For the first time since Israel’s establishment, a state-sponsored memorial service was held today (Tuesday) for poor Jerusalemites from ages past who are interred in the Sambuski Cemetery on Mount Zion, and whose graves were desecrated over decades of neglect and vandalism.

The ceremony was held in the presence of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Rabbi Meir Porush, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, Israel Prize laureate and director of the Elad association David Be’eri and representatives of Midreshet Reishit Yerushalayim.

The state-sponsored memorial ceremony in the presence of the minister of Jerusalem affairs and heritage, the mayor of Jerusalem and the director of the Elad association. Photo: Gil Mezuman, City of David

For centuries, the Sambuski Cemetery on Mount Zion was the final resting place for Jerusalem’s poor. About 80 years ago, there was a massive destruction of most of the 15,000 square meters cemetery. Thousands of gravestones were desecrated and the bones of some of the deceased were exposed.


For decades, the cemetery, which remained in no-man’s land after the War of Independence, was neglected and abandoned. The gravestones were ripped out and the names of the deceased were obliterated. But a turning point has come with the cemetery’s extensive restoration, now underway.

With support of partners that include the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, the Elad association, the Sephardic Burial Society and the Administrator General’s Office, the cemetery will be rehabilitated and the dignity of the deceased restored.


Heaps of refuse and building debris that had accumulated over the years of neglect have been removed, and the gravestones scattered on the surface have been collected in order to be properly positioned.

Memorial Ceremony
The Samboski cemetery after the restoration work. Photo: Eliyahu Yanai

Today, the seventh of the Hebrew month of Adar, the anniversary of Moses death as well as the date that commemorates the deceased whose burial places are unknown, a moving memorial ceremony was held in the presence of Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Rabbi Meir Porush, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, and David Be’eri, Israel Prize laureate and director of the Elad Association, which has worked in recent years to rehabilitate the cemetery.  The ceremony was the initiative of Midreshet Reishit Yerushalayim.

Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Porush said at the ceremony: “It is our moral obligation to protect the honor of the deceased, whose gravestones were vandalized over decades. I am grateful for the privilege to be here today, after we closed the circle and helped restore the dignity of the deceased. The Jewish people cherishes its past and views as an obligation and privilege the respect of its deceased. Recently, a non-Jewish cemetery here in the city was vandalized, which I condemned, and the Israel Police took serious action against the suspects in that incident. I expect us to conduct ourselves in the same way toward Jewish cemeteries, and we will insist on this before the whole world”.

Mayor Moshe Leon said in his remarks: “Over hundreds of years, the poor of Jerusalem, who could not afford to purchase a burial site on the Mount of Olives, were interred in the Sambuski Cemetery on Mount Zion. The dignity of these people who lived in Jerusalem and were buried so modestly, some too poor as to afford a gravestone, was desecrated and trampled. Today, we have the privilege of holding a ceremony sponsored by the State of Israel, and restoring the memory of those interred here”.