Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery

Coordinates: 31°46′25.82″N 35°14′35.05″E / 31.7738389°N 35.2430694°E / 31.7738389; 35.2430694
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31°46′25.82″N 35°14′35.05″E / 31.7738389°N 35.2430694°E / 31.7738389; 35.2430694

The Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives, 155 years apart. The map, from 1858, considered the most accurate in existence at the time, showing around 40–50 Jewish graves (marked on the bottom left). The aerial photo, from 2013, is taken from the south; the number of tombs is now around 70,000–150,000.

The Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives is the oldest and most important Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives has been a traditional Hebrew/Jewish burial location since antiquity, and the main present-day cemetery portion is approximately five centuries old, having been first leased from the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf in the sixteenth century.[1][2] 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 historical (as opposed to modern) Jewish cemetery on earth.[3]

It is adjacent to the much older archaeological site known as the Silwan necropolis.


19th century – 1948[edit]

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.[4] 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.[1]

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,[5] it is here that the Resurrection of the Dead would begin.[4] 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".[6]

Jordanian rule[edit]

During the Jordanian rule, the Jewish cemetery suffered damage to gravestones and tombs.[7][8]

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,[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[7]

Israeli rule[edit]

Jewish tombs in the Mount of Olives

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 a guard unit was created 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.[12] 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.[13] As of 2010, the security and personal escort service is free of charge, financed by the Ministry of Housing.[14] 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[15] and the destruction of graves.[16] 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.

Panorama of the Temple Mount, seen from the Mount of Olives

Notable graves[edit]

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.[1]

Rabbis and religious scholars[edit]

Early modern period[edit]

Late 19th century onwards[edit]

Hasidic Rebbes[edit]

Chief Rabbis[edit]


Cultural figures[edit]

Political figures[edit]

Figures from science[edit]

  • Israel Jacob Kligler, microbiologist, main actor in the eradication of malaria in Mandatory Palestine
  • Jacob Lahijani, scientist and inventor[30]

Terror victims[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i har hazetim – The Jewish Cemetery: "from the 16th century the cemetery began to take its present shape"
  2. ^ Hirst, David. "Rush to Annexation: Israel in Jerusalem." Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 3, no. 4, 1974, pp. 3–31: "The Jewish cemetery, rented from the Waqf in the sixteenth century, is strictly speaking Muslim property..."
  3. ^ "The Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives » har hazeitim". 25 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b Ben-Arieh, Yehoshua. (1986). Jerusalem in the 19th century: Emergence of The new city, pp. 24–25
  5. ^ Pesikta D'Rav Kahane[citation needed], Targum of Song of Songs[citation needed]
  6. ^ Bavli, Tractate Ketubot 111,b / Tehillim 72:16.
  7. ^ a b 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…
  8. ^ 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 official and systematic destruction authorized by the Jordanian government of which the White Paper spoke."
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Meron Benvenisti, opposite the closed wall – divided and united Jerusalem. Weinfeld and Nicholson 1973.
  11. ^ Menucha Toker, the Jordanians destroyed, Rabbi Levi Meshakam, from the weekly "Mishpacha" on the Shturem website
  12. ^ "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.
  13. ^ Hodaya Shark-Hazony, the hand that directs the stone-throwers, on the News1 website, October 22, 2010
  14. ^ Yitzhak Tessler, to die in peace: security service on the Mount of Olives, NRG360 site, October 17, 2010
  15. ^ Again desecration of graves in the Mount of Olives, Arutz Sheva, February 25, 2010
  16. ^ Dozens of gravestones were vandalized on the eve of Jerusalem Day – an article from the Nana site
  17. ^ "Obadia Bartenura".
  18. ^ "Or Hachaim".
  19. ^ "Rabbi Shalom Sharabi – The Rashash". Har HaZeitim Preservation.
  20. ^ "Slain Beersheba rabbi laid to rest". Ynetnews. 20 June 1995. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  21. ^ Aaron Sorsky (1977). Marbitzai Torah Umusar. Vol. 4. New York City: Sentry Press. pp. 147–170. OCLC 233313098.
  22. ^ Grave Information for Yaakov Mutzafi, Hebrew
  23. ^ Rossoff, Dovid (2005). קדושים אשר בארץ: קברי צדיקים בירושלים ובני ברק [The Holy Ones in the Earth: Graves of Tzaddikim in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak] (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Machon Otzar HaTorah.
  24. ^ Bostoner Rebbe Levi Yitzhak Horowitz dies at 88. Jerusalem Post, December 6, 2009.
  25. ^ Meir Halachmi, Toldot Hachasidut b'Erets Yisrael, vol.2, pp. 73–83, Beit Biala
  26. ^ Collins, Liat (8 September 2016) "My Word: Rabbi, Fighter and Peacemaker", The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  27. ^ Carey, Alexis (September 11, 2018). "Sons break silence over fraudster dad's suspicious death". NewsComAu. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  28. ^ "Fishman Funeral Today". The Palestine Post. Vol. XXII, no. 6308. Jerusalem, Israel. 19 January 1947. p. 2 – via Historical Jewish Press.
  29. ^ "כרטיס נפטר:יוסף שנברגר" [Deceased Card: Yosef Shenberger] (in Hebrew). Retrieved 23 May 2022.
  30. ^ "Innovation: Agent of Change". Hagley Digital Archives. Retrieved 2022-11-20.
  31. ^ Gradstein, Linda (November 1, 1988) "Israel Buries Victims Of Firebombing", Sun Sentinel

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