WZO to reveal almost identical replica to missing Herzl coffin cover

The World Zionist Organization has made an almost identical replica of the cloth that covered the coffin at his burial in Israel to be revealed on Tuesday.

July 22, 2019 22:08
3 minute read.
World Zionist Organization vice chairman Yaakov Hagoel stands next to the almost identical replica o

World Zionist Organization vice chairman Yaakov Hagoel stands next to the almost identical replica of the cloth that covered Theodore Herzl's coffin. (photo credit: WORLD ZIONIST ORGANIZATION)

It was a mystery never to be solved. For years, searches were carried out to find the embroidered cloth that once covered Theodor Herzl’s coffin.

But it was nowhere to be found.

However, on Tuesday, the World Zionist Organization will reveal a nearly identical replica of the cover as part of the ceremony commemorating 70 years since Herzl’s remains were brought to Jerusalem.

During the ceremony on Mount Herzl, to be attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, the cover will be made public for the first time since its creation.

In August 1949, a year after the establishment of the State of Israel, Herzl’s remains arrived in Israel from Austria.

“The decision to bring Herzl’s remains to Israel [then-British Mandate Palestine] had originally been made in 1935 at the [19th] Zionist Congress [in Lucerne, Switzerland],” explained Yaakov Hagoel, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization. “This decision was postponed because of the Holocaust and Herzl’s remains were only able to come to Israel in 1949.”

Hagoel told The Jerusalem Post that the remade cover is “very similar to the original, and was based on pictures of the original.
“The original cover was designed in 1936 by Oscar Strand and Arthur Weiss. Weiss designed the Judaica on the curtain,” Hagoel said.

The original was blue and white, the colors of the Zionist flag, and it had a large Star of David, which contained a lion in the middle, along with Herzl’s seven stars.

The original curtain lying on Theodore Herzl's coffin in 1949, which went missing soon after his body was buried (Credit: Wikimedia)

Above, in Hebrew, the prophecy of Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones is written along with a verse from Psalm 126 about the return to Zion, while below are Herzl’s last words from his book The Jewish State.

The women from the Women’s International Zionist Organization who sowed and embroidered it, signed it off with the words: “Ze’ev Herzl, in memory of the return of his remains to our country.”

Asked why they decided to remake the cover now, Hagoel said they “were approached two months ago by Yitzhak Weiss, who had found out that his father was one of the men who had designed the curtain. It was then that we decided to start making it. We approached an artist from the North, and it took just a few weeks to make.

“You have to think of the context. It was 1936. They were dreaming of the state, and it was also very close to the Holocaust,” Hagoel added.

He said that notwithstanding the hope that Herzl’s remains would be brought to Israel before World War II broke out, it took another 13 years for this dream to be realized.

In 1939, the curtain arrived in Mandatory Palestine and was left in the hands of Menachem Ussishkin at the JNF building. There it remained for safekeeping until Herzl’s reinterment 10 years later.

As Herzl’s coffin was taken down from display for burial, an area that became Mount Herzl, the cover was removed and meant to go to the “Herzl Room” in the JNF-KKL’s main building. However, it never reached its destination, and was never seen again.
“It’s very emotional,” Hagoel said about the cover, “after 70 years, there is finally closure.

“It also has significance because it represents how far we have come as a nation, and future generations will be able to come to Mount Herzl and to see what the cover used in the [burial] ceremony looked like, and how it represents the person who was the visionary of the State of Israel that we have today,” Hagoel stressed.

The replica will be displayed at the Herzl Museum on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

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