Israel Studies 25.2 • doi 10.2979/israelstudies.25.2.04 72
Zionist Pantheons? The Design
and Development of the Tombs of
Herzl, Weizmann and Rothschild
During the Early Years of the
State of Israel
The article discusses the unique burial sites constructed during the early
years of the State of Israel, for three exemplary Zionist figures—Herzl,
Weizmann and Rothschild and probes the dilemmas surrounding their
interment away from “ordinary” mortals, and contrary to Jewish custom.
The article focuses on the designs of Mount Herzl, the Weizmann Institute
and Ramat Hanadiv, (the memorial for Baron Edmond de Rothschild) and
the process of change these underwent as the original architectural plans
were replaced by a more modest style and scale.
Three exemplary Zionist figures were buried in Israel within
a decade of independence: in 1949, Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl,
‘Visionary of the Jewish State’, was reinterred in Jerusalem; in 1952,
Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel, was buried in Rehovot; and
in 1954, Baron Benjamin Edmond de Rothschild, ‘the Benefactor’ who
supported Jewish colonization in Palestine during the Late Ottoman and
Early Mandate periods, was reinterred in 1954 in Ramat Hanadiv, near
The Sheridan Press
#ionist Pantheons4 • 73
The burial sites of visionaries, heroes, men of letters and politicians
are promoted in various parts of the world as national symbols and focal
points in an evolving national map, and Zionist-Israel is no different in
this regard. Within a short period after its founding, Israel boasted dozens
of secular “holy places”, historical and archaeological sites associated with
a mythical Zionist past. Cemeteries and special “sacred” tombs played an
important role in the emergence of a symbolic Zionist landscape. The
raised tombs of key figures were cultivated as heritage sites and national
In this context, then, the burial sites of Herzl, Weizmann and
Rothschild were developed as focal points, national “holy sites” and centers
of Zionist heritage. Notwithstanding a number of studies devoted to the
centrality of cemeteries in the Israeli landscape,1
little has been written
on the debate surrounding Zionist mausoleums and the architecturally
designed tombs of Zionist notables.
The historical processes that accompanied the construction of burial
sites for Herzl, Weizmann and Rothschild raise a number of questions:
Why were these three chosen to beinterred in unique burial sites, separated
from “ordinary” mortals, and contrary to Jewish tradition?2 Why were they
buried specifically in Jerusalem, Rehovot and Ramat Hanadiv? What role
did architecture and architects play in the development of their graves as
sites of national importance? How and why was the original concept of
monumentality replaced by a minimalist design?
TOMBS AS NATIONAL SYMBOLS—WORLDWIDE
Throughout history, and in almost every part of the world, the tombs of
kings, warriors, and other notable persons were of prime importance in the
development of local religion and identity. In the course of the modern era,
the phenomenon first expanded and later diminished. With the emergence
of nationalism, the mausoleums of state leaders and visionaries were developed as sacred places and pilgrimage sites. Monumental architecture was
used to emphasize the importance of the deceased and impress visitors.3
This phenomenon began in early antiquity in the monumentalism that
characterized the burial sites of key figures. Imposing mausoleums from the
pyramids in Egypt to the tombs of the Assyrian kings were cultivated as
sites of worship. Such too were the colossal tombs of the Roman Emperors
viewed as gods, the largest structures in the imperial cities.4
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74 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
As Christianity spread through the Roman Empire and paganism
declined, the tombs of Christian martyrs rose in importance.5 Churches
built on their sites replaced pagan temples and changed the city skylines.
The centrality of churches intensified during the medieval period and
subsequently, most European kings were buried in massive cathedrals, side
by side with local saints and bishops.6
The Enlightenment and the process of secularization following the
French revolution significantly altered the character of mausoleums.
Revolutionaries, philosophers, men of letters—they too could now be
buried there. The tombs of kings were removed with contempt from the
Basilica of Saint Denis during the Revolution and the unfinished Church of
Saint Genevieve became the burial site of French intellectuals.7 France paid
homage to the founding fathers of the Republic. Heroism and power had
lost none of their appeal. Napoleon Bonaparte was buried in a monumental
building in the heart of Paris.8
It was an era of revolutions. In the USA, following the Revolutionary
War of 1776 and the Civil War 1861-65, the tombs of great Americans
were transformed into national pilgrimage destinations. Most prominent
among these was the tomb of the sixteenth president of the United States,
Abraham Lincoln, who was buried in a monumental mausoleum in the
local cemetery of Springfield, Illinois.9 The Russian Revolution which
began in 1917 likewise altered the nation’s commemorative culture. Instead
of theTsars and their families, it was now Bolshevik leaders and communist
ideologues who received burial in prime locations. Vladimir Lenin who
died in 1924, was embalmed and laid to rest in an impressive mausoleum,10
similar to the colossal tombs of many totalitarian and Fascist leaders which
were promoted as national symbols. Such a monument in Valle de los
Caidos [the Valley of the Fallen] near Madrid was the burial site of Spanish
dictator, Francisco Franco.
The rise of modern nation states in the 20th century intensified the
building of mausoleums for their founders and visionaries as a means of
consolidating local identity. The mausoleums of Mustafa Kamel Ataturk
(first president of the Republic of Turkey) built in Ankara in 1945, and
Sun Yat-Sen (founding father of the Republic of China) built in 1929
in Mount Zijin,12
and the resting place in Karachi of Muhammad Ali
Jinnah, founder of the State of Pakistan, became symbols of nationalist
pride.13 In Iran, the tomb of Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic
Republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution was likewise built as a national mausoleum and a site of religious and civic
pilgrimage.14 The Sheridan Press
#ionist Pantheons4 • 75
JUDAISM, ZIONISM AND TOMBS OF NOTABLES
At least since the destruction of the Second temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE
and the creation of the diaspora Jewish community, Judaism viewed burial
(and reburial) in the Land of Israel as an ideal. The precedent for this is
found in the Bible. As Jacob lay dying in Egypt, he requested his son Joseph
to carry his remains back to Canaan and lay him to rest with his forefathers
there (Genesis 47:29-30; 50:13). The Israelites carried Joseph’s remains from
Egypt to the Land of Israel and buried him there near the city of Shechem
In reality, the removal of the remains of Jews from the Diaspora to
Palestine was rather limited with only a few examples for this in the course
of two millennia.15 The lack of extensive historical evidence for such a
custom would seem to indicatethat it was uncommon and that the practice
of re-internment emerged rather at a later period in the history of Judaism.
