This complex, which serves as a Muslim cemetery, is located east of the Old City, adjacent to the outer wall, in the area between Burj al-Laqlaq (Tower of Hasidism) and the Lion’s Gate. Jericho Street acts as the complex’s eastern border and the Lion’s Gate acts as the southern border. The site is located in zone 30110 in block no. 5 and covers an area of 35 acres. The area is listed in public records as AM/9 and AM/61, zoned as a “preserved cemetery complex”.
This is the largest active cemetery in East Jerusalem today (the Mamilla Cemetery covers more area but is no longer active). The al-Rahma Cemetery is adjacent to the site from the south (see site no. 232). The al-Yusuffiya Cemetery has two main entrances – one on the north, 45 meters away from Burj al-Laqlaq, and the second on the south, 33 meters away from the Lion’s Gate. The complex also has a ‘functional’ gate near the tombstone-carving building. The graves are densely laid out and are large awning is located in the center. In the past few year, the Muslim Waqf carried out reconstruction and renewed the tall supporting walls of the complex (towards Lion’s Gate Street and Jericho Street). On the stone wall is a sign, noting that the project was implemented thanks to the support and assistance of the Republic of Turkey between 2009-2010 and above it, flies the Turkish Flag. The restoration work, previously conducted on the site (during 2002), was supported by the UAE / Abu Dhabi and a dedication in their honor was carved in a stone near the entrance gate.
TPS no. AM/6 delineates the area into a national park around the walls of Old City of Jerusalem. The plan
was approved on 06.08.1970 and its objective is to enable the preparation of detailed plans for the national
park within those boundaries. The detailed plans will ensure the preservation of the site’s character by
maintaining the landscape and its various values, so that the public could enjoy it for generations to come.
The plan includes the area of the cemetery at hand but it does not specify its designation.
TPS no. AM/9 describes the plan for Old City and its surroundings. The plan was approved on 31.3.1977 and
its objective is to enable the development of the area, while carefully maintaining its unique character. The
program defines the ground’s permissible uses and a basis to prepare detailed plans. The area of the
cemetery at hand is marked in the public record as ‘reserved cemetery’ zone. The guidelines for this area
state that it is to be a special pubic space and only the following uses are allowed, with the approval of the
local and regional committee: 1. Monuments 2. Building with the above qualifications. The marked zone
includes a strip of land between the Old City wall and Jericho Road. The burial area does not touch the wall
and the cemetery fence is distanced from the wall line. A pedestrian promenade, which ranges between 7 to
20 m wide acts as the western border of the cemetery from Sultan Suleiman to the Lion’s Gate Street.
During the establishment of the Old City, cemeteries were built on the slopes and mountains surrounding it. The various cemeteries create a sequence of burial grounds from different periods of time and different religions. Their location in East Jerusalem, near the Old City, and their religious significance has rendered them politically significant sites. The graves’ identity, cultivation and manner of use have an important impact on the political struggle in East Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives (site no. 512) includes graves from the year 2,000 BC and until the first century AD (the period of the Second Temple). Burial on the site was renewed from the 14th century until 1948 and again from 1967 until today. The monumental graves in the Kidron Valley, the Tomb of Absalom and the Tomb of Benei Hezir )sites no. 436-7), are dated back to the second century BC and until the first century AD. An even earlier site is the Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter (site no. 434) dating to the eighth-seventh century BC.
From 2009, the Israeli establishment initiated projects on the Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley (by the Jerusalem Municipality, JDA, Pami, Nature and Parks Authority etc.). They invested great recourses into the reconstruction and development of the sites and prepare them for tourist visits (in accordance to the Israeli/Jewish narrative). This group of sites connects to the area of the City of David - Silwan (see sites no. 507-511).
The myth of the Valley of Abu Sahira2 and the belief in resurrection hold a significant place in Islam. They are deeply connected to the city of Jerusalem, in general, and to the Old City and Temple Mount, in particular. The city’s main cemeteries are located around the Old City. References3 in this matter, exist regarding the al-Sahira Cemetery, north of the Old City, as well as the al-Rahma Cemetery and Yusiffiya Cemetery. In the writings of Mujir al-din (see site no. 525), it is stated that the valley that extends from the Golden Gate to Mount of Olives is the place where resurrection will occur. Therefore, from all corners of the globe, people come to live the remainders of their lives in Jerusalem in order to be buried there. As it is written in the Quran: “On the Day the blast [of the Horn] will convulse [creation], There will follow it the subsequent [one]. Hearts, that Day, will tremble, Their eyes humbled. They are [presently] saying, "Will we indeed be returned to [our] former state [of life]? Even if we should be decayed bones? They say, "That, then, would be a losing return." Indeed, it will be but one shout, and suddenly they will be [alert] upon the earth's surface.” (Surah 79, 6-14). The expression “upon the earth’s surface” in the original Arabic text is ‘al-Sahira’.
According to Islamic tradition, the Valley of al-Sahira (“resurrection for all eternity”) is where the resurrected
will gather and will be reached by the edge of the As-Sirāt bridge, which will stretch from the Temple Mount to
the Mount of Olives on the Day of Judgement. Muqaddasi (see comment below) writes about this valley: “The
Mount of Olives looks over the great mosque east of the Valley of Hell. At its peak is the Mosque of Omar,
who resided here for several days when the city surrendered. At the site there is a church from which Jesus
rose to the heavens, and beyond it is a valley called al-Sahira, which Ibn Abbas has said is where the dead
will come to life. Its soil is white, and blood has never been shed on it.” The al-Sahira Valley slopes at the foot
of the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif towards the Mount of Olives. Later, in the medieval age, for unknown
reasons, the location of the legend drifted to the northwest of Herod's Gate, the area of the al-Sahira
Cemetery (this could be the origin of the name ‘Bab al-Zahara’). The meaning of the word al-Sahira in Arabic
– the awake, the un-asleep.
The Muslim Geographer Muqaddasi - Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Shams al-Dīn al-Muqaddasī ( الدین شمس أحمد بن محمد
المقدسي ,(wrote a great deal about tenth century Jerusalem. It is presumed that he lived in the city (945-1000)
and traveled as merchant throughout the holy land and its neighboring countries - Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and
Jordan. His book, Ahasan al-Taqasim Fi Ma'rifat al-Aqalim (“The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the
Regions”) serves as an important historical source of knowledge in regards to the agriculture and economy of
the country in the tenth century. The book describes the cities that Muqadassi visited with a detailed account
of their demographic composition, their trade and the agricultural crops in the area. It also provides detailed
descriptions of the buildings, walls, mosques, markets and Muslim holy places. Al-Muqaddasi, 'Ahsan AlTaqasim
Fi Ma'rifat Al-Aqalim' , UK, 2000, ISBN 1-85964-136-9.
In the East Jerusalem area around the Old City, there are four active Muslim cemeteries (and two more historic ones – Mount Zion and Mamilla): al-Rahma (site no. 232), al-Sahaba (site no. 233), Yusufiyya (site no. 234) and the al-Sahira cemetery (site no. 235). There are two other cemeteries, which are located on the western part of the Armistice Border 1949-1967 (‘the Green Line’) and are no longer active – the Mamilla Cemetery (site no. 531) and the Dajani Family Cemetery on Mount Zion (site no.236). There is also a certain affiliation to an adjacent site called the ‘Pillar of Mohammed’ located on the exterior part of the Old City’s wall, near the Golden Gate, above the al-Rahma Cemetery (site no. 570).
The monument and cemeteries are open to the public