What’s in a name?
Mount Herzl (הר הרצל) or Har Herzl is named after Dr. Binyamin Ze’ev (Theodor) Herzl, visionary of the Jewish State and founder of modern political Zionism, but is also called Mount of Remembrance (הר הזכרון) Har Hazikaron. Mount Herzl is home to two of the most emotional landmarks in the entire city: Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl. The two sites are dedicated to two very different types of grief. Yad Vashem mourns those lost in the Holocaust while Mount Herzl mourns those lost in battle. Har Herzl is on the west side of Jerusalem beside the Jerusalem Forest.
Theodor Herzl’s Grave on Har Herzl
Herzl’s tomb lies on the crest of the Mount of Remembrance (806 meters above the sea level) overlooking the Judean Hills on the west side, and both old and new Jerusalem on the east side.
Herzl asked to be buried in the Land of Israel:
I wish to be buried in a metal coffin next to my father, and to remain there until the Jewish people will transfer my remains to Eretz Israel. The coffins of my father, my sister Pauline, and of my close relatives who will have died until then will also be transferred there.
Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl created modern Zionism that led to the foundation of the Jewish state. Herzl first encountered the anti-Semitism during the Dreyfus Affair in 1894 leading Herzl to author Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) in 1896. This resulted in the convening of the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, on August 2931, 1897. Later Herzl formalized his plans in Altneuland (Old New Land) in 1902.
Herzl died in 1904 and was buried in his Vienna. In 1949 his remains were re-interred on a hill in Jerusalem adjacent to the Military Cemetery. His gravestone are often covered by rocks according to Jewish tradition, as are the graves of Yitzhak Rabin and Golda Meir.
The remains of his daughter Pauline and son Hans were moved to Mt. Herzl in 2006. Stephen Norman, Herzl’s only grandson, was reinterred on Mt. Herzl in December 2007. Herzl’s parents and sister are also buried at Mount Herzl.
Herzl Museum – Har Herzl
The new Herzl Museum is an interactive museum at the at the main entrance to Mt. Herzl, offering a glimpse into the life of Theodor Herzl. The inspiring hour-long, state-of-the-art, multimedia presentation that engages the visitor in the vision of the Jewish State. The audience joins Herzl on a journey to Zionism. The presentation takes 60 minutes and is worth investing the time. You can view the reconstruction of Herzl’s study in Vienna, with authentic furnishing and artifacts, which is on display in the museum. The was a plan to create museum dedicated to Herzl on a farm in the Hulda Forest, however the museum was never created. Only in the 1960’s was a museum created in Jerusalem on Mount Herzl, close to Herzl’s gravesite. This museum failed and was closed in 2000. The new Herzl Museum was built in 2005 following the 100th anniversary of Herzl’s death in 1904.
The museum is split into four exhibition spaces, three of them showing different eras of Herzl’s life:
- His life in Vienna
- The Dreyfus trial
- The Zionist Congresses in Basel until his early death at the age of 44.
The highlight of the tour is the fourth room where visitors are given a view of the accomplishments of the Jewish state – as Herzl said:
“If you will it, it is no dream.”
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- Summer : June 1st – August 31st 08:00 – 18:45
- Winter: September 1st – May 31st 08:00-16:45
- Fridays and Eve of the Holiday: 08:00-13:00
- Entrance should be coordinated in advance. Tours in English are available.
- The Mt. Herzl site will be closed to visitors on Yom Kippur and Israel Independence Day.
The museum is fun for children, but is recommended for children 8+. Entrance fee required. The museum is airconditioned.
Accessibility: Facilities for disabled guests are available.
National Civil Cemetery – Great Leaders of the Nation’s Plot – Helkat Gedolei Ha’Uma
The ceremonial plaza on top of Mount Herzl ( Har Herzl ) just south of the grave of Theodor Herzl is the place which the Independence Day celebrations begin every year. A Menorah sculpture located at the entrance plaza of Mount Herzl is dedicated to the Third Temple. This sculpture was built in 2002 by the Ben Zion Tzefoni. The Garden of the Nations is a public garden with olives trees planted by visiting foreign leaders. On each tree there is a plaque with the name of the leader who plant that tree.