It was only during the 20th century that the custom of interring the forefathers and visionaries of Zionism in the Land of Israel was initiated and the
question arose of whether to place their graves in existing-historical cemeteries (such as the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem)
or in new burial sites that would be linked to the Zionist enterprise. Herzl’s
passing in 1904 and the reading of his will with a request to be reinterred in
the Land of Israel,16 influenced the future of Zionist burial and reinterment
in a fundamental way. Herzl’s last wish obliged his successors in the Zionist
movement to find suitable burial sites for him and other Zionist leaders.
The reinterment in 1934 of Yehuda Leib Pinsker in the Nicanor cave
outside the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus was a turning point in
this respect. Menachem Ussishkin, President of the Jewish National Fund,
proposed turning this SecondTemple period caveinto a national pantheon,
a place where all the Zionist visionaries including Herzl, would be buried.
Ussishkin was the driving force behind the attempt to develop Jerusalem
as the future resting place of the Zionist forefathers. In this regard, he was
in competition with Meir Dizengoff, the mayor ofTel-Aviv who attempted
to make the new city and the local Trumpeldor cemetery as a future resting
place for leaders of the Zionist movement.17 The widely-attended funeral
in 1926 of Max Nordau, president and vice-president of several Zionist
congresses, established the Tel-Aviv cemetery as “a precious and unique
national asset, which contains evidence, etched in stone, of the glory days
of the nation’s rebirth.”
18 Nordau’s tomb, which was covered by a “tent”
designed by Benjamin Chelnov in 1937,
19 was one of the first mausoleums
to be constructed in pre-state Israel.The Sheridan Press Later, many of the city’s founders and
76 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
cultural figures were buried there, alongside other prominent characters in
the history of the city and the Yishuv.
The 1948 War and the establishment of the State of Israel sharply
altered the relationship between the Zionist movement and Jerusalem.
The declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the end of 1949 accorded
a unique status to the city and influenced the choice of a location for
the Jewish-Zionist pantheon. The most important burial site established
during this period was Mount Herzl. Herzl’s grave, the military cemetery
beside it and the adjacent section reserved for the nation’s leaders were
combined to create an impressive site that reinforced Jerusalem’s status
as the nation’s capital. David Wolffsohn (second president of the World
Zionist Organization (WZO), Nahum Sokolow (President of the WZO),
Ze’ev Jabotinsky (Revisionist Zionist leader) and Hannah Szenes (paratrooper trained to rescue Jews during the Holocaust) are among those who
were buried there after Herzl. Their graves contributed to the importance
of Mount Herzl as a center of secular sanctity and the need to determine
the structural features of future burial places for Israel’s leaders.
“THE IMMORTAL HERZL—HIS TOMBSTONE—IS THE
STATE OF ISRAEL”
On July 3, 1904, Theodor Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl passed away. In his will he
had requested a modest funeral without eulogies. “I wish to be buried in
a metal coffin, in the cemetery plot next to my father, and I will lie there
until the people of Israel transfer my body to the Land of Israel.”
21 On July
7, he was buried in the family plot in the Dobling cemetery of Vienna.
Members of the WZO wanted to fulfill his last wish, but first they
had to decide when to send the coffin from Vienna to Palestine, and where
in the Land of Israel to reinter his remains. In Haifa, a “Committee for
Bringing Herzl’s Remains” was formed which insisted on his burial in their
city. They based their claim on the words Herzl put in the mouth of Joseph
Levy, the hero of his utopian novel, Altneuland “And when I die, lay me
beside my dear friend Fischer, up therein the Carmel cemetery, overlooking
our beloved land and sea.”
22 Tel-Aviv’s mayor, Meir Dizengoff insisted
that the first Hebrew city should be Herzl’s last resting place. Jerusalem
also competed over the privilege, but the Zionist movement’s ambivalent
attitude towards Jerusalem made that all but impossible. Jerusalem was
regarded more as a holy city and center of Orthodox Judaism than a hub
of Zionist activity.
The Sheridan Press
#ionist Pantheons4 • 77
Only after Israel had declared its independence on and the War of
Independenceended in 1949 did it become possibleto proceed energetically
with the suspended plans for reinterring Herzl’s remains. The government,
together with the Jewish Agency and the WZO, formed a joint committee
to examine the options. At the end of January 1949, they chose Herzl’s
burial site, a hill near Jerusalem’s Bayit VeGan neighborhood. It was not
the obvious choice, situated as it was at the far western extreme, beyond
the city limits. The only advantage the hill near Bayit VeGan had to offer
was its position as the highest point in western Jerusalem.23
Herzl’s funeral was held on August 17, 1949. His coffin had been placed
in Tel-Aviv the previous day and then at the courtyard of the National
Institutions building in Jerusalem for public viewing. The ceremony culminated with Herzl’s interment on the summit of Mount Herzl.
Some had called for a monument to be erected above his tomb even
before the reinterment ceremony, but it was ultimately decided merely to
dig the gravefor the time being and to defer work on thesurrounding space
until after the funeral. A provisional planning of the tomb was assigned to
the architect Yosef Klarwein.24 A small temporary memorial stone stated:
“At this site, the tent and memorial stone will be set up for the grave of
Herzl, who was brought here for eternal rest on the 22nd of Av, 5709.” The
temporary memorial stone was placed in a round flowerbed surrounded by
posts and chains, behind which the visitors stood.25
In 1950, the WZO appointed a panel of judges to formulate the guidelines of a design competition for the site.26 The question of the visibility
of the “mausoleum” (as it was called in the discussions) from other parts
of the city was crucial. In September 1950, the WZO executive committee
announced the competition which offered a monetary prize for the designs
of Mount Herzl and Herzl’s tomb. The judges stressed that the design of
Mount Herzl and Herzl’s tomb must convey the Jewish people’s reverence
and admiration for Herzl. The plan, they emphasized, should blend in well
with the landscape and its unique historical character and express the high
esteem in which the people of Israel hold Theodor Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl.
