Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives is the oldest and most important Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem. It is approximately five centuries old, having been first leased from the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf in the sixteenth century. The cemetery contains anywhere between 70,000 and 150,000 tombs, including the tombs of famous figures in early modern Jewish history. It is considered to be the largest and holiest Jewish cemetery on earth.
It is adjacent to the much older archaeological site known as the Silwan necropolis.
19th century – 1948
In the 19th century, special significance was attached to Jewish cemeteries in Jerusalem, since they were the last meeting place not only of Jerusalemites but also of Jews from all over the world. Over the years, many Jews in their old age came to Jerusalem in order to live out the rest of their lives there and to be buried in its holy soil. The desire to be buried on the Mount of Olives stemmed in part from the Segulaic advantages attributed to the burial, according to various sources.
During the First and Second Temple Periods, the Jews of Jerusalem were buried in burial caves scattered on the slopes of the Mount, and from the 16th century the cemetery began to take its present shape.
The old Jewish cemetery sprawled over the slopes of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Kidron Valley (Valley of Jehoshaphat), radiating out from the lower, ancient part, which preserved Jewish graves from the Second Temple period; here there had been a tradition of burial uninterrupted for thousands of years. The cemetery was quite close to the Old City, its chief merit being that it lay just across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount: according to a midrash, it is here that the Resurrection of the Dead would begin. The Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives, and head toward the Temple Mount. As the sages say: "In the days to come, the righteous will appear and rise in Jerusalem, as it is said, "And they will sprout out of the city like the grass of the field" – and there is no city but Jerusalem".
Between 1949 and 1967, Israel accused the Jordanians of not protecting the site. As early as the end of 1949, Israeli viewers stationed on Mount Zion reported that Arab residents had been uprooting some tombstones. In 1954, the Israeli government filed a formal complaint with the UN General Assembly regarding the further destruction of graves and plowing in the area. Israel also stated that in the late 1950s the Jordanian army used tombstones to build a military camp in nearby al-Eizariya to floor tents and toilets, and that some tombstones were transferred to the courtyard of the Citadel of David, where they were smashed and fragments of which were used as markers for the parade ground. Israel also claimed that when new roads were built – one to the new Hotel Inter-Continental Jerusalem ("Seven Arches") on top of the Mount of Olives, one extending the road to Jericho, and one expanding the access road to the village of Silwan – numerous graves were destroyed in the process.
Shortly after 1967, these claims escalated into a war of words between Zerah Warhaftig, the Israeli Minister of Religious Affairs, and the Franciscan priest and Custodian of the Holy Land Father Isaias Andrès.
In 1992, with the burial of Prime Minister Menachem Begin on the Mount of Olives, it was decided to establish a dedicated security company for the cemetery, and to increase the protection of visitors to the site. In 2005, acts of harassment against Jews intensified, and it was decided to set up a guard unit for personal or group escort to those who came to the cemetery. In 2009, cars were attacked and many visitors were injured on the way to the cemetery. The "Jerusalem for generations" association turned to public figures, followed by a debate in the Knesset. In 2011, the chairman of the Almagor organization (terror victims association) was attacked and injured on his way to the graves of his Holocaust survivor parents. As a result, an attempt was made to increase public awareness of this attack and to mobilize the authorities and voluntary organizations against it. As of 2010, the security and personal escort service is free of charge, financed by the Ministry of Housing. Till today, burial plots and tombs remain in a state of neglect. The plots of the graves suffer from vandalism, including the desecration of gravestones and the destruction of graves. A series of government decisions to rehabilitate parts of the mountain, as well as funds allocated for maintenance and renovation, have not yet succeeded in changing the situation.
