Photos: Fire Breaks Out at Main Belzer Bais Medrash in Yerushalayim


belzfire-1-small[Photos below.] A fire broke out on the roof of the main Belzer Bais Medrash Medrash, in Kiryas Belz, Yerushalayim, tonight. The flames could be spotted from well over a mile away, with the stunning building rising high above all surrounding structures. A Belzer askan told that arson has been ruled out. It appears that s’chach stored on the roof of the building caught fire.

The building was evacuated after the fire was discovered. Large crowds just stood and watched as firefighters ascended the building to extinguish the flames.

Hundreds of Chassidim gathered instead in the courtyard of the bais medrash, adjacent to the home of the Belzer Rebbe, where minyanim for Maariv were held.

For exclusive photos taken by Shimon Willig and Yair Alpert, click here.

In the 1980s, Rav Yissachar Dov Rokeach, the Belzer Rebbe, spearheaded plans for a huge bais medrash to be erected in Kiryas Belz in Yerushalayim. The building, which would have four entrances accessible to each of the four streets of the hilly neighborhood, would be an enlarged replica of the structure that the first Rebbe of Belz, the Sar Shalom, had built in the town of Belz. It would include a grandiose main bais medrash, smaller botei medrash, simcha halls, otzar haseforims, and other communal facilities.

Funds for this ambitious project were raised among Belzer Chassidim and were supplemented by various fundraising projects throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Like the original bais medrash of Belz which took 15 years to complete, the Bais Hamedrash Hagadol, as it is known, which now dominates the northern Yerushalayim skyline, also took 15 years to construct and was dedicated in 2000. Its main bais medrash seats 6,000 mispallelim (though crowds on the Yomim Noraim exceed 8,000), making it perhaps the largest such bais medrash in the world. A huge aron kodesh has the capacity to hold 70 Sifrei Torah. Nine chandeliers in the main shul each contain over 200,000 pieces of Czech crystal. In stark contrast to the majestic shul, the simple wooden chair and shtender used by Rav Aharon of Belz when he came to Eretz Yisroel in 1944 stands in a glass case next to the aron kodesh.

{Yair Israel}