Elster asked me a while ago to write a short story for his Story Teller's blog (which had lots of great stories on it, FYI) but the war this summer put a damper on things. I had some free time this past Thursday night/Friday morning, and hammered out a story for him. I hope you enjoy it...
There wasn't a single kid in Jerusaelm's Mea-Shearim neighborhood who didn't know the legend.
It was a rite of passage.
At the age of 9 or 10, you found out. Late at night, in the darkness of your room, your older brother or sister used their most adult, most serious-sounding voice possible, to pass on the story of the underground secret…that lay deep beneath the Jerusalem shtetl of Mea Shearim.
Mea-Shearim's location wasn't a coincidence -- the students of the Vilna Gaon who founded the neighborhood in 1897 understood the significance of where they were building. They too knew the story which reverberated throughout the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. Even though the legend was almost common knowledge among the tightly-knit Jewish community -- it was kept to themselves and they never discussed with outsiders. Even the old-time Christians and Arabs living in the old city, who thought they knew what their Jewish neighbors discussed deep in the dark of night...had no clue.
Want to read more? It's all here at Elster's StoryTellers Blog.