The Tombs of the Sanhedrin are located in a small park on the edge of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Sanhedria neighborhood.
Shady paths link the many Second Temple era rock-cut tombs, a landmark the locals used to call “the Tombs of the Judges.”
They are first mentioned in 1235 by Rabbi Jacob the Emissary, who includes them among the “Tombs of the Righteous” he saw on his travels to raise money for a yeshiva (perhaps in Paris). Rabbi Jacob describes “a tomb in which many wise men are buried, a very beautiful building, a cave within a cave.”
By 1450, Rabbi Joseph Halevi identified these graves as the Tombs of the Sanhedrin, and a 1659 drawing reveals a beautiful structure with an arched colonnade.
That is long gone, but the faithful still place prayer notes in the tomb doorways, a glimpse of which reveals not only ancient burial customs but the power of memory and tradition.