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Helkat Mehokek


Index of 8,092 tombstone inscriptions found on Mount of Olives Cemetery in Jerusalem.
Please read the instructions carefully before using the search engine.  
On website as of May 31, 2009         



In memory of my beloved parents Laure and Prosper Cohen, may they rest in peace 
HELKAT MEHOKEK[1]
A database of 8,090 listed tombstones at
the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem.
 
                                               Foreword
 
TheMount of Olivescemetery inJerusalemis some 3,000 years old, the most ancient still existing to this day in theLandofIsraeland the world. It is the site where very many Jews from all corners of the world chose to be buried.
 
Over the course of generations, memorials and tombstones, if they existed at all, disintegrated and sank deep into the soil, becoming invisible. In this way layers of tombstones were formed. Due to this, the oldest tombstone that Asher Leib Brisk recorded in his lists is from 1667, or Hebrew calendar year 5428. However, it is noteworthy that only 6 tombstones from the 17th century are listed. Of the total 8,090, 205 are from the 18th century, of them 165 date from the last two decades. Some 65% of all the listed tombstones listed are from the 19th century. Also worth emphasizing is that a quarter of the tombstones have no name or date at all. These are mostly on the graves of young children.
 
According to members at two of Jerusalem's oldest Jewish burial societies, Brisk began his register from the Mount of Olives crest, the section later to be completely destroyed during the period of Jordanian rule,1948-1967, at which time a hotel was built and a road paved at the site. Brisk envisioned registering all theMount of Olivestombstones, but died before achieving this.
 
The book's title Helkat Mehokek, [Legislator's plot of land], is a term used in the Biblical book 'Devarim' [Deuteronomy], 33.21, indicating the burial site of the lawgiver or legislator of the Torah, namely Moshe Rabbeinu i.e. Moses our teacher. Helkat Mehokek was first published in four separate booklets and in 1913 these were bound and published as a single volume. The 8,090 gravestone inscriptions listed are mostly from the period 1740 -1906 and are arranged by sections and rows.
 
Sometimes Brisk copied the 'Hevra Kadisha', Jewish burial society records for various sites, the tombstones being of men, women and children. About 1,500 inscriptions pertain to Sephardic Jews and some 6,500 to Ashkenazis. Of them, over 3,000 are of children, many without any identifying details.
 
                   GUIDELINES FOR USING THE DATABASE
 
Helkat Mehokek was first indexed as a project presented at the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy held inJerusalem in 2004. The data were then entered directly in a transcribed, translated English. The current database is in dual Hebrew-English mode with two search engines in both languages installed for the researcher's convenience.
 
1.      Structure of the database 
We used the Excel software program to construct a database founded on all discrete pieces of information written in the text with our guiding principle being that every column should contain the same category of information, e.g. family name, given name, etc.

1.1.   Identity of the deceased.
Due to our encountering many cases in which the deceased's identity was noted by his given name and his father's name, a column for fathers' names was added. We found other deceased persons identified as 'grandson of so-and-so' omitting the father's name. We therefore added a column for names of grandfathers.
As a result, the search engine covers the family name, given name, father's name, grandfather's name and mother's name. We also had to add a column for 'comments' to incorporate information not covered elsewhere including a person's occupation, or his father's occupation, cause of death such as in the case of women 'childbirth', accidents etc. 

1.2.   Place of birth
These were listed when included in the tombstone inscriptions, amounting to about 50 % of the deceased. Presumably, many of the deceased children whose birth places are not listed, were born in
Jerusalem.

1.3.   Dates of death
These were transcribed as originally recorded, i.e. according to dates of the Hebrew calendar, in both Hebrew and in English transcription, in addition to parallel dates conforming to the Gregorian calendar.

1.4.   Burial Site
The section site number or name, as well as the row number and place, are listed as recorded. Where the author used the Burial Society records, there are only section numbers, with a notation: 'Burial Society Register'.

2.      Searching for Names
There are some 1,500 listed tombstones of Sephardic Jews. In 90 % of them family names and given names are recorded. Fathers' names are rarely found and names of birth places are infrequent.
In comparison, among Ashkenazi Jews, family names are rare; about 20%.  The deceased's identity is generally defined by his two given names, the father's two given names and the deceased's birth place name.

2.1.   Spelling of family names and given names
It is noteworthy that all Ashkenazi names are written according to spelling rules of the Yiddish language and not the Hebrew.  Sephardic Jewish names are also listed spelt in a Yiddishized form, with the letter 'Alef' added so as to replicate the 'A' sound when pronounced.

2.1.1.      To simplify the search process various Hebraic letters appearing in particular  names were listed uniformly, e.g. the name בסן-  'BASSAN' written wherever similar forms like Bassan, Basan, orBashan appeared. The most widely used form of spelling was adopted in order to replicate the original name as closely as possible.
2.1.2.      The family names' foreign language forms are largely compatible with the form as usually written, due to their being foreign names in origin e.g. - וויינשטיין WEINSTEIN,   וואלפינזטאהן - WOLFENSOHN,  etc.
2.1.3.      The given names' foreign language forms are spelled according to transcription rules from Hebrew to Latin letters, for the reason that most are Hebrew given names, e.g.   רחלRAHEL and not Rachel, or  מרדכי  – MORDEKHAI  and not Mordechai, as is generally spelled.
2.1.4.      When searching a given name, the results will include all the given names as they are registered in Helkat Mehokek: of the deceased, his father, his mother, his grandfather and his/her spouse.
2.1.5.      When searching a double name, try searching with three consecutive letters of either name and choosing the search option 'contains' in the search engine.
3.      Names of Birth places
3.1.   The Sephardic Diaspora:  The foreign language spelling of place names did not present difficulties since in those places were Sephardic Jews lives, place names underwent very few changes.
3.2.   The Ashkenazi Diaspora: Community names were found spelt in Yiddish as they were known and were customary in those regions. Where a place name appears a number of times written in various forms a uniform spelling was adopted as a rule. This was done to simplify retrieving the information from the search engine.
 
In foreign languages, names were designated according to their customary forms today and of course the names of states where they're now located. For this purpose, we used the Jewishgen website[2] database of Jewish communities as well as the 2002 edition of the compendium Where Once We Walked[3].
The names of states listed in Hebrew are not those that existed in the past, but identical to those in English.
 
                         RECOMMENDATIONS
  
1.      Try searching for the family name even when it is known there is only a small chance of finding a deceased person of that name.
2.      Search for the deceased according to his given names. Possibly these would be Hebrew names, but written in their Yiddish form, or vice-versa. e.g. 'Naftali' could be synonymous with 'Hersch' or 'Wolff' could be 'Zeev'.
3.      Community names will invariably be listed as customary in Yiddish.
4.      Pay attention to the contents of the comments. [See section 1.1].
5.      If nothing else works, try searching with the word's first three letters.
6.      If the name is not found in the database, approach the Hevra Kadisha, as the database covers only the top of the Mt.Olives cemetery.


[1]By Asher Leib Brisk, Jerusalem, 1906-1913.
[3] Amdur Sack, Sallyan and Mokotoff, Gary, Where Once We Walked, 2nd edition, Avotaynu, 2002
Project Coordinator Mathilde A. Tagger
2004, 2009


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