Jerusalem stone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Jerusalem stone (Western Wall, Jerusalem)

Jerusalem stone (Arabic: حجر القدس ; Hebrew: אבן ירושלמית ) is a name applied to various types of pale limestone, dolomite and dolomitic limestone, common in and around Jerusalem that have been used in building since ancient times.[1] One of these limestones, meleke, has been used in many of the region's most celebrated structures, including the Western Wall.

Jerusalem stone continues to be used in construction and incorporated in Jewish ceremonial art such as menorahs and seder plates. In 2000, there were 650 stone-cutting enterprises run by Palestinians in the West Bank, producing a varied range of pink, sand, golden, and off-white bricks and tiles.[2]


The stone in its natural state.
Lithographic limestone from the Gerofit Formation (Turonian) north of Makhtesh Ramon, southern Israel; a variety of Jerusalem Stone (meleke).
Jerusalem stone facade of Inbal Jerusalem Hotel in Jerusalem

The highlands of Israel and the Palestinian territories are primarily underlain by sedimentary limestone, dolomite and dolomitic limestone. The stone quarried for building purposes, ranging in color from white to pink, yellow and tawny, is known collectively as Jerusalem stone. Soft Senonian limestone is found to the east of Jerusalem, and has long been used as an inexpensive building material.[3] Stone of the Cenomanian layers, known in Arabic as mizzi ahmar and mizzi yahudz, is far more durable than Senonian limestone, but is very hard and was expensive to quarry using pre-modern methods.[3] Turonian layers yield mizze helu and meleke, the most prized building stones.[3] The thin layered mizze helu is easily quarried and worked. Meleke is soft and easy to chisel, yet hardens with exposure to the atmosphere and becomes highly durable.[3] It was used for the great public buildings of antiquity,[4] and for the construction of the Islamic period city walls and buildings.


According to Israeli geologist Ithamar Perath, residents of Jerusalem in antiquity built their homes from Jerusalem stone quarried in the city and used the pit that remained as a cistern to collect rainwater beneath the home. Ancient quarries around Jerusalem include the site of the bus station in East Jerusalem, Rehov Hamadregot in Nahlaot and the Garden Tomb.[5] The remains of ancient quarries can also be seen near Yemin Moshe, in the Sanhedria neighborhood, and elsewhere.[3]

Municipal laws in Jerusalem require that all buildings be faced with local Jerusalem stone.[6] The ordinance dates back to the British Mandate and the governorship of Sir Ronald Storrs[7] and was part of a master plan for the city drawn up in 1918 by Sir William McLean, then city engineer of Alexandria.[8]

In 1923, Aharon Grebelsky established the country's first Jewish-owned marble quarry in Jerusalem. Grebelsky's son Yechiel expanded the business, employing over 100 workers, including quarriers, stonemasons, fabricators and installers. The company inaugurated a new factory in Mitzpe Ramon in January 2000.[9]


According to the Geological Survey of Israel, various rock types have been exploited for different purposes. The variety of lithologic types used in building are:

  • White, coarse crystalline limestone originally referred to as "Meleke", the stone of Kings.
  • Cream-colored micritic limestone known locally as "Mizzi Hilu" (sweet rock).
  • Red-colored limestone known as "Mizzi Ahmar" (red rock).
  • Gray crystalline dolomite known as “Mizzi Yehudi” (Jewish rock – modern times).
  • Flagstone of thin-layered limestone.

These rock types were quarried from the Judean limestone and dolomite in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.[10] The setting sun reflected on the cream-colored limestone facade of both ancient and modern structures gives them a golden hue, giving rise to the term "Jerusalem of Gold".[11]

Symbolic use[edit]

The various "Jerusalem stones" are employed abroad in Jewish buildings as a symbol of Jewish identity.[12][13] It has been used this way in many Jewish community centers, including the one in San Jose, Costa Rica.[14]Jerusalem stone is frequently used in contemporary synagogue design, to create a simulation of the Western Wall or as a backdrop for the Holy Ark.[15]

A Pentecostal church in São Paulo, Brazil recently ordered $8 million worth of Jerusalem stone to construct a replica of the Temple of Solomon, or Templo de Salomão that will stand 180 feet tall.[16]


Jerusalem Stone was the subject of an award-winning documentary "The Red Stone - Jerusalem's Other Side" that was also broadcast on Al Jazeera Network.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Is Jerusalem stone under threat?
  2. ^ Palestinians' stones cut both ways Ilene Prusher, The Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 2000
  3. ^ a b c d e Influence of Geological Conditions on the Development of Jerusalem, M. Avnimelech, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 181 (Feb., 1966), pp. 24-31
  4. ^ Ashlar Quarries of the Iron Age in the Hill Country of IsraelAshlar Quarries of the Iron Age in the Hill Country of Israel, Yigal Shiloh, Aharon Horowitz, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 217 (Feb., 1975), pp. 37-48
  5. ^ Is Jerusalem stone under threat?
  6. ^ By PAUL GOLDBERGERPublished: September 10, 1995 (1995-09-10). "Passion Set in Stone, New York Times, Sept. 10, 1995". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  7. ^ "Jerusalem Architecture Since 1948". Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  8. ^ The British Mandate from "Jerusalem: Life Throughout the Ages in a Holy City". Online course material from the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
  9. ^ Supplying the world with Jerusalem stone
  10. ^ "Holy Land’s ‘Jerusalem stone’ cements base of U.S. buyers, Denver Business Journal". Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  11. ^ Arkin, Yaacov and Amos Ecker (2007), “Report GSI/12/2007: Geotechnical and Hydrogeological Concerns in Developing the Infrastructure Around Jerusalem”, The Ministry of National Infrastructures, Geological Survey of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel, July, 2007
  12. ^ Defining Jewish identity, Architectural Review, June, 2005 by Layla Dawson [1]
  13. ^ "ART/ARCHITECTURE; What Design For a Synagogue Spells Jewish?," By PHILIP NOBEL, December 2, 2001, New York Times, [2]
  14. ^ Jerusalem Stone forms a haven in Costa Rica, Reflecting the spirit of Israel, a large quantity of Jerusalem Stone was used for a new Jewish Community Center in San Jose, Costa Rica, Stone World, 19 November 2005 [3]
  15. ^ A stone for the ages
  16. ^ "Solomon's Temple in Brazil would put Christ the Redeemer in the shade; Huge replica planned for Sâo Paulo would be twice the height of the iconic statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro Tom Phillips, July 21, 2010, The Guardian.
  17. ^