25 January 2010

Jerusalem: Mount of Olives now online

The world's oldest Jewish cemetery just went online, according to the Jerusalem Post.

More than 20,000 gravestones have already been documented, but there are some 200,000-300,000 in the cemetery. There's a lot still to do.

Mount of Olives burials go back some 3,000 years, to the First and Second Temple periods, and continues today. From 1948-1967, when Jordanians were in charge of the area, there was severe destruction, including broken and destroyed tombstones, with others used to pave floors in Jordanian army camps. During that era, a road was paved south from the top of the mountain. The road to Jericho was widened. All of this took place on top of the graves.

Following the Six Day War, the cemetery was slowly restored. Until now, however, there has been no major effort to map and record graves or to decipher and restore names on the tombstones.

Workers identify the graves and locate them on the map. The website allows global viewers to zoom in on an aerial photo and see a photo of each grave. Each name listed shows available information and a photograph, while users can upload additional data and photos about their loved ones and others who are buried there.

Those planning a visit can also create (and print) a map and route of graves to visit.

Read the story here, about the website, which is available in English, Hebrew and Russian.

Tracing the Tribe's experience with the database:

Search the database with only one letter. I searched for D (Dardashti) and for T (Talalay/Talalai) and J/I (Jassen/Iasin), but none were listed yet, although I know some who are buried there. I'm sure they will be listed eventually. Using the first letter or the first two letters of the surname produces a drop-down list of possibilities. However, if you put in the first three letters of a surname, there is no drop-down list. However, the list appears if you put in the first three letters of a given name.

Doing a search for COHEN, I found COHEN YAZDI. I clicked on the results and found the grave of Lea Cohen Yazdi who died March 27, 1944. On the map I could zoom to the specific grave. Here's a portion of the map that showed (the red dot is the grave):

I clicked on Grave Details and saw this:

This was interesting as the burial society was listed as Spanish, yet the surname of YAZDI indicates a Persian origin.

Here is the actual gravestone photo, after using Snag-It and adjusting brightness and contrast.

According to the news story:

A 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.

The project's public relations director Udi Ragones hopes the web site will give people around the world an opportunity to clear the dust from generations of their loved ones' graves. The project is fascinating from both personal and historical perspectives.

Read the complete story here.


  1. I saw a photo of the Mount of Olives cemetary this morning on the internet. It is so beautiful.

  2. Important functions don't work unless you have Internet Explorer!
    Another site designed by techies out of touch with the real world!