The tomb should be adorned “within the proper bounds for a popular
movement like Zionism and a young country, Israel, which is in its nascent
state and occupied with the ingathering of the exiles.” The judges added
that the architects should takeinto account thelimits of the “Israeli” [rather
than Jewish] tradition in the design of the tomb.
The competition ended in June 1951. More than sixty proposals had
been submitted by many of Israel’s leading architects.Thejudgesemphasized
the “extraordinary ” nature of the project which called for an architectural The Sheridan Press
78 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
solution unprecedented in the history of Zionism: the burial of a Zionist
leader in what was expected to become the principal mausoleum and
pantheon of the State, adapted to the remarkable landscape of Jerusalem.28
Their decision was to designate the first prize to Yosef Klarwein. Unlike
other plans, which were artistically complex, Klarwein’s were simple and
modest.29 The “tent” he proposed on the “crest of the hill” was a domed
structure six meters high and thirty meters in diameter, supported by fortyfour “ribs” (the number of Herzl’s years), with open spaces between them
Fig. 1. Yosef Klarwein’s model of Mount Herzl (CZA, PHPS\1338791).
Fig. 2. Yosef Klarwein’s model of Herzl’s Tomb (CZA, S5\11343).
The Sheridan Press
#ionist Pantheons4 • 79
for passage. This was intended to maintain a visual connection with the
The plan was accepted as “a basis for fulfillment,” and the judges
suggested changes in the domed structure and the general arrangement
of access to the grave, the stairways, paths, and roads. It was agreed that
the architect would decide on the revisions in conjunction with a special
committee to be appointed by the WZO Executive Committee.
For budgetary and bureaucratic reasons, the grave site remained in its
initial condition in the following years. The surroundings were enhanced,
however; roads and paths were paved, and an entrance with seven gates
was built to reflect the seven stars in Herzl’s proposed design for the flag
of the Jewish state.30
However, as time passed, opposition grew to the building of a dome
over the grave.31 “Let our leader rest eternally without a tent or dome or
monument above his grave,” protested Umberto Shlomo Nahon of the
On July 15, 1960, the centenary of Herzl’s birth, a new marker was
unveiled. Jewish communal representatives placed pebbles in small blueand-white bags on the grave. “With the setting up of the tombstone and
the planting of the park, the design and development of Mount Herzl are
complete,” the Zionist Executive announced proudly. The explanation for
the change executed in the plan for Herzl’s tomb and the relinquishment of
the dome was that over the years since 1949, visitors to the site had become
accustomed to its provisional style and “found its simplicity and modesty”
appropriate. Klarwein’s 1960 design for the tombstone was now described
as a “monumental memorial.”
YAD CHAIM WEIZMANN
Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, passed away in November 1952.
The decision to bury him next to his Rehovot home originated with his
personal request. Like Mount Herzl, the president’s tomb was part of a
wider commemorative complex which included the Weizmann Institute
and his final residence.34
Consultations about Weizmann’s resting place and his commemoration
began in 1952, when his deteriorating health and thefear that he might soon
dieled the government, theIDF and the Policeto start planning his funeral.
In July 1952, and the months that followed, the IDF and the police secretly
rehearsed thefuneral and the arrangements codenamed “Operation Josef ”.35 The Sheridan Press
80 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
In parallel, Sir Simon Marks, a British businessman and an active
Zionist philanthropist, was called in to discuss Weizmann’s final resting
place and commemoration with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Bearing in mind Weizmann’s special connection with Rehovot, Marks
suggested that the president should be commemorated next to the institute
he had founded and that the site was sure to become a “focal point in Israel
The government discussed Marks’ proposal in June1952 and decided to
nominate a planning committee
comprised of representatives from various
governmental offices and Zionist bodies,38
and chaired by Meyer Weisgal,
later president of the Weizmann Institute.
The committee decided that the area surrounding Weizmann’s Institute
and the President’s residence would be developed as a national memorial
site and a center of “science and culture surrounded by orchards, gardens,
lawns and avenues” combining “beauty, durability and usefulness.” The site
was to reflect the president’s main fields of interest, namely, Zionism and
science.39 The committee proposed that the site, surrounded by greenery,
would comprise the Weizmann Institute itself—an international scientific
and cultural center that would attract visitors from Israel and abroad; the
presidential residence which would be converted into a national museum;
a library with a collection of Zionist books and documents; an amphitheater for scientific conventions; a school of the arts and an exclusive hotel.40
Weisgal was authorized to start planning the vast complex with a group of
architects who would survey the area and design it.41
All this activity preceded Weizmann’s death on November 9, 1952.
He was given a state funeral and buried to the east of his home next to a
plot of land that had been allocated for this purpose. On November 16,
during a memorial service held next to the fresh tomb at the end of the
week of mourning, Ben-Gurion stated that the government and the Jewish
Agency had decided to establish a “gal-ed,” that is, a monument for the late
president in Rehovot. Called “yad [the memorial of] Chaim Weizmann”
(originally named “yad Chaim”) it would contain a site dedicated to the
late president and his long activity and devotion to Zionism and science.42
Following Jewish tradition, the president’s grave was surmounted by
a stone on the thirtieth day after his death. The tomb was encircled with a
paved oblong plaza, slightly raised,43 and bordered by a metal chain and a
few months later, by verdant foliage. The surroundings of the tomb were
understood to be temporary since the “Yad Chaim Weizmann” committee
had advanced a plan to announce an architectural competition for the
design of the tomb and its environs.The Sheridan Press
#ionist Pantheons4 • 81
Members of the committee deliberated whether this contest should be
limited to commissioned architects or be open to all, and likewise, whether
it should it be open solely to Israeli architects or also to Jewish professionals
living in the Diaspora. In the background was the 1950 competition for
the plan of Herzl’s tomb on mount Herzl and the dome over it. As with
the site of Mount Herzl, leaving Weizmann’s tomb in the open seemed
The acting committee decided to cooperate with the Association of
Engineers and Architects in Israel, and to launch an open competition
“among Israel’s artists and all the Jews of the world who would like to come
to Israel and to take part in this competition.”
