5 Fascinating Ancient Tombs to Visit in Israel 

January 20th 2020


Given the Holy Land’s long, varied, and fascinating history, it will come as no surprise that Israel is a land filled with ancient tombs. This is especially the case in and around Jerusalem. Some are actual places of burial while others are simply monuments to great figures from Biblical times. 

When visiting the capital, or pretty much anywhere else in Israel, you’re likely never far from a tomb of religious, cultural, and historical significance to the Jewish people. 

Some of these ancient tombs we recommend you visit, especially when in or around Jerusalem, include: 

  1. King David’s Tomb

To the south of Jerusalem’s Old City, just outside Zion Gate, is King David’s Tomb. According to tradition, it is the burial place of David, King of Israel. Every year many thousands of people visit the sarcophagus on Mount Zion, located within an ancient building housing important religious sites for all three of the Abrahamic religions. 

King David is highly revered in Jewish tradition, being seen as a great warrior king but one who was also righteous and scholarly. His son Solomon was the builder of the First Temple. 

  1. Absalom’s Tomb

Another of King David’s sons was the rebellious Absalom, said to possess extraordinary handsomeness and charm. To the east of the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Kidron Valley, is the Tomb of Absalom, also known as Absalom’s Pillar. 

The ancient monumental rock-cut tomb was traditionally believed to have been built by Absalom as a monument to himself. However, today modern scholars consider it a monument built for neighboring burial caves dating from the 1st century AD. 

  1. Tomb of Zechariah

Adjacent to Absalom’s Tomb is the Tomb of Zechariah. It’s one of the finest examples of Jerusalem’s rock-cut tombs from ancient Israel. It’s a monolith, being completely cut from a single huge chunk of rock, and is decorated with columns and cornices common from the era when it was crafted.  

According to tradition, Zechariah ben Jehoiada was a priest who lived during the reign of King Joash of Judah. He tried to censor the monarch and was killed for his troubles, being stoned to death in the court of the Temple. 

  1. Maccabees’ Tombs

To the west of Jerusalem, in the Ben Shemen Forest off Route 443 near Modi’in, are the Tombs of the Maccabees. At least officially anyway. The problem is, no one actually knows where the actual location of the Tombs of the Maccabees is. 

Many believe the group of tombs cut into the limestone caves in the official site actually belong to an ancient Christian monastery. Although some now think the real tombs could actually be a short distance away in the Yochanan Hagardi Ruins. 

It was over millennia ago, during the First Holy Temple period, when a father, his five sons, and 6,000 followers rose up against the Syrian-Greek rulers who had outlawed the practice of Judaism in the Land of Israel. The rebels become known as the Maccabees. 

  1. Rachel’s Tomb

On the northern outskirts of Bethlehem, a few kilometers south of Jerusalem, is Rachel’s Tomb. It’s situated on the Israeli side of the West Bank barrier and is the burial place of Rachel, one of the four Biblical matriarchs. The tomb is considered to be the third holiest site in Judaism and is believed to date back to the fourth century CE. 

In Jewish tradition, Rachel is considered the quintessential Jewish mother, who cares for all children in times of distress.