Mt. Herzl, which is Hebrew for “Mount of Remembrance”, is a burial site for Israel’s leaders, but also for our founding fathers and members of the country’s military who fought so hard for its independence. While a cemetery may not seem like much of a tourist site, this one puts Israel’s sense of determination into focus and is highly recommended to visit. There is also a museum there dedicated to the life of Theodore Herzl who is considered the father of modern political Zionism.
Israel’s National Cemetery
Mt. Herzl has been Israel’s national cemetery since 1951. It was in this year that the Israeli government decide it was necessary to establish a cemetery not only for Israeli political leaders, but also for military leaders and soldiers. Four prime ministers are buried here, including Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Shamir, and Levi Eshkol, as are Israeli presidents and other prominent leaders of Judaism and Zionism. Israelis hold many national celebrations and commemorative events atop Mt. Herzl.
A Divided Graveyard
Mt. Herzl cemetery is divided into sections. On the southern slope is the National Civil Cemetery of the State of Israel, which is the cemetery for political and military leaders as well as those who sacrificed their lives for the betterment of the country. It was established in 1952 when Israel under the last wished of Theodore Herzl buried his remains on top of the mountain. The National Military Cemetery is located on the northern slope, and it was established in 1948 during the heat of the War for Independence. This cemetery is in chronological order. You can walk through the cemetery and visit the brave soldiers who paid the highest price fighting in all the wars Israel has been engaged in. Some well known individuals buried there are Yoni Netanyahu the brother of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Michael Levin an American native from Philadelphia PA. who was killed in action during the 2nd Lebanon war in 2006, and Yigal Yadin who was the chief of staff.
Aside from the major cemeteries on the southern and northern slopes, visitors will find a variety of monuments. For instance, the Victims of Acts of Terror memorial opened in 1997 and pays homage to those who have been victims of terrorism since 1851. There is also the Garden of the Missing in Action, which memorializes members of the Israel Defense Forces whose resting places are unknown. It was established in February of 2004. The Nations Garden is a resting area where visiting presidents and heads of state have planted trees; there are decks overlooking the city of Jerusalem that provide spectacular views. The Hall of Names is currently under construction, and it will feature the names of 22,684 soldiers who have died while defending the country since 1860.
Mt. Herzl Location and Climate
Mt. Herzl is located on the west side of the city of Jerusalem, right beside the Jerusalem Forest. It takes its name from the founder of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl; his tomb is at the very top of the hill. It is about 834 meters above sea level making it one of the tallest peaks in Jerusalem. The summers are warm and dry, but the winters are cool and rainy. Snowfall is incredibly rare but does occur, and Mt. Herzl sees more rain than many other parts of Israel at an average of 24 inches per year.
While in Jerusalem, be sure to visit Mt. Herzl, which is home to a variety of cemeteries and resting places for fallen Israelis, Jews, and Zionists.