Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Jerusalem War Cemetery on Mt. Scopus

Yesterday I headed to Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus for an annual routine test. On the way out, I decided to take a closer look at the nearby Jerusalem War Cemetery.

Jerusalem War Cemetery on Mt. Scopus

Although the graves in the cemetery are approximately ninety years old, the cemetery is in excellent condition. I saw a team of gardeners employed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission working there, one of whom helpfully directed me to the Jewish section (located on the far left, second section as one ascends from the street).

Jewish section, Jerusalem War Cemetery on Mt. Scopus

The grave next to the Jewish one is that of an unknown soldier. The inscription reads: “A soldier of the Great War, known unto God.” I would have taken more pictures, but as the above photo shows, the sprinklers were on at the time, so I couldn’t get much closer.

Farther up, near the memorial chapel, is a memorial wall inscribed with the names of more than three thousand soldiers who fell in the Middle East whose burial places are unknown.

Jerusalem War Cemetery: Memorial Wall

The cemetery also contains the graves of several Turkish and German soldiers, who presumably died as prisoners of war.

Besides the war cemeteries in Jerusalem (including the Indian Cemetery in Jerusalem, for Sikh and Muslim soldiers from India who fought and fell here), there are other cemeteries in Beer Sheva, Ramle and Haifa. (There is also one in Gaza, but I am not sure how accessible it is these days. It was vandalized in 2004.)

Today is Tisha be-Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av), the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. Today we remember our destroyed Temples and our exiled people, and all the catastrophes that befell us throughout history.

So, my half-dozen readers may ask, what does a war cemetery on Mt. Scopus have to do with Tisha be-Av?

If I remember correctly, World War I began on Tisha be-Av, and as terrible and tragic as it was, its effects lasted far beyond Armistice Day. I felt that it would be appropriate to remember these fallen soldiers the day before the anniversary on which the war started. And, as Treppenwitz pointed out in a post from March 2006, we owe a great debt to their memory.

An easy fast.

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