For nearly two centuries, the “Pauper’s Cemetery” on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion has lain in desecration and ruin. Recently 400 Boys Town Jerusalem students paid a rare, posthumous tribute to the hundreds of Jewish poor and indigent buried there by volunteering to clear layers of rubble that ravage the gravesites of the long-neglected cemetery.
To reach the historic graveyard, the youngsters descended a steep, winding path. Under an unseasonably hot Jerusalem sky, they rolled up their sleeves to carefully haul away thick branches, brush, metal, and glass fragments that cover the broken gravestones.
Although the renowned Mount of Olives cemetery has traditionally served as Jerusalem’s main burial ground, the nearby, lesser-known Mount Zion cemetery was the final resting place for around 9000 Jews from the 17th century until 1945. Unlike the Mount of Olives, there was no cost for burial plots on Mount Zion, thus those buried there were primarily impoverished or orphans. Few descendants have helped maintain the cemetery, wars and unrest have also taken their toll, and in recent years this graveyard has fallen into nearly total disrepair.
The Boys Town’s students’ volunteer work in clearing the cemetery came in conjunction with efforts by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Ministry of Religion to restore the Mount Zion Jewish cemetery.
BTJ student Daniel Shalom was notably moved by his experience on Mount Zion. “It was a great honor to pay our respects to those buried there and to make the effort to restore green, living beauty to this place of death,” he said.
Boys Town Jerusalem is one of Israel's premier institutions for educating the country's next generation of leaders in the fields of technology, commerce, education, the military and public service. Since its founding in 1948, BTJ has pursued its mission of turning young boys from limited backgrounds into young men with limitless futures. From Junior High through the college level, the three part curriculum at Boys Town - academic, technological and Torah - is designed to turn otherwise disadvantaged Israeli youth into productive citizens of tomorrow. Boys Town’s 18 acre campus is a home away from home for its more than 900 students. More than 7,000 graduates hold key positions throughout Israeli society.