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OBJECT OF THE MONTH


Object of the Month – August 2012
A bag containing soil from the Mount of Olives
Canvas, print, soil, Jerusalem, c.1920-30


A bag containing soil from the Mount of Olives
Canvas, print, soil, Jerusalem, c.1920-30
Height: 150 mm, width: 60 mm
Inv. No. JMP 178.932


This slim, cylindrical bag is filled with earth from the Mount of Olives, as is mentioned in Hebrew and English on the outside of the bag. The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is of great significance in Jewish eschatology, as it is traditionally believed to be the place where the Messiah will appear and bring the dead back to life. The cemetery on the south-west slope of the Mount of Olives is the oldest and largest Jewish burial ground in the world.
Soil from the Mount of Olives (or, in general, from the Land of Israel) is customarily used in the burials of religious Jews who have died in the Diaspora. While preparing the body for burial, soil is sprinkled in the coffin and on the corpse while the following verse is recited: “His land will atone for His people.” (Deut. 32:43). According to local custom, a bag of soil may also be placed under the head of the corpse.
This bag of soil was probably owned by the Burial Society, whose members carried out the burial ritual.








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