Mount Herzl National Cemetery

September 13th 2010

Israel’s national cemetery, Mt. Herzl is named for Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, who is also buried there. Mt. Herzl is located in western Jerusalem, not far from Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. These two memorials make the area a poignant destination for all visitors to Israel.

Mt. Herzl is structured around a series of distinct sections. The National Civil Cemetery includes the tombs of nearly all deceased former presidents and prime ministers of Israel, including Golda Meir and Yitzchak Rabin – as well as important and well-known Jewish and Zionist leaders, such as beloved Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek and Jewish Legion founder Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Some individuals, most notably David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister and Menachem Begin, the sixth, are buried elsewhere according to their wishes.

The National Military Cemetery was established on Mt. Herzl in 1948 when soldiers who were killed in the fight for Israel’s independence were buried here. A year later, the site was inaugurated as the main burial ground for all fallen Israeli soldiers. The unembellished graves of fallen soldiers are, for the most part, organized according to the war during which they fell. All soldiers, regardless of their rank or unit, are buried side by side and the modest graves recording only name, rank and places and dates of birth and death. Israeli police officers who have fallen in the line of duty are also buried there.

In 1998, an area known as the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial was erected on the grounds of Mt. Herzl for all victims of terror in Israel from 1851 to the present day. Its walls contain the names of all victims of terror, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, and its design is meant to express the resolute nature of the Jewish people towards those who desire to destroy Israel.

Many memorial events and national celebrations are conducted on the wide plazas of Mt. Herzl, including the annual national ceremony on Yom HaZikaron (Day of Remembrance of Fallen Israeli Soldiers and terror victims), which is held there each spring.

Given the seriousness of the site, Mt. Herzl is not the most appropriate place to take young children, particularly given that visitors might come into contact with Israeli families who are grieving a recent loss.