Mount of Olives Cemetery 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
More than a million Israelis are estimated to visit cemeteries this week ahead
of Remembrance Day, in honor of more than 22,993 fallen soldiers. Mount Herzl
Military Cemetery in Jerusalem will become a mass of humanity as friends and
families crowd around the graves of loved ones.
But despite the crowds at
the cemeteries, hundreds of graves belonging to soldiers who have no descendants
or family in Israel will be bare of flowers and memorial candles this year. One
Jerusalem group is working to make sure that the names of these soldiers are not
Youth for Jerusalem is spearheading the new “Adopt a Fallen
Soldier” program to encourage high school students to learn about a single
soldier buried on the Mount of Olives and visit their grave on Wednesday
Many of the soldiers were Holocaust survivors who were the only
remaining member of their family and were killed fighting in the War of
The project was born after Hila Zisberg took a tour of the
cemetery with the Mount of Olives Information Center.
The ancient Jewish
cemetery overlooking the Temple Mount is better known as the burial site of
famous rabbis, including Rabbi Avraham Kook, and former prime minister Menachem
Zisberg was surprised to learn that there are also 228 soldiers
buried in the cemetery, most of whom died in the War of Independence, and many
of whom were Holocaust survivors with no family in Israel. When the staff at the
Information Center mentioned that very few people visit these graves, she
decided to take action to ensure that the country does not forget the story of a
single soldier on Remembrance Day.
“We want to say their names out loud
on this day so they won’t be alone,” she said. “Because so many years have
passed and they didn’t have children, this year we decided to worry about them,
each and every one of them.”
Zisberg partnered with the Information
Center and a number of area high schools in Jerusalem, including Boyer High
School and the Israel Arts and Sciences High School. More than 170 students have
signed up thus far.
Each student will be responsible for researching one
soldier buried on the Mount of Olives, and presenting information to a small
group on Wednesday. Zisberg also hopes the public will attend the memorial
services on Wednesday to bring the story of these soldiers to an even wider
The Mount of Olives also hosts an official government memorial
ceremony on Wednesday, where Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin will
Rivlin welcomed the Youth for Jerusalem initiative and expressed
hope that it will expand to additional sites across the country where soldiers
with no descendants are slowly being forgotten.
“There is nothing like
the Mount of Olives to symbolize the stories of continuity and loyalty to the
land of Israel,” Rivlin said in a statement released by his office.