44 In their designs, architects
and sculptors were asked to bear in mind “the two crowns that Weizmann
bore on his head—statehood and science”. The tomb was to be a place of
“communion,” symbolizing the principal “trends of his life” and his pursuits
in the fields of “statehood, culture and science.” The artists were also asked
to plan a simple, modest tomb, and at the same time to emphasize the
high esteem in which the late president was held in Israel. The provision of
“modesty” wasexplained as follows: “Despitethefact that we want to adorn
the tomb and the [surrounding] area, the solution should be found inside
the boundaries of a young state receiving immigrants from the different
corners of the world.” As in Mount Herzl, the contestants were requested
to heed the limits of “Israel [!] tradition” and to use only local building
materials for the tomb.
Of the forty-eight contestants who submitted plans to the competition by October 1953, the one selected was that of the young and unknown
architects, Yehuda Bergman and Ezra Rosengarten.46 They suggested
surmounting Weizmann’s tomb with a trapezoid structure, its longer side
adjacent to Weizmann’s residence and its shorter side over the tomb, facing
Jerusalem to the east. The architects decided that the tomb itself would
be built of plain thick white cement, symbolizing modern progress and
vision, and the walls of untreated basalt would suggest authentic localism.47
The judges determined that Bergman and Rosengarten’s conception of the
“burial cave” would create a series of “changing impressions suitable for
the site of the tomb and its purpose”. They added that the natural lighting,
together with the proposed basalt walls and the “burial cave” would establish an appropriate atmosphere for the monument of the late president.48
Bergman’s and Rosengarten’s plan for the tomb was never implemented. Although the reason for this is not documented, I suspect it had
to do with Vera Weizmann, the president’s wife. As she was not consulted
about the plans before or during theThe Sheridan Press competition she was dissatisfied with
82 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
the results. Moreover, certain members of the “Yad Chaim Weizmann”
committee were apparently disappointed that the winners where not among
the leading architects in Israel.49
On the second annual Memorial Day for Weizmann (November
1954), Meyer Weisgal announced that the committee had decided that
because the chosen plan for the surrounding structure and landscape “is
not fitting reality” and lacked the desired “simple, modest” style would
not be executed after all.50
It was agreed that no additional structure would
be added to the tomb in future. This decision resulted in the building of
a low wall behind the grave and the gradual planting of greenery in the
Fig. 3. Bergman and Rosengarten’s plan for Weizmann’s tomb (‘The Public
Competition for the Design of Weizmann’s (z”l) Tomb,’ Journal of the Association of Engineers and Architects in Israel, 2:12 (March-April 1954): 11-12).
The Sheridan Press
#ionist Pantheons4 • 83
surrounding area.51 The frustrated architects, who learned of the decision
to abandon their plan only from the press, warned that any change would
require consultation with them.52
Nonetheless, the tomb’s modest appearance still did not satisfy Vera
Weizmann who demanded that it should be changed in accordance with her
wishes, and that thesiteshould resemble a memorial in Runnymede, England,
for the British Royal Air Force pilots killed during the war.
53 In this way Vera
Weizmann hoped to commemorate both her husband and her son Michael,
a combat pilot missing in action whose plane had crashed during WWII.
In 1962, ten years since Weizmann’s death, a new tombstone designed
by the sculptor Moshe Zipper replaced the old one.54 At the center of the
white, elevated tombstone, a tree of life was inscribed, the symbol of the
Weizmann Institute. Some years later, Vera Weizmann was buried beside
her husband and her name was added to the tombstone a few years later.
BARON ROTHSCHILD’S MAUSOLEUM IN RAMAT HANADIV
On November 2, 1934, Edmond James de Rothschild was buried in the Père
Lachaise cemetery in Paris.56 Unlike Herzl, who had specifically requested in
his will to be reinterred in the Land of Israel, Rothschild left only vague oral
instructions. He too had apparently asked family members to reinter him
Fig. 4. Weizmann’s grave during the 1960s. Photo by Jean Thomas (YHW).
The Sheridan Press
84 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
and his wife, Adélaïde(Ada) de Rothschild, in Palestine57
and their firstborn
son, James Armand de Rothschild, fulfilled this request. Like Herzl, too,
the Rothschilds were reinterred in 1954, a full twenty years after the Baron’s
death. Their remains were buried at Ramat Hanadiv, near Zichron-Yaakov,
the colony he supported for many decades.
In 1935, officials of the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association
(PICA), representing James de Rothschild in executing his parents will in
Palestine, searched for a suitablesitefor the Baron’s reburial in the ZichronYaakov area.58
In 1936, during a visit to Palestine, James de Rothschild
approved the PICA proposal to bury his parents on a wide and barren slope
located one and a half kilometers south-west of Zichron-Yaakov.59 The main
advantage of Umm el-’Aleq, a large area the Baron had acquired during the
1920s, was its height and visibility. The site overlooked the land Rothschild
had acquired and several of the colonies he had founded and supported
along the coastal plain.
Then in May of 1936, James de Rothschild, with the support of the
Association of Engineers and Architects in Palestine, called on a few local
Jewish architects to enter a closed competition for the design of his parents’
memorial.60 The competition guidelines stipulated that the tomb should be
located in the heart of a park with rock and rose gardens and that the architectural plans should symbolically represent the central role of the Baron in
the history of the Land of Israel and his place as thefather of modern Jewish
colonization. The tomb and the adjacent building had to be constructed
out of local materials and imbued with Jewish tradition.
