Meshulam, a friend of the Shiputzim family, recently took a tour of Yerushalayim’s Har HaZeitim cemetery and graciously agreed to share his impressions:
A Tour of Har HaZeitim
A guest post by Meshulam*
(July 28, 2010 / 17 Menachem Av 5770) - Today I had the privilege of touring the ancient and historic Jewish cemetery on Har HaZeitim (the Mount of Olives).
The truth is that I was fairly nervous about the trip and about wandering around there, and I had no idea how to go about it.
But then I discovered the “Har HaZeitim Information Center” located at the site (near the Church of the Gethsemane), which is part of the Ir David National Park. They offer their services to would-be visitors to the mountain.
Although their primary focus is rehabilitating the cemetery (which was destroyed and desecrated by the Jordanians between 1948-1967) and mapping out the graves (there are somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000 headstones…), they also offer guided tours of the site, and I was impressed by their courteousness and willingness to help.
So, when I wanted to set up a private tour, I emailed them a list of approximately 30 burial sites which I wished to visit, and they arranged a customized tour for me around my list (at a rate of 60 NIS/hour).
Of course, in the end, we visited many more graves of people whom I didn’t even know were buried there.
The tour included tons of explanations, and it was obvious that the guide knew the site’s history and the stories behind the tombstones and the people inside out.
It was truly spellbinding and lasted about three hours.
We saw the burial sites of important rabbis – such as:
In addition, we saw the gravesites of:
- Eliezer Ben Yehuda and his family;
- Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt;
- the Admor HeChalutz;
- and more and more and more…
Each and every one of them was an extraordinary individual with a remarkable and intriguing life story.
It also turns out that the security situation isn’t really bad. There are about five security vehicles which constantly patrol the area as well as a police van, security cameras, etc.
Moreover, the Maale Zeitim neighborhood – home to some sixty families – is located nearby.
In short, I highly recommend a tour of the site.
I now realize that it’s not as “far away” as it may seem (or least as I used to think…)
Have a wonderful vacation!
Thank you, Meshulam, for this fascinating post!
* The Hebrew-to-English translator who translated Meshulam’s post (and also this letter) has asked me to announce that she’s available for translation work. For more information, please contact me at OurShiputzim at gmail dot com, and I’ll gladly forward all serious inquiries to her.