Ramban’s Cave

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Who was Ramban?

Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (acronym: Ramban and also called Nahmanides) lived from 1194 to 1270, he was a Torah scholar, Kabbalist and Biblical commentator as well as a philosopher, physician and public figure. He was born and lived most of his life in Girona, Spain eventually traveling to Israel where he founded a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Old City. Ramban later moved to Acre (1267) where he taught and continued his religious studies. During this time he kept in touch with his family in Spain, writing letters to his son describing life in Israel. In one of his letter the Rabbi specifically requested to be buried in close proximity to the tombs of the patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron (cave of the Machpelah).

Where was Ramban Buried?

There are several schools of thought on the subject of Ramban’s final resting place. Some believe that his remains were buried in Haifa at the foot of Mount Carmel; perhaps in Haifa next to the Tomb of Jehiel B. Joseph of Paris; he may have been buried in Acre; others believe that he would have been laid to rest where he had requested, near to Hebron and the final, and most widely accepted theory, is that his body was placed in what is now referred to as Ramban’s Cave in Jerusalem.

Ramban’s Cave, Jerusalem

The cave is located close to the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Hatzadik on the slope of a mountain near the village of Silwan in Wadi Joz, East Jerusalem. It is close to the American Colony Hotel in a northeasterly direction and is 50m south of the Upper Kidron Valley. The cave is one of several in the area which was originally formed as part of limestone quarries. The cave is considered a sacred Jewish site because Ramban studied, lived and prayed here during his time in Jerusalem and it is thought that he may have been buried here. The cave, carved out of the rock is approximately 19 meters by 20 meters in size and 3.5 meters high. Within the cave are two columns which support the rock ceiling. There is a square shaped chamber cut out of the rock in the upper portion of the cave which may have been used as a burial chamber. Ramban’s Cave was mentioned in writings by Gustaf Dalman (1930) and illustrated in a drawing in Ermete Pierotti’s book Jerusalem Explored (1864).

After extended legal battles the authority over the site of Ramban’s Cave was granted to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf under the directorship of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and in conjunction with the Islamic council. Public access to the cave is limited.

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