A memorial path that was built in 2003 between Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem. It was designed by Uri Abramson with pictures on the walls re-telling the beginning of Zionism up to the birth of the State of Israel . The path begins from Helkat Gdolei Ha’Uma and ends at the entrance of the Yad Vashem museum.
This is Israel’s main cemetery for the Great Leaders of the Nation (חלקת גדולי האומה):
- Presidents (Zalman Shazar, Chaim Herzog, Shimon Peres), Prime Ministers (Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, and his wife Leah Rabin), Presidents, Knesset speakers (Yosef Sprinzak), government ministers (first Minister of Finance Eliezer Kaplan) and other chosen national leaders (Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek).
- A separate plot is reserved for the Presidents and chairmen of the World Zionist Organization, among them David Wolffsohn, Nahum Sokolow, Simcha Dinitz, and Arieh Dulzin.
- In the same section as the WZO Plot are the graves and cenotaphs of close relatives of Theodor Herzl.
- The grave of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and his family is in a separate plot southwest of Herzl’s grave. This re-burial was fiercely opposed by the Labour Party. Only in 1964 did Prime Minister Levi Eshkol decide in favor of burying him there
There are several memorials in the National Civil Cemetery next to Helkat Gedolei Ha’Uma:
- Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial: The Memorial was opened in 1997, and every year a main ceremony is held on the plaza, in memory of the victims of terror.
- Olei Hagardom plot: Jewish underground fighters executed for their activities
- Common grave of the 204 illegal immigrants who went down with the 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
- Beta Israel Memorial for the Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia
National Military Cemetery – National Military and Police Cemetery Har Herzl
The low graves in the National Military Cemetery on Har Herzl, just one foot (30 cm) from the ground, were first introduced at Mount Herzl by Hungarian Jewish architect Asher Hiram (neé Sigmund Kerekes) and are now a common element of Israel’s military cemeteries. Thus the mourners are forced to their knees before the dead. Hiram dictated the size and positioning of the headstones [but not the material from which they are made, as he preferred bronze]. He also designed the ancient-seeming font. Hiram called for uniformity of graves, despite age or rank. He also decided on the garden bed, rooted in soil, over the graves.
The main Israel Defense Forces cemetery and Israel Police cemetery are located on the northern slope of Mt. Herzl. Yad Vashem is on the west side of Mount Herzl. During the War of Independence in August 1948-49, Israeli soldiers were still being buried in the temporary cemetery in Sheikh Bader (Givat Ram). On November 17, 1949, the first of the military’s dead – the remains of those who fought in Latrun, in Kfar Etzion and the Convoy of 35, along with those buried in Sheikh Bader – some 300 people in all – were buried in a communal grave in the cemetery.
The 25 acres of graves in the IDF cemetery include:
- Jewish soldiers in the Red Army, Polish Army and the Yishuv (Jewish communityin Palestine) in World War II
- Memorial 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 Palmach sea commandoes who disappeared during Operation Boatswain under British command in 1941
- Common grave of the Nabi Daniel Convoy of 27 March 1948 (15 dead)
- Garden of the Missing in Action (burial places are unknown from 1914 todate)
- Monument for the fallen fighters of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem (surrendered on 28 May 1948)
- Memorial for the 69 soldiers who went down with the Dakar submarine in 1968 and whose bodies were never recovered
- Common grave of the defenders of Neve Yaakov, Battles of Latrun, Radar Hill, Kfar Etzion and the Convoy of 35
- 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)
- Soldiers who fell since 1990
- Six-Day War
- Yom Kippur War
An Second Temple Jewish burial cave was found in the military cemetery in 1954 and was integrated inside the cemetery.
This is probably not a good place for young children, who may not understand the gravity of their surroundings. Some of the families one sees in the cemetery are mourning the fresh loss of a family member.