Not long after, a few of the leading Jewish architects in Palestine
submitted their proposals for the burial site and in late 1937, the plan of
Oriel (Otto) Schiller was selected.61 He set the tomb on the ground floor
of a two story building and proposed an observation point from the roof
that would visually connect visitors to the mausoleum with thesurrounding
In June of 1938, Schiller signed a contract with PICA and later
submitted a detailed budget and an updated architectural plan supplemented with a model.63 He now suggested replacing the tall building with
a much lower one on the small hilltop where the tomb would be dug.
According to his plan, a courtyard on the slope would direct visitors to a
building which would lead in turn to a burial cave. The Rothschilds’ double
tomb would be illuminated by a special skylight in the middle of the cave.
James de Rothschild and the heads of PICA adopted this updated plan.
Schiller who was aware of the importance of the area around the burial site
and the centrality of gardens for James The Sheridan Press de Rothschild approached Shlomo
#ionist Pantheons4 • 85
Oren-Weinberg, a prominent local landscape architect and a talented
gardener, to collaborate on the planning of the vast area of Umm el-’Aleq
and particularly the gardens surrounding theselected site as a nature park.65
The outbreak of WWII halted the work at Umm el-’Aleq.66 Only after
the end of the war did the Rothschild family and PICA decide to finish the
building and set a time for the reinterment of the Baron and Baroness in
Palestine. The area adjacent to the planned tomb was not cleared until the
beginning of 1948. Roads and paths were lined up and the location of the
gardens was chosen.67
During the second half of 1949, after the War of Independence, the
digging of the burial cave began anew on a rocky hillside.68 The work was
finished in late 1953, and a unique architectural monument now stood in
Umm el-’Aleq unprecedented in the history of commemorative building
The burial combined grandeur with modesty, a European style and local
and historical motifs. The tomb was set in a virtually unornamented cave.
The building proposed in 1937 was replaced by a low edificethat blended in
with the topographic features. By contrast, a magnificent mausoleum was
revealed as one walked up the path and passed a monumental iron gate that
led to a submerged courtyard open to thesky. A water channelencircled this
Fig. 5. Oriel (Otto) Schiller’s model for the burial site of Edmond James de
Rothschild (CZA, uncatalogued).
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86 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
courtyard, adorned by a portico of black pillars on both sides. The tomb’s
basalt doors, which weighed ten tons, led to an underground corridor that
continued to the burial cave. The double black basalt sarcophagus was
located in the eastern part of the cave, facing Jerusalem.69
Fig. 6. Coffins of Edmond James de Rothschild and Adélaïde (Ada) de Rothschild in Ramat Hanadiv, April 4, 1954. Zichron-Yaakov Municipal Archive.
Photographer: Joseph Moses
The Sheridan Press
#ionist Pantheons4 • 87
With the completion of the mausoleum and the park in 1953, James de
Rothschild planned to reinter his parents the following year, two decades
after his father’s death.70 He consulted PICA officials about protocols for
the funerals of notables in Israel, like those of Herzl and Weizmann with
their combination of modesty and grandeur.
71 Hans Rowe who was the
PICA’s manager met with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion a few times and
presented him with thefamily’s plans for thefuneral.72 Ben-Gurion thought
the Rothschilds should be honored with a State funeral and proposed that
a navy ship be sent to bring their remains from France to Israel.73
In late March 1954, an Israeli ship docked in Marseille and an official
Israeli military unit took part in the ceremony at the Paris cemetery of Père
Lachaise and transported the coffins back to Marseille and from there to
Israel.74 The arrival of theship in Haifa on April 4, marked the beginning of
the funeral ceremony. When the coffins reached Ramat Hanadiv they were
entombed in the burial cave before hundreds of invited guests.75 During
the ensuing years, the gardens were further developed and Ramat Hanadiv
became a prime site for local and visiting tourists.
THE BUR IALS OF HERZL, WEIZMANN AND
Thethree burial sites discussed in this paper areinterrelated in various ways.
Aside from a basic desire to honor three important figures in the Zionist
narrative, the State of Israel, through its different agencies, wished to turn
these final resting places into sites of national heritage and pride.
Lacking an architectural tradition and taking into account Jewish
history and conditions of austerity which prevailed in Israel at the time, it
was very difficult to decide on a proper design for State burials. The solution was to announce architectural competitions that emphasized a few
recurrent elements. First, the architects were to integrate grandeur with
modesty. This was done in order to reflect and symbolize the hardships of
building the young state. Second, the graves were expected to reflect the
uniqueness of the deceased and their roles in the Zionist story. Third, the
architects were expected to combine modern architecture with JewishIsraeli tradition.
The final product differed from the aforementioned ideals. Following
a prolonged process of change due to financial and bureaucratic realities,
the bon-ton of the time was not opulence but rather the minimalism that
was reflected in the tombs of Herzl and Weizmann. Rothschild’s tomb was The Sheridan Press
88 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
different, and though its plans underwent several changes, the mausoleum
financed by the wealthy Rothschilds remained exceptionally grand.
Although Herzl and Rothschild’s requests to be reinterred in the Land
of Israel were well-known in the Jewish world years before the establishment of the State of Israel, the actual implementation was delayed for a
long time. It was only fitting, and certainly symbolic, that Herzl was the
first Zionist figure whose remains were brought to the newly founded state
for burial Israel. He was also the first Zionist leader who asked to be reinterred in the Jewish state—a model subsequently followed by many other
The funerals of Herzl, Weizmann and Rothschild and their burial in
Israel allowed for their inclusion in the “sacred” local landscape and in the
mythical narrative of the establishment of the state. One of the messages
promulgated by state leaders was that during a critical period the remains
of these “sons” were brought to rest in the sacred soil of Israel out of a sense
of gratitude and consequently their tombs had been developed as sites of
momentous significance. The transfer of Herzl’s coffin by an Israeli airplane
and that of Rothschild by an Israeli battleship and their reburial in a state
ceremony facilitated their grounding in Zionist and Israeli “hagiography”.
With the establishment of “Yad Chaim Weizmann” Israel paid a debt to
him, as it did to Herzl and Rothschild.