Many famous names are buried in the cemetery such as Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar, known as the Ohr ha-Chaim, and Rabbi Yehuda Alcalay who were among the heralds of Zionism; Hasidic rebbes of various dynasties and Rabbis of "Yishuv haYashan" (the old – pre-Zionist – Jewish settlement) together with Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, and his circle; Henrietta Szold, the founder of the Hadassah organization; the poet Else Lasker-Schüler, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of Modern Hebrew, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, the Nobel Laureate for Literature, and Boris Schatz, the founder of the Bezalel School of Art; Israel's sixth Prime Minister Menachem Begin; the victims of the 1929 Arab riots and 1936–39 Arab revolt, the fallen from the 1948 Arab–Israeli War,[clarification needed] together with Jews of many generations in their diversity.
Rabbis and religious scholars
Early modern period
- Obadiah ben Abraham, the Bartenura (c. 1445 – c. 1515)
- Meir ben Judah Leib Poppers, Bohemian rabbi and kabbalist (c. 1624–1662)
- Judah he-Hasid (1660 - 1700), 17th-century immigration leader
- Ḥayyim ben Moshe ibn Attar, the Ohr ha-Ḥayyim (c.1696 - 1743)
- Abraham Gershon of Kitov (1701 - 1761), brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov
- Shalom Sharabi, the Rashash (1720–1777)
- Zundel Salant (1786–1866), rabbi and primary teacher of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter
Late 19th century onwards
- Elazar Abuchatzeira, rabbi and grandson of the Baba Sali
- Levi Yitzchok Bender, leader of the Breslov community in Uman and Jerusalem
- Avrohom Blumenkrantz, American Orthodox rabbi
- David Cohen (rabbi), the "Rav Ha-Nazir"
- Yehoshua Leib Diskin, rabbi in Brest (Belarus) and Jerusalem
- Shlomo Elyashiv, Lithuanian kabbalist
- Moshe Mordechai Epstein, rosh yeshivas Slabodka, Lithuania
- Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka
- Zerah Flegeltaub, rabbi of Jerusalem and Suwałki, Poland, son of Rabbi Shlomo Flegeltaub of Warsaw
- Yitzchok Dovid Groner, director of Yeshivah Centre, Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
- Shimon Hakham, Bukharian writer and translator of Jewish holy texts and stories in Judeo-Tajik
- Moshe Halberstam, rosh yeshivas Tschakava
- Yosef Hayyim, Baghdad-born rabbi and posek known as the Ben-Ish Hai (disputed)
- Yitzchok Hutner, rosh yeshivas Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Brooklyn, New York
- Aryeh Kaplan, American Orthodox rabbi and author
- Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) first to hold Ashkenazi Chief Rabbinate of Israel position under British Mandatory Palestine. One of the fathers of Religious Zionism who founded Mercaz HaRav in 1924.
- Zvi Yehuda Kook, Rosh Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav Kook and son of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook
- Elyah Lopian, prominent rabbi of the Musar movement
- Avigdor Miller, American Orthodox rabbi, author and lecturer
- Shlomo Moussaieff, Bukharian family patriarch
- Yaakov Mutzafi, head of the Sephardi Edah HaHaredith, Jerusalem
- Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim, rosh yeshivas Mir
- Yechezkel Sarna, rosh yeshivas Slabodka
- Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Ore
- Gedalia Schorr, rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaas, Brooklyn, New York
- Sholom Schwadron, the "Maggid of Jerusalem"
- Dov Schwartzman, rosh yeshiva Yeshivas Bais HaTalmud, Jerusalem
- Avraham Shapira, rosh yeshivas Mercaz HaRav Kook
- Gedaliah Silverstone, rabbi in Belfast and Washington, D.C.
