Near Oskar Schindler’s grave in Jerusalem, a stone’s throw from the Old City walls, a massive sinkhole has opened up, revealing the grisly remains of the interred.
A visit to the Mount Zion Catholic Cemetery on Wednesday confirmed the emergence of the yawning chasm — two meters across and around five meters deep — just a few graves away from that of the famed Austrian industrialist who saved the lives of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
Yochanan Ben David, a Jerusalem-based tour guide, first noticed the gaping maw near the Schindler grave a few weeks ago during a Shabbat constitutional. He said when he first peered into the hole he saw something resembling “a deflated soccer ball.” Only a moment later did he notice the femur and realize they were human skeletal remains.
The hole, which broke open along an ancient, buried wall that may date to the Middle Ages, is filled with garbage — old plastic bags, bottles, rags and ropes — and has a pile of decomposing wreaths heaped along its flank. A burned cross, once a grave-marker inscribed with the name Miriam Sami Saleh Naddaf in Arabic, lies in the trash-strewn hole alongside a couple of skulls and a toothless jawbone. Femurs perch atop the lip of the hole.
The graveyard belongs to the Catholic Church’s Jerusalem Patriarchate. Father Fares, the priest responsible for the cemetery, told The Times of Israel that the human remains found in the sinkhole may predate the founding of the graveyard in the 19th century. Unperturbed, he said such phenomena were commonplace in Jerusalem’s cemeteries.
As for the heap of garbage, he said “many people bring these flowers and cards and leave them [on the graves]. This is the main problem we have and we resolve it from time to time by cleaning.”
He could not explain why the garbage was heaped near the hole and was generally confused by the line of questioning.
Just outside the graveyard, in line with the hole, is an archaeological dig which has exposed Herodian and medieval stonework which was likely a section of Jerusalem’s city walls.
The section of wall laid bare by the sinkhole inside the cemetery may be part of the same structure. There’s no way of telling whether they date from that period.