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Tomb of Benei Hezir
|Location 31°46′35.21″N 35°14′20.87″E|
|Address Jerico Road, Jerusalem|
|Open to visitors yes|
|Need appointment no|
|Handicap accessibility no|
|Geographical Coordinates 31.77645,35.23913|
The Tomb of Benei Hezir is the oldest of four monumental rock-cut tombs that stand in the Kidron Valley, Jerusalem, Israel and date back to the period of the Second Temple. It is a complex of burial caves. The tomb was originally accessed from a single rock-cut stair-well which descends to the tomb from the north. At a later period an additional entrance was created by quarrying a tunnel from the courtyard of the Tomb of Zechariah. This is also the contemporary entrance to the burial complex.
History and time period
The tomb dates to the second century B.C., the Hellenistic period and the time of the Hasmonean monarchy in Jewish history. Architecturally the Tomb of Zechariah postdates the complex, and the Tomb of Absalom is considered to have been erected even later. The tomb is effectively a burial cave dug into the cliff. It features a Hebrew inscription which makes it clear that this was the burial site of a Priestly family by the name of Bnei Hazir. The inscription reads: This is the grave and the Nefesh - burial monument of Eliezer Hania Yoazar Yehuda Shimon Yochanan Bnei-(sons of) Yosef Ben-(son of) Oved Yosef and Elazar Bnei-(sons of) Hania, priests of the Hazir family.
The facade of the tomb is a classical dystillos-in-antis two pillars between two pilasters above which there is undecorated architrave containing an engraved a Hebrew inscription. Above the architrave there is a Doric frieze and a cornice. The tomb's architectural style is influenced by ancient Greek architecture only (two pillars with Dorian capitals), without ancient Egyptian architectural influences.
Bnei Hazir family
The tomb's inscription reveals that the cave was used by several generations of the Bnei Hazir family. As well, it indicates that this was a wealthy family, able to afford a burial cave in the Kidron Valley. In the Hebrew Bible there is a mention of a family of Jewish priests, by the name of Hazir, but it is not known if there is a relation.
The inscription mentions a nefesh (literally meaning soul), which is also a designation for a magnificent structure built on or alongside the tomb. It has been proposed that the Tomb of Zechariah, a solid rock-hewn object which stands by the entrance, and is thought to date from a similar period to the inscription, is actually this nefesh. Another option is that the additional facade to the north of the Doric dystilos-in-antis was the original nefesh. Although it did not survive it is possible to reconstruct the upper part of the above mentioned facade as a Nabatean tower with a decorative door and window, similar monuments can be seen in Petra.