Mount of Olives, Israel

“It’s hard to evaluate the full cost that has been taken from us with their death.”

Jewish Cemetery, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

This ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives is the oldest continuously used cemetery in the world; over 150,000 people have been buried here. The steep hillside, looking out over the Valley of Jehoshaphat, is also home to the Tombs of the Prophets: Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi. Jews believe that this is where God will start to redeem the dead when the Messiah returns on the Day of Judgment.

Walking down the path from the top of the Mount of Olives toward the Old City of Jerusalem, one passes many churches, the last one being the Basilica of Agony. Beside it is the beautiful Garden of Gethsemane which contains many of the world’s oldest olive trees, including some that are over 2,000 years old. It is believed that Jesus prayed here the night before his arrest.

This photograph was taken on Memorial Day, shortly before the 11:00 a.m. siren sounded across Israel. At that moment, cars stopped and people stood still to pay their respects to Israel’s fallen soldiers. Memorial Day (officially known as Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day) starts the evening before with a ceremony at the Western Wall, and it ends the next evening at 8:00 p.m. when a torch is light at Mount Herzl Cemetery to mark the beginning of Independence Day.

In his speech at the Memorial Day ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “22,867 of our sons and daughters fell in Israel’s wars. It’s hard to evaluate the full cost that has been taken from us with their death.” In this photograph, the woman standing alone on the Mount of Olives is one of approximately 176,500 currently active members of the Israeli Defense Forces.

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