Tourist Tip #177 / Trumpeldor Cemetery, the Final Resting Place of Israeli Greats

A calm oasis in the middle of the bustle of Tel Aviv is also home to a who's who of Israeli history and culture.

There's no shortage of famous final resting places around the world: Paris has Pere Lachaise (final home to Jim Morrison, Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde and more), London has Westminster Abbey (Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Darwin) and Washington has Arlington National Cemetery (JFK and Jackie).

Tel Aviv's first Jewish cemetery, located in the heart of the city on Trumpeldor Street, isn't exactly a pilgrimage site on par with those others, nor does it attract flocks of visitors who sidle up to graves and mourn their favorite celebs. But the cemetery is worth a visit for Jewish history buffs or anyone else looking for a quiet spot to roam peacefully amid the hubbub of Tel Aviv.

Dating back to 1902, well before the founding of the state and even before Tel Aviv was officially established, Trumpeldor Cemetery (also known as the city's "old cemetery") was established following a cholera outbreak in Jaffa. The region's Ottoman rulers prohibited burial within Jaffa's walls, prompting Shimon Rokach, a prominent Jewish leader, to buy a plot of land removed from the city to be used for Jewish burials.

Many of Tel Aviv's founders and early politicians, including Rokach, Aharon Chelouche and its first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, were laid to rest here, along with other notable Jewish leaders, artists, writers and intellectuals whose names grace street signs in Tel Aviv and most other Israeli cities.

Israel's national poet Haim Nahman Bialik is here, as are poet Shaul Tchernichovsky, writer Ahad Ha'am (born Asher Ginsburg), Zionist leaders Haim Arlosoroff and Menahem Sheinkin, and artists Nahum Gutman and Reuven Rubin. The cemetery was in use until 1932, although famous people are still buried here on occasion, like singer Shoshana Damari, the "queen of Hebrew music" who died in 2006; her tombstone is decorated with "kalaniot" (anemones), the namesake flower of the song she made famous. (The tombstones are largely in Hebrew so it's best to come with someone who can read it.)

The graves range from unadorned stone that is weathered with barely legible names to kempt and perfectly chiseled marble tombs to more eccentric styles, like one modeled after Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem and another covered in seashells.

They say that cemeteries are full of replaceable people, but a stroll through Trumpeldor shows that unique personalities shine through even after the dear have departed.

The cemetery is located on Trumpeldor Street between Pinsker and Hovevei Zion Streets, and is open in the summer from Sunday to Thursday, 6:30 A.M. – 7 P.M.; Fridays and holiday eves from 6:30 A.M. – 2 P.M. In winter it's open from Sunday to Thursday, 6:30 A.M. – 5 P.M.; Fridays and holiday eves from 6:30 A.M. – 2 P.M.

If you're looking for a specific grave, for NIS 1, Israeli cell phone users can text the first and last name to 4664 and get a message with the exact plot number.

Yuval Tebol
Yuval Tebol