The funerals of these personages were designed as mass events filled
with pageantry and meant to intensify a sense of identification with Zionism
and the new Israeli ethos. The funerals and later the burial sites symbolized
national pride which allowed Israeli leaders to transmit the message that
Herzl, Weizmann and Rothschild truly belonged to the State of Israel and
its soil. Their funerals, tombs and later, their annual memorial ceremonies
brought home that notion.
The commemorative ceremonies for Herzl, Weizmann and Rothschild
were developed as national events. Herzl’s Memorial on the 20th of the
Hebrew month ofTammuz, brought many visitors to Mount Herzl, which
became a pilgrimage site on other occasions as well (mainly Independence
Day on the 5th of Iyar) and strengthened the ties between Herzl, his tomb,
and the citizens of Israel. At the Weizmann Institute, November 2 (the day
of the Balfour Declaration), wasestablished as the day of the late president’s
memorial in the plaza beside his grave, with thousands in attendance.
Rothschild’s memorial was observed for a few years, but later lost its importance and popularity, possibly because his memorial was not organized by
the state and was not anchored in the national calendar.
The Sheridan Press
#ionist Pantheons4 • 89
A few days after thereinterment of Baron Benjamin Edmond de Rothschild,
theeditor of Yedioth Ahronot, Herzl Rosenblum, contrasted Ramat Hanadiv
most favorably with other burial sites in Israel:
As we know, Nordau’s grave does not excel in any way. We will need someday
to search for the graves of Pinsker and Ussishkin with the help of geological
maps . . . Weizmann’s grave is located in a yard. Herzl’s grave might be grand
in the future. Today it is still quite neglected and is still missing what should
have been there”.
Rosenblum’s words reflect not only sarcasm but also a sense of confusion. His negative feelings, expressed in the article, allude to the hesitant
and awkward attempts during Israel’s early years to develop an impressive
national style of funerary architecture. Rosenblum’s words echo his disappointment that Israel had not yet found a concrete means of showing
gratitude to those who contributed so significantly to its founding. Similar
feelings resounded in the evening paper, Maariv, following Weizmann’s
Our national pantheon in Israel is scattered and divided like the entire Jewish
people. We have Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, where we brought from abroad
the remains of the great visionary. And we have the Nicanor Cave, with the
bones of Pinsker and Ussishkin, and they are held captive by the Legion. In
Tel-Aviv, Nordau, Ahad Ha’am [Asher Zvi Greenberg] and Bialik are resting
The Maariv article expressed he sincere desire for a state like others in the
world where the graves of national leaders would be sites of national pride
and secular pilgrimage. This was indeed the intention behind the development of the graves of Herzl, Weizmann and Rothschild. In sharp contrast
to the “conventional” cemeteries of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, unique burial
sites were developed for the first time, dedicated to those three key figures
in the history of Israel. The purpose of their grand burial sites was to
amplify their importance in the history of Zionism and to glorify their
epic role in the establishment of the State and the nation’s leaders wished
to develop them as focal points of Jewish-Israeli heritage. These burial sites
were indeed exceptional at the time.
The Sheridan Press
90 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
Nevertheless, the three sites underwent a prolonged process of change,
as the original, monumental design was replaced by a more modest style
and scale. The initial hope was that by choosing outstanding geographical
sites and by using monumental architecture, Mount Herzl, Weizmann’s
tomb and his house in Rehovot and Ramat Hanadiv would become central
features on the map of Zionist symbolism.
Nevertheless, the plans chosen for these sites were quickly recognized
as being incongruous with the Jewish and national spirit. The changes
enforced during this period madethe burial sites simpler and more modest.
The Jewish tradition, which tended to de-emphasize the importance of
tombs–as attested by the dictum “Build no monuments on the graves of the
righteous [zadikim], for their words will stand as their memorials”
influenced this process. Eventually, the uniqueness and importance of the
burial sites was achieved not through a grand style of architecture, as found
elsewherein the world, but rather through its simplicity. The exceptionality
of the three places is evident from the fact that they were designated solely
for the three notables. This created “sacred” sites that stand out from the
surrounding areas named after them. They are likewise honored by the
settlements, forests and streets named after them, a Zionist custom to this
day79 and by the “precious” parcels of Zionist land devoted to their burial
1. Maoz Azaryahu, “Mount Herzl: The Creation of Israel’s National Cemetery,”
Israel Studies 1.2 (1996): 46-74; Ron Amos, “A Rachel for Everyone: The Kinneret
Cemetery as a Site of Civil Pilgrimage,” in A. Houtman, M.J.H.M. Poorthuis and J.
Schwartz, ed., Sanctity ofTime and Space inTradition and Modernity (Leiden, 1998)
349-59; Barbara Mann, “Modernism and the Zionist Uncanny: Reading the Old
Cemetery inTel-Aviv,” Representations 69 (2000): 63-95; David Ohana and Michael
Feige, “A Funeral at the Edge of the Cliff: Israel Parts from David Ben-Gurion”,
Israel 17 (2010): 25-57; Michal Naor Wiernik and Doron Bar, “The Competition
for the Design and Development of Herzl’s Tomb and Mount Herzl, 1949–1960,”
Cathedra 144 (2012): 107-36 [both in Hebrew]; Yoram Bar-Gal, “Landscapes of
Death: the Kibbutz and the Cemetery,” Jewish Journal of Sociology 54 (2012): 67-86;
Doron Bar, Landscape and Ideology: Reinterment of Renowned Jews in the Land of
Israel, 1904-1967 (Berlin, 2016).
2. David Ben Gurion was buried in December 1973 in a unique site in Sde
Boker overlooking Wadi Zin. Ohana and Feige, “A Funeral at the Edge of a Cliff”. The Sheridan Press
#ionist Pantheons4 • 91
3. Gwendolyn Leick, Tombs of the Great Leaders: A Contemporary Guide
4. Penelope Davies, Death and the Emperor: Roman Imperial Funerary
Monuments from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius (Cambridge, 2000).
5. Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints. Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity
6. Jordan William Chester, A Tale of Two Monasteries. Westminster and SaintDenis in the Thirteenth Century (Princeton, 2009).
7. Avner Ben-Amos, Funerals, Politics and Memory in Modern France (Oxford,
8. Michael Paul Driskel, As Befits a Legend: Building aTomb for Napoleon, 1840-
1861 (Kent, OH, 1993).
9. Michael Kammen, Digging Up the Dead: A History of Notable American
Reburials (Chicago, 2010).
10. Nina Tumarkin, Lenin Lives! The Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia (Cambridge,
MA., 1983), 165-206.
11. Katherine Hite, Politics and the Art of Commemoration: Memorials to Struggle
in Latin America and Spain (London, 2012), 22-41.
12. Christopher S. Wilson, Beyond Anitkabir: The Funerary Architecture of
Atatürk. The Construction and Maintenance of National Memory (London, 2013);
Charles D. Musgrove, “Monumentality in Nationalist Nanjing: Purple Mountain’s
Changing Views,” James A. Cook et. al. ed., Visualizing Modern China: Image,
History, and Memory, 1750–Present, (Lanham, MA, 2014), 94-101.
13. Yusuf Shundana, “Monument Without Qualities: Inscribed Narratives of
Self in Public Space,” in Peter Herrle and Erik Wegerhoff, ed., Architecture and
Identity (Munster, 2008) 123-33.
14. Kishwar Rizvi, “Religious Icon and National Symbol: TheTomb of Ayatollah
Khomeini in Iran,” Muqarnas 20 (2003): 209-24.
15. Benjamin Klar, Megillat Ahimaatz (Jerusalem, 1974), 37; Moshe Gil, Eretz
Israel during the First Muslim Period (634–1099) Vol. 1 (Tel-Aviv, 1983), 516-17;
Amnon Cohen and Elisheva Simon-Pikali, Jews in the Moslem Religious Court:
Society, Economy and Communal Organization in the Sixteenth Century; Documents
from Ottoman Jerusalem Vol. 1 (Jerusalem, 1993), 75; Israel Schepansky, Eretz Israel
in the Responsa Literature: the Period of the Geonim and the Rishonim (Jerusalem,
1967), 189 [all in Hebrew].
16. Alex Bein, Theodor Herzl: A Biography (Jerusalem, 1977), 409 [Hebrew].
17. Doron Bar, Landscape, 53-8; “The Debate between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem
during the Mandate Period (1918-1948) over the Reinterment of Zionist Leaders,”
Israel Affairs 21 (2015): 500-15.
18. Tel-Aviv’s Burial society files, p. 41; Bar, Landscape, 50-3.
19. Maoz Azaryahu and Yair Shapiro, The Reinterment of Max Nordau in
Tel-Aviv, (Haifa, 2015), 22-32 [Hebrew]. [http://herzl.haifa.ac.il/images/dagesh1
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92 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
20. S. Sveslotsky, “Vision of the Resurrection of the Dead in the Knesset,”
Yedioth Ahronot, August 17, 1949.
21. Bein, Herzl, 409.
22. Theodor Herzl, Old-New Land (Altneuland) (New York, 1941), 232.
23. CZA (Central Zionist Archive), S115/117, memorandum, Joint Committee
meeting for Bringing Herzl’s Remains to the Land of Israel, January 20, 1949.
24. CZA, S5/10416, “Bring Herzl’s Bones,” S. I. Kroytner, WZO Organization
Department, September 1949.
25. CZA, KKL14/34-31, photograph of Herzl’s grave.
26. CZA, S5/10429, Judging Committee memorandum, March 29, 1950.
27. Ibid; Zionist executive committee announcement on the competition for
designing Herzl’s grave site, September 1950; “The Competition for Designing
Herzl’s grave site and D. Wolffsohn,” Davar, September 11, 1950.
28. CZA, S5/10435, Judging protocol, July 23, 1951.
29. CZA, A455/44, “Contemporary Design in Israel,” 1952; Abba Elhanani,
Israeli Architecture: The Struggle for Independence during the Twentieth Century
(Tel-Aviv, 1998) 88-93 [Hebrew].
30. “Phase Two in the Building of Herzl’s Tomb is Reaching an End,” Davar,
July 11, 1955.
31. CZA, S5/11336, Memoranda meetings at Mount Herzl, November 24 and
December 14, 1959.
32. CZA, S5/10442, Umberto Nahon to Arieh Leo Lauterbach, March 28, 1954.
33. CZA, S5/11337, Herzl’s Tomb, July 3, 1960.
34. Avner Ben-Amos, “The Commemoration of Chaim Weizmann: President,
Scientist and a Politician,” in Uri Cohan and Meir Hazan ed., Weizmann: Leader
of Zionism (Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, 2016), 575-612 [Hebrew].
35. ISA (Israel State Archives), G-6/5359, Aviv Barzely, “Duvdevan 2’ Drill
Command,” October 2, 1952.
36. YHW (Yad Chaim Weizmann), CPM (Commemoration Plaza Memorial),
Meyer Weisgal to Moshe Sharett, April 15, 1955.
37. Ibid; David Ben-Gurion nominated the committee on June 2, 1952. It
included Levi Eshkol, Minister of Finance, Avraham Granoth, chairman of the
JNF; Ben Zion Horowitz, Rehovot’s Mayor and Meyer Weisgal, general council
president and future Chairman of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
38. ISA, G-8-5383, M.W.W (apparently Meyer Wolfe Weisgal), General proposal
for thefounding of a national center named after Chaim Weizmann, Secret, August
39. CZA, S47/397, Weisgal to Ben-Gurion, March 2, 1953.
40. ISA, G-22/5746, General outline of Plan of the Chaim Weizmann National
Memorial Area (for Members of the Committee only), M.W.W, adopted by the
Committee on August 25, 1952.
41. CPM, Weisgal to Sharett, April 15, 1955.
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#ionist Pantheons4 • 93
42. Protocol of Government meeting, November 16, 1952; CZA, S47/397,
Weisgal to Ben-Gurion, March 2; “Chaim Weizmann’s Memorial,” Al-Hamishmar,
October 30, 1953.
