A Historic Gateway for the 21st Century

Sunday, December 26, 2021 3:34 PM

After 66 years, the iconic Mount Herzl entranceway is about to get a major upgrade.
 

KKL-JNF and WZO officials lay the foundation stonefor a special undertaking – the extensive renovation of the 7-gate entrance compound to Israel’s national cemetery on a hill.
Sixty-six years after the construction of the original entranceway to one of the State’s most potent symbols, the foundation stone was laid for its major overhaul, historic in its scope. The renovation of the entrance compound to Mount Herzl - home to the national cemetery, the Herzl Museum, and the venue to many of the State of Israel’s official ceremonies - is a joint initiative on the part of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF).

In 1949, shortly after the State of Israel was founded, a competition was held in which participants were invited to submit designs for the Mount Herzl compound and its entrance gate (63 people responded). This time, too, designers were invited to tender proposals, and out of 70 submissions the Hrzlbrg Team, headed by Israeli architect Daniel Strassburger, was selected to redesign the entranceway to this site.

The existing gateway was based on the design by architect Yosef Klarwein, who had won the aforementioned 1949 competition. Although Klarwein’s plan was not fully implemented, the famous gate and entranceway were eventually built in July 1955 in a style that retained the spirit of his proposal. The entrance is comprised of seven gates interspersed with vine trellises. The design is widely understood to symbolize Herzl’s seven years as leader of the Zionist movement; other explanations allude to the seven stars he proposed for the national flag; and the seven-hour work day he prescribed for the future Jewish State.

The new renovation plan calls for the existing entranceway to be enhanced by the addition of a “floating roof” over and around the compound where gatherings are held, to provide shade and greater comfort for visitors. The roof will bear a design of perforated triangles that will cast light and shadow patterns of the Star of David. The existing seven gates will be retained in their present form.

In addition to the overall renovation of the entranceway, a subterranean visitors’ center containing an auditorium, classrooms, an exhibition hall, a cafeteria, offices and various other facilities will be constructed beneath the gateway.

At the foundation stone laying ceremony, Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman of WZO and acting chairman of the Jewish Agency, said, “The WZO is proud to lead the renovation of the gateway to Mount Herzl, one of the State of Israel’s most important sites in our generation. Mount Herzl functions as an official national Zionist center, and, together with KKL-JNF, we are happy to play a leading role in the renewal of the entranceway and the preservation of the historic gate constructed after the State was founded.”

Avraham Duvdevani, the World Chairman of KKL-JNF, said, “The renovation of the gateway to Mount Herzl is an important initiative that coincides with the 120th anniversary of KKL-JNF’s founding by Herzl in 1901. Mount Herzl and its entranceway were planned in 1950-51, at a time when the young State of Israel was experiencing a period of austerity and the geographical landscape was completely different from what it is today. The renovated entranceway is adapted to suit current environmental conditions. It will honor the national pantheon of the State of Israel and the Jewish People and improve services for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the site.”