Tabachnik National Garden

About this place

 Tabachnik National Garden is located on the southern slopes of Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. It is situated alongside the Hebrew University and preserves several ancient Jewish tombs from the Second Temple Period (516 BC-70 AD). The garden also holds the Jerusalem American Colony Cemetery and the Bentwich Cemetery.

The park has two lookout points one faces eastwards towards the Dead Sea and another faces westward with views of Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock. Alongside the Second Temple era tombs is the City View Restaurant where there are magnificent views of the Old City.

Jewish Burial Caves: The tombs we see today date back to the Second Temple era, the time of King Herod, and of Jesus. At the time, Mt Scopus was part of an extensive necropolis. It was conveniently outside the city walls, as no burials were allowed within the city. Today you can see the openings where bodies were put and left for a year to decompose.

Then the bones were gathered and placed in an ossuary, and the caves could be used for different bodies. Until the Six-Day War of 1967, Mt. Scopus was a demilitarized zone disconnected from the rest of Jerusalem. The only Israelis allowed access were policemen who came to guard the abandoned university and other Jewish structures.

In the leadup to the Six-Day War in 1967, there was a biweekly convoy that brought Israeli policemen to the university. Israeli soldiers hid ammunition and weapons on the vehicle, and once on the mount, they hid the munition in the ancient Jewish tombs, to be used later in the battle.

The American Colony Cemetery: In 1881 Anna and Horatio Spafford of Chicago’s Christian Utopian Society established an American Colony in Jerusalem. The couple and their fellow settlers engaged in charitable works throughout Jerusalem during and after WWI. They believed that their philanthropic work would hasten the coming of the Messiah.

Later the group was joined by Swedish Evangelists. The community remained active until the 1950s, and today their former communal home is the American Colony Hotel. The humble cemetery on Mt. Scopus holds the graves of these early Christian settlers and another American Colony cemetery can be seen on Mt. Zion.

Among the American Christians buried here are Anna Spafford (1842-1923) and Jacob Spafford, the son adopted by the Spafford’s from a Turkish Jewish family. The cemetery has rows of identical grave-size gardens surrounded by a rustic stone wall.

The Bentwich Cemetery: The small Bentwich Cemetery lies alongside the American Colony Cemetery, and is Jerusalem’s first and only family burial plot. It is named after Herbert Bentwich, a British Zionist leader. Entrance to the cemetery is via a simple concrete pointed archway. Through the steepled arch, you’ll find the graves lying beneath tall pine trees.

Members of the Bentwich family are buried here. Bentwich, born in 1856, was Sir Moses Montefiore’s attorney, and he helped prepare the 1917 Balfour Declaration, proclaiming British support for the Jewish homeland. Among the tombstones that tell a story, are those of Herbert and his wife Susannah, and his son Norman who served as Attorney General during the British Mandate. Also see the gravestone carved with harps, where Herbert’s grandson Daniel lies. Daniel Balfour Bentwich was a musical prodigy and committed suicide at age 18.

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