The world's oldest Jewish cemetery just went online.
new project undertaken by the City of David archeological Park, located
south of Jerusalem's Old City and at the foot of the Mount of Olives
cemetery, has begun the process of identifying and documenting
tombstones throughout the entirety of the Mount of Olives and uploading
the data to the Web.
Tens of thousands of graves on the mount have already been
mapped and incorporated into a database, in the first-ever attempt to
restore the graves and record the history of those who were buried
there. The project includes the creation of a Web site
(www.mountofolives.co.il) that aims to raise awareness of the City of
David and to honor the memory of those buried in the cemetery, as well
as to inform about the tours and activities available.
Additionally, the Web site tells stories of the people buried
in the cemetery and, through a simple search window, one can locate the
documented graves by name.
"We hope that this Web site will give people all
over the world the opportunity to remove the dust of generations from
the graves of their loved ones, and to both restore and reveal the
stories buried underground," Udi Ragones, the public relations director
for the project, told The Jerusalem Post
"There's so much history there, so many stories, that this
project is fascinating both from a personal perspective as well as an
historical one," he said.
more than 20,000 gravestones have already been documented, organizers
estimate that there are between 200,000 and 300,000 in the cemetery,
which leaves an enormous amount of work left to be done.
The already documented graves include those of the reviver of
the Hebrew language, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Nobel Prize for Literature
laureate Shai Agnon, former prime minister Menachem Begin, Hadassah
Women's Organization founder Henrietta Szold, founder of the Bezalel
Art School Boris Schatz, Chaim ben Moses ibn Attar, also known as the
Ohr ha-Chaim after his popular commentary on the Torah, and Rabbi
Avraham Yitzhak Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British
Burial on the Mount of Olives dates back around 3,000 years, to
the First and Second Temple periods, and continues to this day. Under
Jordanian rule, from 1948-1967, the cemetery was badly vandalized.
Tombstones were destroyed, broken and uprooted and many were used to
pave the floors of Jordanian army encampments.
During this time, a road was paved from the top of the mountain
southward, and the road to Jericho was widened, all on top of graves.
After the Six Day War, the cemetery was slowly restored. Yet
until now, there has been no major effort to map and record the graves
and to decipher and restore the names on all the tombstones.
The number of grave-sites listed on the Web site continues to
grow, as workers identify them and pinpoint their location on the map.
The site allows users to visit the cemetery through the use of a
zoomable aerial photo of the Mount of Olives and a photo of each grave.
Every name listed includes the available information about that
person and a photograph, with the option for the user to upload more
data and photos about their loved ones and acquaintances who are buried
on the mount.
The Web site also lets visitors create a tourist map and route
of the graves that they wish to visit that can be printed complete with
driving and parking instructions.