43. The location of the tomb is marked on YHW, 59/6, Yechiel Paldi, “A Plan
for the Garden at Weizmann House in Rehovot,” December 1954.
44. CZA, S42/397, Protocol, ‘Yad Chaim Weizmann” committee meeting, June
12; CPM, Arazi to Weisgal, July 12, 1953.
45. CPM, YHW Committee, Terms of the Architectural Competition; “The
Public Competition for the Design of Weizmann’s ZL Tomb,” Journal of the
Association of Engineers and Architects in Israel 2.12 (1954): 11-12.
46. CPM, The public competition.
47. CPM, YHW Committee, Results of the Architectural Competition, October
22, 1953. The use of basalt and cement was repeated in 1961 in the building of the
‘Tent of Remembrance’ at Yad Vashem.
48. 48 .’The Public Competition.’
49. CZA, S42/397, Protocol, Planning Committee Meeting, May 11, 1955.
50. “King’s Grotto for Weizmann will not be built,” Haaretz, October 28, 1954.
51. CPM, 4, plan with no scale, names, date, with an isometric plan of the area
of the tomb.
52. CPM, Ezra Rosengarten to Weisgal, November 5, 1954.
53. CPM, v149-19, P.T.O to Weisgal, January 10, 1955.
54. CZA, KKL5/27260, A. Dishon to D. Sharf, November 1, 1962.
55. “Vera Weizmann Was Buried in Rehovot in a State Funeral,” Davar,
September 28, 1966.
56. “Details of Rothschild’s Funeral in Paris,” Doar Hayom, November 14, 1934.
57. Simon Schama, Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel (New York, 1968), 4.
58. Pictures of Umm el-’Aleq, Waddesdon Archive, JAR, 6/13/1.
59. “Rothschilds Visit the Galilee Farmland,” The Palestine Post, March 26, 1936.
60. CZA, A175/122, Yaakov Reizer to Richard Kauffmann, May 11, 1936. The
number of architects who participated in the 1936 competition is unclear.
61. Uriel (Otto) Schiller b. 1907 in Bratislava; trained as an engineer in the
Technikum Winterthur in Switzerland and later studied architecturein the Studium
der Architektur an der Akademie der Künste in Vienna. In 1934 he immigrated to
Palestine and was one of the founders of the local Association of Engineers and
Architects. While he was involved in the planning of a few buildings in various
cities and kibbutzim, the planning of Ramat Hanadiv was Schiller’s most prominent project. See Myra Warhaftig, They Laid the Foundation Stone: Life and Work
of German-Speaking Jewish Architects in Palestine 1918-1948 (Berlin, 1996), 360-1.
62. Waddesdon Archive, PICA, 8/9/1, Waddesdon, Undated Series of Pictures.
The chosen 1937 plan appears on plate 4 under the title: ‘Original proposal’.
63. CZA, J15/6993, Agreement between PICA and Schiller, June; Budget
Estimation for building of a memorial for the Late Baron Rothschild, September
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94 • isr ael studies, volume 25 number 2
64. CZA, J15/6997, ‘Uriel Schiller, theTomb of Baron Benjamin Rothschild ZL
and his wife ZL, Zichron-Ya’akov, Eretz-Israel,’ n.d. See PICA, 8/9/2, Waddesdon
for pictures of the Tomb’s model.
65. Ruth Enis and Josef Ben-Arav, Landscape and Gardens in the Kibbutz: 60
years of Development (1910-1970) (Tel-Aviv, 1994), 194 [Hebrew].
66. CZA, J15/6994, Harry Wolfson Schiller, July 9, 1940.
67. CZA, J15/9323, Um el Alaq, situation on January 15, 1948.
68. Ibid; M. Rowe to Rothschild, July 29, 1953.
69. PICA, 27/1/, Waddesdon, Rowe to James de Rothschild, June 27, 1953; “The
Funeral of the Baron and his Wife,” Haaretz, April 7; Shmuel Har-Zion, “Ramat
Hanadiv,” Zmanim, April 5, 1954 [Hebrew].
70. CZA, J15/9333, Rowe to Robert Gottlieb, September 18, 1953.
71. PICA, 27/1/3, Waddesdon, Rowe to James de Rothschild, June 27, 1953.
72. CZA, J15/9333, Rothschild to Rowe, August 13, 1953.
73. Ibid; Rowe to Gottlieb, September 18; ISA, G-6/391, Teddy Kollek to S.
Arazi, December 15, 1953.
74. IDF Archive, 55/1965, file 1200, S. Sirkin to the Navy HQ, n.d.
75. ISA, G-11/391, Operation Benefactor—appendixes for the funeral of the
Famous Benefactor, 4, March 22, 1954; CZA, J15/12710, minutes No. 100/, n.d.
76. “At the Grave of the Rebel Millionaire,” Yedioth Ahronot, April 7, 1954.
77. D. Lazar, “The Final Route is Short,” Maariv, November 12, 1952.
78. Maimonides, “Laws of Mourning,” MishnehTorah 4:4, paraphrasingTractate
79. Maoz Azaryahu, “(Re)naming the Landscape: The Formation of the Hebrew
Map of Israel 1949-1960,” Journal of Historical Geography 27 (2001): 178-95.
DORON BAR is Professor of Land of Israel Studies at the Schechter
Institute of Jewish Studies. His recent publications include: Landscape
and Ideology: Reinterment of Renowned Jews in the Land of Israel, 2016;
“Archeology and Sanctity at the Western Wall and Surrounding Area,”
Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 16 (2017); “Judaizing Muslim Holy Places
in the State of Israel, 1948-1967,” Journal of Historical Geography 59 (2018);
“Defining Sacred and Archaeological Sites in the State of Israel, 1948-1967,”
History of Religions 58.1 (2018).
The Sheridan Press
Israel Studies 25.2 • doi 10.2979/israelstudies.25.2.04 72