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Between 18 three groups of disciples of the great rabbi Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer, the Vilna Gaon , numbering about 500 people, came to the land of Israel.
Initially they settled in Tzfat in the Galilee, but after several disaster including a devastating earthquake, they settled in Jerusalem. They founded several new neighborhoods (including Mea Shearim) and set up numerous Kollels (Yeshivot where married men are paid a monthly stipend to study Torah).
This community was part of what was called Old Yishuv.
(Today, when in the Old City of Jerusalem, you can visit the "Old Yishuv Court Museum" and learn some fascinating facts about it.) Another very significant event in the growth of the Jewish community of Israel took place in the early 19th century.
Rothschild was a man who more than anyone else, financially made the re-settlement of Jews in the land of Israel possible.
During his lifetime he spent 70 million francs of his own money on various agricultural settlements (Rosh Pina, Zichron Yacov, Pardes Hannah to name but a few) and business enterprises such as the Carmel Winery for example.
Mark Twain who visited Israel in 1867 described it like this in Innocents Abroad: We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given wholly to weeds ― a silent, mournful expanse... We pressed on toward the goal of our crusade, renowned Jerusalem. Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes." Early Migrations During the time of the Muslims, life for the Jews here was for the most part easier than under the Christians.
A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. The further we went the hotter the sun got and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became... Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country. In 1210, following the demise of the Crusaders, several hundred rabbis, known as the Ba'alei Tosefot, re-settled in Israel.
One of the earliest ones, built in 1875, was Mea Shearim (which, contrary to popular opinion does not mean "Hundred Gates" but "Hundredfold" as in Genesis .) Besides Montefiore, another extremely important personality in this period of time was Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845 to 1934).(See Part 47.) Later, in the 1400s, that community moved inside the walls and they established the Ramban Synagogue which still exists today.When Nachmanides came to Jerusalem there was already a vibrant Jewish community in Hebron, though the Muslims did not permit them entry into the Cave of the Machpela (where the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried). More Jews started to migrate to Israel following their expulsion from Spain in 1492.Their arrival revived the presence of Ashkenazi Jewry in Jerusalem, which for over 100 years had been mainly Sephardi and had a huge impact on the customs and religious practices of the religious community in Israel.By 1880, there were about 40,000 Jews, living in the land of Israel among some 400,000 Muslims. One of the major figures of this time period was Moses Montefiore (1784 to 1887) ― the first Jew to be knighted in Britain.