In 1809, a group of 70 disciples of the great Lithuanian sage the Vilna Gaon, arrived in Israel, after traveling via Turkey by horse and wagon. The Vilna Gaon set out for the Holy Land in 1783, but for unknown reasons did not attain his goal. However he inspired his disciples to make the move, and they became pioneers of modern settlement in Israel. (A large contingent of chassidic Jews arrived in Tzfat around the same time.) The leader of the 1809 group, Rabbi Israel of Shklov, settled in Tzfat, and six years later moved to Jerusalem where he founded the modern Ashkenazic community. The early years were fraught with Arab attacks, earthquakes, and a cholera epidemic. Rabbi Israel authored, Pe'at Hashulchan, a digest of the Jewish agricultural laws relating to the Land of Israel. (He had to rewrite the book after the first manuscript was destroyed in a fire.) The location of his grave remained unknown until it was discovered in Tiberias, 125 years after his death. Today, the descendants of that original group are amongst the most prominent families in Jerusalem.
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