March 26th 2015
Israel tour participants seeking to memorialize the country’s deceased prime ministers can visit their tombs at locations including Mount Herzl and Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev.
Four Greats at Mount Herzl
What Arlington National Cemetery is to the United States, Mount Herzl is to Israel. Also known as Har HaZikaron (Mount of Remembrance), Mount Herzl, located in western Jerusalem, is the country’s preeminent military cemetery. The section of Mount Herzl reserved for state leaders such as Presidents, Prime Misters and Knesset speakers is called Helkat Gedolei Ha’Uma (Burial Grounds for the Greats the Nation). This section of Mount Herzl is the final resting place of four Israeli Prime Ministers. The two best known are Golda Meir (1898-1978) and Yitzchak Rabin (1922-1995). The graves of former Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol (1895-1969) and Yitzchak Shamir (1915-2012) are also located on Mount Herzl.
Golda Meir’s burial place consists of a small raised platform. Three steps lead up to her monument. Visitors will see a bed of flowers beside her monument and, perhaps in a nod to her American upbringing, the gravestone of Golda Meir is emblazoned with her name, including her original last name (Meirson), in both Hebrew and English. Levi Eshkol’s grave shares the same design as Meir’s, and the headstone lists his name, his parents’ names and the positions he held in the Israeli government from 1951 until his death in 1969. Eshkol’s stone is written in both Hebrew and English.
The grave of Yitzchak Rabin is marked with two striking quarter round pillars, one black and one grey. The only marking on these structures are the simple Hebrew names Yitzchak Rabin on the black pillar and the name of his wife, Leah Rabin, on the grey pillar. An eternal flame, housed in a rounded stone, burns between the two.
The tomb of David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) is in the Negev region’s Kibbutz Sde Boker, beside an identical tomb for his wife Paula. The graves are situated in a park-like setting overlooking a stunning view of the Tzin Valley. Ben-Gurion’s life-long, passionate connection to the Negev informed his decision to be buried here, not far from his preserved retirement home, instead of in Jerusalem, with the rest of Israel’s leaders.
Overlooking the Temple Mount
Menachem Begin (1913-1992) is buried on the Mount of Olives, Israel’s oldest cemetery, just east of the Old City of Jerusalem. Begin elected to be buried on the Mount of Olives beside his wife Aliza. Nearby are the graves of Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani, two heroes among those who fought for the establishment of the State of Israel. Begin’s simple stone grave overlooks the Temple Mount.
Tributes of Stone
Israeli tradition for visiting somber memorials is to place a small stone atop the gravestone. A sobering reminder that even the greats must return to their maker, visiting the sites where Israel’s founding fathers and mothers are interred can add meaning to any trip.