef than Hakablan, as he truly was one of the great builders of the Jewish nation.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (www.myisraelhome.com), a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.