Mount Herzl is the site of Israel’s national cemetery and other memorial and educational facilities, found on the west side of Jerusalem beside the Jerusalem Forest. Furthermore, it is named after Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. In fact, Herzl’s Tomb lies at the top of the hill. Yad Vashem, which commemorates the Holocaust, lies to the west of Mt. Herzl. Israel’s war dead are also buried there.
The History of Mount Herzl
In 1934, Zionist leader Menahem Ussishkin organized the re-interment of Leon Pinsker in Nicanor Cave on Mount Scopus in an attempt to build a pantheon for the great leaders of the Jewish nation. In fact, Ussishkin has buried there himself in 1941. But when Mount Scopus became an enclave, cut off from Jerusalem, the implementation of this plan was no longer feasible.
During summer 1949, Theodor Herzl’s remains were reinterred on a hill in West Jerusalem which faced the Mount of Olives from a distance and renamed in his honor, Mount Herzl. In November 1949, soldiers who fell during the 1947–1949 Palestine war in the Jerusalem area were buried on the north slope of the hill. Apart from Theodor Herzl, Mt. Herzl is the burial place of five of Israel’s prime ministers: Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin (who is buried beside his wife Leah), and Shimon Peres. Israeli presidents are also buried on Mt. Herzl, as are other prominent Jewish and Zionist leaders. For example Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
Mount Herzl: Great Leaders of the Nation
The Great Leaders of the Nation’s Plot or Memorial Park holds the graves of several Prime Ministers; Presidents; Knesset speakers and other chosen national leaders of the State of Israel. But it forms a separate section of the Mount Herzl cemetery from that of the leaders of the World Zionist Organization; which is situated nearby. Also, buried there are Presidents like Zalman Shazar; Chaim Herzog; Shimon Peres. Also Prime Ministers like Levi Eshkol; Golda Meir; Yitzhak Rabin.
Other notable graves are those of the first speaker of the Knesset: Like Yosef Sprinzak and his wife Hanna, the first Minister of Finance, Eliezer Kaplan, and Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek. Despite the national significance of the cemetery, some Israeli leaders were buried elsewhere, most notably Chaim Weizmann (buried at Weizmann House), Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (buried at Har HaMenuchot Cemetery); David Ben-Gurion (buried at Midreshet Ben-Gurion); Menachem Begin (buried at Mount of Olives) and Ariel Sharon (buried at his home in the Negev).
Mount Herzl: Ze’ev Jabotinsky
But deciding who should be buried on Mt. Herzl has sometimes been controversial. For example, the decision to bury Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who died in 1940, on Mt. Herzl, was fiercely opposed by many Labour Party stalwarts; who claimed that Jabotinsky was an ultra-right nationalist undeserving of such an honor. Only in 1964 did Prime Minister Levi Eshkol decide in favor of burying him there, in the interest of promoting national reconciliation and setting aside political grievances. Soldiers awarded with the Medal of Valor may also be buried at Mount Herzl.
To the north of Herzl’s grave is a plot reserved for the leaders of the (World) Zionist Organization, among them David Wolffsohn, Nahum Sokolov, Simcha Dinitz, and Arieh Dulzin. In the same section are the graves and cenotaphs of close relatives of Theodor Herzl. Worth checking out the Herzl Museum which is right at the very entrance of the mountain. Here is a link to the museum website.
Mount Herzl: Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial
The Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial is the main memorial for all victims of terrorism in Israel from 1851 until today. The memorial was opened in 1997, and every year a ceremony is held on the plaza, in memory of the victims of terror. The memorial is located in the National Civil Cemetery next to Helkat Gedolei Ha’Uma.
Other Memorials on Mount Herzl
- Olei Hagardom plot: Jewish underground fighters executed for their activities.
- Common grave of the 204 illegal immigrants who went down with the boat Salvador in December 1940.
- Common grave of the 44 immigrants aboard the Egoz (sank in 1961).
- Memorial for the Last of Kin – last Holocaust survivors of their families, who died fighting in the Israel Defense Forces.
- Memorial for the Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia.
National Military Cemetery
So the main Israel Defense Forces cemetery is located on the northern slope of Mt. Herzl. In addition, it was established in November 1949, when soldiers who fell in the Jerusalem area were buried here. Now in 1949, the government decided to turn the site into the main cemetery for IDF members who have fallen in the line of duty.
There are specific areas or monuments for following categories of fallen fighters
- National Memorial Hall For Israel’s Fallen
- Garden of the Missing in Action (burial places are unknown)
- Jewish soldiers Memorial in the Red Army in World War II
- Memorial for the Jewish soldiers in the Polish Army in World War II
- Volunteers of the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine) in World War II
- Monument for the 140 Jewish Palestinian soldiers who went down with the British ship SS Erinpura in 1943 during World War II
- Memorial for the 23 (in Hebrew numerals: Kaf-Gimel) Palmach sea commandoes who disappeared during Operation Boatswain under British command in 1941
- The Grave of the Nabi Daniel Convoy of 27 March 1948 (15 dead)
- Memorial for the fallen fighters of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem (surrendered on 28 May 1948)
- Monument for the 69 sailors who went down with the Dakar submarine in 1968 and whose bodies were never recovered
- Collective grave of the defenders of Neve Yaakov who fell in 1948
- Common grave of the fighters fallen in the Battles of Latrun of 1948
- Communal grave of the Radar Hill fighters
- Joint grave of the defenders of Kfar Etzion who fell in 1948
- Common grave of the Convoy of 35 of January 1948
- Memorial for the Jewish Parachutists of Mandate Palestine killed in Europe in World War II
- Operation Kadesh (1956) plot
- Operation Peace for Galilee (First Lebanon War, 1982) plot
- Soldiers who fell since 1990
- Six-Day War, one of several plots
- Yom Kippur War, one of several plots