- Yaakov Chaim Sofer, the Kaf Hachaim
- Pesach Stein, rosh yeshivas Telz, Cleveland, Ohio
- Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss, head of the Edah HaChareidis, Jerusalem
- Simcha Bunim Alter, fifth Gerrer rebbe
- Yisrael Alter, fourth Gerrer rebbe
- Moshe Biderman, Lelover rebbe
- Mordechai Shlomo Friedman, Boyaner rebbe of New York City
- Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, second Bostoner rebbe
- Maiden of Ludmir, female Hasidic rebbe
- Yechiel Yehoshua Rabinowicz, Biala Rebbe 
- David Matityahu Rabinowicz, the "Laheves David", Biala Rebbe and son of Rebbe Yechiel Yehoshua
- Isamar Rosenbaum, Nadvorna rebbe
- Shaul Yedidya Elazar Taub, Modzitzer rebbe
- Solomon Eliezer Alfandari, Chief Rabbi of Damascus and Safed
- Meir Auerbach, first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem
- Chaim Berlin, Chief Rabbi of Moscow
- She'ar Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa
- Haim Moussa Douek, Chief Rabbi of Egypt
- Jacob Saul Elyashar, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Ottoman Palestine
- Shlomo Goren, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel
- Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, London
- Abraham Isaac Kook, Chief Rabbi of British Mandate Palestine
- Jacob Meir, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of British Mandate Palestine
- Meyer Rosenbaum, Chief Rabbi of Cuba
- Shmuel Salant, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem
- Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Chief Rabbi of the Edah HaChareidis, Jerusalem
- Isser Yehuda Unterman, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel
- Shlomo Zev Zweigenhaft, Chief Rabbi of Hanover and Lower Saxony
- Sheldon Adelson, American Jewish businessman, investor, philanthropist and political donor
- Harry Fischel, American Jewish businessman and philanthropist
- Robert Maxwell, British media magnate, fraudster, and supporter of Israel
- George Weidenfeld, British Jewish businessman and philanthropist
- Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Israeli writer
- Nissim Behar, pioneer of modern Hebrew education
- Shmuel Ben David (1884–1927), illustrator, painter, typographer, and designer
- Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, father of modern Hebrew
- Jacob Fishman, American Yiddish newspaper editor
- Israel Dov Frumkin, Israeli journalist
- Uri Zvi Grinberg, Israeli poet and journalist
- Yossele Rosenblatt, hazzan and composer
- Boris Schatz, founder of the Bezalel School in Jerusalem
- Else Lasker-Schüler, German-Jewish poet
- Yosef Shenberger, Israeli architect
- Ephraim Urbach, Israeli scholar
- Judah Alkalai (Yehuda Alcalay; 1798–1878), precursor of political Zionism
- Moshe Barazani, Lehi fighter
- Menachem Begin, Israeli prime minister
- Eliyahu Ben-Elissar, Israeli politician and diplomat
- Israel Eldad, Revisionist Zionist philosopher and fighter
- Meir Feinstein, Irgun fighter
- Jacob Israël de Haan, Dutch Jewish journalist assassinated by the Haganah
- Zevulun Hammer, Israeli politician, minister and deputy prime minister
- Moshe Hirsch, rabbi, leader of Neturei Karta, anti-Zionist militant
- Ida Silverman, Jewish philanthropist, speaker, and Zionist fund-raiser
- Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America
- Dawid Wdowiński Founder of the ZZW
Figures from science
- Israel Jacob Kligler (1888–1944), microbiologist, main actor in the eradication of malaria in Mandatory Palestine
- Eliyahu Asheri, Israeli terror victim
- Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, terror victims
- Rachel, Netanel, Rephael and Ephraim Weiss, victims of the Jericho bus firebombing
- Abraham Zelmanowitz, American victim of the September 11 attacks
- har hazetim – The Jewish Cemetery: "from the 16th century the cemetery began to take its present shape"
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- Ben-Arieh, Yehoshua. (1986). Jerusalem in the 19th century: Emergence of The new city, pages 24-25
- Pesikta D'Rav Kahane, Targum of Song of Songs
- Bavli, Tractate Ketubot 111,b / Tehillim 72:16.
- Scott, Michael (1968). "Desecration in the Holy City". Mid. East Newsletter. 2 (7): 6–8.
