Motsa is a neighbourhood on the western edge of Jerusalem. It was established in 1854 and became the first Jewish farm to be founded outside the walls of the Old City. It was mentioned in the Talmud as the place where the residents of Jerusalem came to cut willow branches to be used during the Succot festival. Next to the Motsa synagogue stands the Yellin House, or Beit Yellin, the first house built in Motsa in 1890. We have driven past it many times, but recently Mister Handmade in Israel and I visited the house to learn more about its history.Qalunya. In 1890 Yellin built his private home behind the khan he had built in 1871 on the remains of a crusader building. The khan (an inn built around a central courtyard) was built for travellers en route between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It later became the synagogue. Yellin also planted a vineyard and a garden in the area, and produce began to grow, irrigated by a local spring and well (the spring is believed to be the spring mentioned in the Book of Joshua which is the border between the land of the tribe of Judah and that of the tribe of Benjamin). He also attempted to manufacture roofing tiles and purchased more lands to continue the settlement at Motsa. His was the first 'modern' Jewish agricultural settlement outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Arab riots of 1929, after which the town was deserted for some years. In 1961, when the first families settled the lower area of Motsa, the khan became the town's synagogue, below. It has become well known because Tashlich prayers, held on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, are practiced there (all the sins are discarded into running waters of the spring behind the building). In 1973 the area next to the synagogue was excavated and remains from the Second Temple period were found. After many years of neglect, renovations were started in 2006 to return the Yellin House to the way it looked in the late 19th century. The house, a thick, two-story reconstructed building which is surrounded by orchards and ancient olive trees, a vineyard and a patch of rare wild plums, now tells the story of the Yellin family, as well as the history of the settlement at Motsa.