Moria (‘[Mount] Moriah’) was an Orthodox mouthpiece that sought to serve as a voice for moderate groups among the ultra-Orthodox (Heb. ḥaredi) community of the Old Yishuv.
The decline of the newspaper Ḥavatstselet, which had reflected a clear Jerusalem ḥaredi orientation, the renewal of the newspaper ha-Tsvi
, published by Eliʿezer Ben-Yehudah (1858-1922), which was a fierce critic of Orthodox circles, and the appearance of newspaper Ḥerut
—the mouthpiece of the Sephardi public which augmented the secular press—stirred the Jerusalem printer Yehudah Aharon Weiss to initiate the publication of a new periodical that would serve as the organ of the ḥaredi Jewish community and would fight against the secularising trends that were spreading during that period among the Jerusalem youth, but would nonetheless adopt an independent stance by cautioning against the shortcomings in the life of the Old Yishuv and pushing for reforms.
Weiss brought in Rabbi Moshe Shmuʾel Sheinbaum (1875-1948) as a partner and, together, they submitted a request to the Ottoman authorities for a licence for ‘Moria Press’ in Sheinbaum’s name and for a permit to publish a newspaper in Weiss’ name. Since they were both Austrian citizens, they did so through the auspices of the Austrian consulate. The two were required to sign a commitment promising that they would not publish articles defaming the sultan or the government, and that they would subject themselves to Ottoman legal courts. According to the law, the managing editor was required to be an Ottoman citizen and land-owner, so in order to satisfy this requirement, Rabbi Yaʿaqov Ḥayyim Margovsky (Argov, 1874–?) joined the endeavour. Throughout the entire period of Moria’s publication, Margovsky’s name appeared in each issue as the ‘guarantor’ underneath the name of the publisher. Indeed, his absence from Palestine during the First World War was one of the rationales given by the authorities for shutting down the newspaper’s production. The periodical received its name ‘Moria’ (until issue number 321, it appeared in deficient, or unvocalised, Hebrew spelling) from the printing house in which it was published; at the same time, the name served to emphasise its religious affinity (Moriah was one of the mountains of Jerusalem, upon which the Temples had stood). The first issue appeared on 06 May 1910.
The chief editor, Isaac Jacob Yellin, was the product of a traditional religious school system culminating in the ʿEts Ḥayyim seminary. When Weiss recruited him for the staff of Moria, he was only twenty-five years old, but had already become known for his highly talented journalistic writing, due to his articles and contributions to the newspaper Ḥavatstselet
. From the outset, Yellin’s writing comprised the bulk of the newspaper’s content and, from the twelfth issue, he received official mention as the chief editor. He wrote the main editorials and other editorial pieces and he was responsible, among other things, for translating the foreign news. Those involved in the newspaper’s production and the other regular contributors included Rabbi Avraham Aharon Sonnenfeld (1878-1912), a noted public figure; Rabbi Yisraʾel Bardakey (Bar-Zakkai, 1889-1970), the cantor at the Ḥurvah Synagogue and the head of the Jerusalem Burial Society following Israel’s independence; Rabbi Shmuʾel Aharon Weber (Shazuri, 1885-1980), who was later the first general-secretary of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Alter Yaʿaqov Shirman (1875-1938), a journalist, writer, and polemicist, who would later (1914) leave the newspaper’s staff and cross over to the national camp, where he would attack Moria in the pages of Ḥerut; and others. Rabbi Abraham Isaac ha-Cohen Cook (1865-1935), the chief rabbi of Jaffa, also published articles and commentaries in Moria. A characteristic feature of the writing in Moria was that any article levying criticism against the Old Yishuv was generally signed with a pen name, out of fear of possible hostile reactions.
Credible information regarding the circulation of the newspaper do not exist. According to statements by the editors, several thousand copies of the first issue were sold, but it seems that these numbers reflected the enthusiasm and initial interest that Moria aroused with its first appearance, but not the actual number of its regular readers. This supposition is strengthened by the fact that Moria closed twice—in September 1912 (for two weeks) and in April 1913 (for five months)—owing to financial difficulties. The resumption of its publication only took place after the General Committee of the institutions of the Old Yishuv assumed responsibility for its funding; this act not only transformed the newspaper into a daily paper, but also turned it into the official organ of the Old Yishuv, which led to Weiss’ loss of influence over the editorial policies of Moria.
Some of the principal topics discussed in the newspaper during the years of its existence included the call to unite the organisational frameworks of the Ashkenazi Old Yishuv around an elected and unified leadership; the demand to select an Ashkenazi rabbi for Jerusalem after the community was left without a spiritual leader at the start of 1913; and the on-going struggle for reforming the religious seminaries (Heb. yeshivah, pl. yeshivot) and the institution of changes and modernisation into their educational curricula, with the aim of preparing their graduates for a productive life (Heb. ḥayey maʿaseh), and not one solely comprised of religious study. Moria pressed for a solution to the problem of employment for the younger members of the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem, so that they might be able to earn an honest living without being dependent upon charity funds. At the same time, it consistently criticised the ‘barrier-breakers (Heb. portsey ha-gader; cf. Ecclesiastes 10.8)’ and the spreading secularism in education and in public life, while cautioning against the replacing of religion with nationalism. In the Language War that broke out in 1913, Yellin aligned himself, for reasons unclear, with the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden (Ger. ‘Aid Association of German Jews’) and with the study of German language, in opposition to the stance of the leaders of the Old Yishuv.
Despite being a local Jerusalem periodical, and despite its disagreement with Zionism and its opposition to secularism, Moriah broadly covered both Jewish and general news from Palestine and around the globe. As such, it published, for example, reports regarding the Zionist Congresses and about the Beilis Trial (1913), a famous contemporary blood libel, and it covered political developments in the Ottoman Empire, as well as the events leading up to the outbreak of the First World War and those taking place during the course of the hostilities.
With the eruption of the war, Moria was forced to reduce its publication to only two pages. The last issue appeared on 11 January 1915; subsequently, the newspaper was closed by order of the Ottoman authorities.