Irresponsible vandalism by individuals? Much of it. Sheer war damage? Partly. Deliberate destruction by government? In one instance. Desecration of Jerusalem cemeteries has been the subject of a year-long verbal battle between Israel's Ministry of Religious Affairs and ecclesiastical authorities in the Holy City. It all began last November when Dr. Zerah Warhaftig, Israeli Minister of Religious Affairs, held a press conference to decry the profanation of Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives and the destruction of synagogues in the Old City — actions carried out, presumably, with the tacit permission of the Jordanian government and church leaders. Local papers carried the story and Israel released a White Paper detailing the charges in Hebrew, French, Spanish and English editions. Three months ago a Franciscan priest, Father Isaias Andrès, entered the public public debate with a photographically supported statement in La Terre Sainte, monthly bulletin of the Franciscan Custodie in Jerusalem. Father Isaias is Custodian General for Franciscan property and has had several occasions to deal with the Ministry of Religious Affairs. He is still waiting for payment of an indemnity for one of the Order's schools, Ecole de Terre Sainte, which was leveled by the [Israeli] Municipality. Father Isaias supports the Minister of Religious Affairs in his condemnation of these and other wanton acts . What the Ministry's White Paper failed to mention, complains the custodian priest, is that Muslim and Christian cemeteries also have been desecrated — not by Jordanians, but by Israelis. And this desecration has occurred not only during the 1948 fighting but also during the year since the June War of 1967. I visited all the cemeteries during April of this year, ten months after the fighting stopped, and took photographs at that time. The protests of both the Israeli Minister and those of Father Isaias appear to be well-founded. Their principal disagreement lies in the area of responsibility for loss and liability for indemnity. Though many observers, including Christians, regard all this as a tempest in a teapot, many more see it as symptomatic of underlying tensions between the Israeli government and the Church in occupied areas . In the large Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives one can readily see the results of years of weathering and deterioration. The earth has sunk beneath the stone markers and successive assaults of rain, hail and snow have washed away the soil. Now the Municipality is busy trying to identify and catalogue the ancient graves. While one cannot tell, simply from observation, whether or not any stones have been filched, one can readily observe that neglect is largely responsible for the cemetery's deplorable condition. This neglect is not solely a result of the 1948 war which…
- Hirst, David. "Rush to Annexation: Israel in Jerusalem." Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 3, no. 4, 1974, pp. 3–31: "As for the cemetery, the Israeli "facts" are less, perhaps, a straight lie than an exaggeration. The Jewish cemetery did indeed suffer the depredation of vandals; one service which tombstones performed was as paving stones for the latrines of a nearby en- campment. A road to the Intercontinental Hotel on the top of the Mount of Olives encroached on the cemetery. It was deplorable, but scarcely the offi- cial and systematic destruction authorized by the Jordanian government of which the White Paper spoke."
- Motke Sofer, "A Tour of the Mount of Olives", in Eli Schiller (ed., With Sefi Ben Yosef, Nathan Shor, Mordechai Sofer). "The Mount of Olives", Ariel Press, Jerusalem, 1978, p. 46.
- Meron Benvenisti, opposite the closed wall – divided and united Jerusalem. Weinfeld and Nicholson 1973.
- Menucha Toker, the Jordanians destroyed, Rabbi Levi Meshakam, from the weekly "Mishpacha" on the Shturem website
- "Significant increase in violence on the way to the Mount of Olives", Minister of Internal Security Avi Dichter's reply to Eli Yishai's. Arab rioters destroy gravestones (including pictures). Two cars were attacked and turned over by rioters on the way to the Mount of Olives (Yesha News Website). Gur Hasidim were attacked on the Mount of Olives (2011). A discussion in the Knesset on the Mount of Olives following the request of Chaim Miller.
- Hodaya Shark-Hazony, the hand that directs the stone-throwers, on the News1 website, October 22, 2010
- Yitzhak Tessler, to die in peace: security service on the Mount of Olives, NRG360 site, October 17, 2010
- Again desecration of graves in the Mount of Olives, Arutz Sheva, February 25, 2010
- Dozens of gravestones were vandalized on the eve of Jerusalem Day – an article from the Nana site
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- Bostoner Rebbe Levi Yitzhak Horowitz dies at 88. Jerusalem Post, December 6, 2009.
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- Gradstein, Linda (November 1, 1988) "Israel Buries Victims Of Firebombing", Sun Sentinel