קבר בני חזיר

Tomb of Benei Hezir - Grotto of St James


Useful Information

photography
Tombs of Bnei-Hezir, Mount Olive, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Three tombs at the foot of Mount Olive, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
Location: Kidron Valley, Jerusalem.
(31.776538, 35.239116)
Open: no restrictions.
[2021]
Fee: free.
[2021]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Tomb
Light: bring torch
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Joe Zias, Emile Puech (2005): The Tomb of Absalom Reconsidered, Near Eastern Archaeology. 68. 149-165. 10.1086/NEA25067622. pdf
Ernst Knauf (2009): The Nabataean connection of the Benei Hezir, In: From Hellenism to Islam, Cultural and Linguistic Change in the Roman Near East, chapter 14, pp. 345 - 351, Cambridge University Press, 2009. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511641992.016 pdf
Address: Municipal Tourist Information Centre (MTIO), Tel: 628-0457 or 628-0382.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

2nd cty BC burial site created.

Description

photography
Tombs of Bnei-Hezir (left) and Zachariah (right) at the foot of Mount Olive, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Tombs of Bnei-Hezir, Mount Olive, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Tombs of Bnei-Hezir (left) and Zachariah (right) at the foot of Mount Olive, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.

The קבר בני חזיר (Tomb of Benei Hezir), also called Mausoleum of Bnei Hezir, is located in the Kidron Valley, just beyond the more spectacular Absalom's Pillar. The Kidron valley is located east of Jerusalem city center, between the city and the Mount of Olives. Here is the biggest Jewish cemetery of the world, at the slopes of the Mount of Olives. This is the oldest of four monumental rock-cut tombs, dating to the period of the Second Temple, and looks like a facade with three windows separated by two circular pillars.

This is a complex of burial caves, which were accessed from the north by a rock-cut staircase. The contemporary entrance was created by quarrying a tunnel from the courtyard to the Tomb of Zechariah on the right side. The facade of the tomb is a classical Hellenistic style with Ionian pillars and a Doric frieze and a cornice on top. There are also Nabataean influences, Nabataeanising was fashionable among some Judaean families.

The Benei Hezir were a priestly family in the time of the first temple, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 24:15 and Nehemiah 10:21. A Hebrew inscription above the Doric columns indicate tombs of Hasmonaean priestly family. An inscription inside the tomb states:

זה הקבר והנפש שלאלעזר חניה יועזר יהודה שמעון יוחנן בני יוסף בן עובד יוסף ואלעזר בני חניה כהנים מבני חזיר

This is the grave and the Nefesh of Eliezer Hania Yoazar Yehuda Shimon Yochanan Benei Yosef Ben Oved Yosef and Elazar Benei Hania, Kohanim of the Hezir family

For explanation Nefesh means burial monument and many think that this refers to nearby Tomb of Absalom. Ben means son of and Benei sons of, so this is actually a list of the people and their father and grandfather and so on. In other words the Benei Hezir means the sons of Hezir or something like the descendants or family of Hezir.

In the 4th century a skeleton was found in the tomb, not really exceptional for a tomb. Nevertheless, some Christians believed, it was the remains of Jesus' cousin, James. James may have hidden here after Jesus' arrest. With this narrative the site was claimed by Christian crusaders in the 15th century as Tomb of St. James the Apostle. Until the 19th century the site was widely known under this name, and it is used until today.