The name of the neighborhood “Batei Machase” for those who do not know, does not have positive connotations but on the contrary! The Jews from the first half of the 19th century were granted permission to build for the first time a Jewish neighborhood of their own.
In the years that followed, a number of affluent people chose to live in this neighborhood and build their home, including the magnificent “Rothschild House”.
In the first half of the 19th century, the Jewish community in the Old City experienced severe poverty. Few of the Jews were landowners and most of them had to rent their apartments from the Muslims. In 1857, it was possible to purchase a large plot in the southwestern corner of the Jewish Quarter and build there. The founders of the project Kolel Ho”d (Holland – Deutschland – a group of Jews who immigrated from the Netherlands and Germany) purchased the area that had previously been built on the outskirts of the Jewish Quarter. The aim was to build modern apartments, in order to ease the overcrowding in the quarter. For the first time in generations, Jews were given the opportunity to build their own neighborhood.
The Batei Mahase Company, whose full name is “The Company for the Poor Shelters and Hospitality on Mount Zion and Holy City Jerusalem, may it be rebuilt and re-established speedily in our own days, Amen!.” it received the license, began building and built the first group of apartments of unrivaled beauty compared to ancient Jerusalem. The bodies that bought the land and built the houses for the poor of Jerusalem set a number of rules regarding the use of houses. Like, who is entitled to live there and how long etc. Some of the apartments had two rooms and a kitchenette. In the courtyard there was a shared water cistern.
During the battles that took place in the Jewish Quarter in the War of Independence in 1948, the houses and basements were used as a shelter for some of the remaining civilian population in the besieged Quarter. After the defenders of the Quarter surrendered to the Arab Legion, they gathered here together with fighters and residents of the Jewish Quarter. Thirty fighters who still stood on their feet after 13 days of continuous fighting, along with quite a few wounded and 260 civilians aged between 13 and 78, were taken captive. 1,500 residents of the Jewish quarter – children, women and the elderly – were forced to leave their homes, which were looted and set on fire. About 1,850 years after the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem after the Bar Kokhba revolt by the Romans, the Jews were expelled once more by the Jordanians.
After the Six-Day War, the rubble was removed, the square was expanded and serves today as an open playground for several elementary schools nearby. “Rothschild House” is one of the buildings that was not significantly damaged in the Batei Machse square and maintained its impressive appearance. The rest of the houses were rebuilt.
On one of the walls in the square were engraved verses from the book of ‘Zechariah’, chapter: 8 verses: 4-5. “There shall yet old men and old women sit in the broad places of Jerusalem…And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in her streets”.