The Acropolis of Volozhin
Ex Head of the Mossad, Ephrayim Halevy, Went to Visit the Volozhin Yeshiva in Belarus, Where his Great-Great Grandfather Used to Teach, in the Hopes to Rebuild It
"At the age of nearly 80, Ephraim Halevy is visiting the Volozhin Yeshiva in Belarus. His mother was the great-granddaughter of Rabbi Naphtali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (known by the Hebrew acronym, the Natziv) one of the founders of the yeshiva.
Grigori Haitovitch, one of the leaders of the local Jewish community, would like the yeshiva to be restored, not for regular studies, but for study periods of a few days each. Halevy is not enthusiastic about the idea of a rebuilt yeshiva for study, he thinks it should serve as a center that will preserve and memorialize the tradition of Jewish learning that was destroyed here. The Volozhin Yeshiva ceased to exist after the Nazi invasion when its students were deported to ghettos and then murdered. A working meeting concerning the possible restoration of the yeshiva takes place after a visit to the Yama (“Pit” in Russian), a site where some 5,000 Jews were murdered. The Israeli ambassador to Belarus, Yosef Shagal, surmises that the restoration will cost some two million dollars. We meet the governor of Minsk province, Semen Shapiro. Shapiro is willing to talk about rebuilding the yeshiva but would like to hear some concrete ideas. In the meantime, he agrees to let Ephraim Halevy go see it. The ride gave Halevy and us a chance to talk, and resulted in some interesting insights. As we entered the yeshiva, we found that the windows were sealed up with bricks, the shutters are immovable, the neon lights are rusted to the walls, there is black mildew between the doors and the ceiling. Once this place was bursting with activity. The visit ended with a hope expressed by Halevy that a Jewish cultural center will be established here and that he would get to come back and visit."