Who is buried in Queen Esther's tomb? Or, more correctly,
where is the burial place of Esther Hamalka? Ruins of a
megalith building, perched in the wilds of the Galilee's
enchanting Bar'am forest, mysteriously assert themselves as
the tsiyun of Esther Hamalka and Mordechai
While various monuments in Persia have been cited as their
burial place, a strong alternate tradition indicates that
even though both Esther and Mordechai died in the Persian
capital city of Shushan, they were brought to Eretz Israel
for burial. Written tradition from the Middle Ages locates
the burial place in the Galilean village of Bar'am, along
Israel's northern border with Lebanon.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of kivrei tzaddikim are
scattered throughout Eretz Israel, a good percentage of them
in the Galil. Some of the sites are well-documented, while
others count on age-old tradition to champion their
Bar'am as the burial place of Queen Esther and Mordechai is
first mentioned in the journeys of HaRav Shmuel ben
Shimshon, in a 1211 account of his visit to Eretz Israel.
Menachem Peretz Hachevroni, visiting a few years later,
relates his encounter with Esther's grave: "I saw one rock
and within it the grave of Queen Esther, who had commanded
her son Koresh -- while she was still alive -- to bring her
there." The 14th-century author of Totsaot Eretz
Yisroel describes the burial place as follows, "The
mouth of the cave is on top and a large rock covers its
Various missives written from Jerusalem in 1454 tell of
prayers held in several holy places throughout the Galilee,
among them, "The house of Esther the Queen."
HaRav Moshe Basola, visiting the area in 1522 (5282),
depicts the grave he saw in the village of Bar'am. In his
description, the grave is under a mound of rocks: "There is
Queen Esther, a mound of rocks and a rovere [oak] tree to
mark it." This would seem to tally with the 1537 (5297)
description of the author of Yichus Ho'ovos
Vehanivi'im, who notes, "This is the shape of the
monument on the grave of Queen Esther, of blessed memory.
Arched on top of the building is a lone rock that looks like
the hats that women in this land used to wear. And every
Shushan Purim a minyan goes to her grave from Tsefas
and reads the Megillah there. They eat and drink and
His book shows a drawing of the grave topped by something
resembling a hat similar to an Arab tarbush. Perhaps
it is some sort of raised hat topped by a knob.
Since the first Purim did, after all, take place in Persia,
how can we explain the source of this tradition? Some
suggest that since the grave of the tanna Pinchas ben
Yair can be found near Bar'am, and Mordechai's full name is
"Mordechai ben Yair," perhaps this served as an impetus to
identify the graves of Mordechai and Esther in the area.
Travelers in former centuries heard from Jews of nearby
Safed that Esther had been born in their city.
The 15th-century traveler Suriano called Tsefas, "The City
of Esther." Perhaps Tsefas wanted to claim Esther as a
Today, unfortunately, there is no grave in the Bar'am area
meeting these descriptions. The Jewish settlement in Bar'am
was destroyed in 1762 (5522). The area was resettled by
Maronite Christians, originally from Lebanon, in the
nineteenth century. In accordance with the local tradition,
they called their village "Bir'im." As opposed to many
Galilee Moslem Arabs -- who faithfully retained knowledge of
the locations of countless such burial places -- it is quite
possible that the Maronites erased any traces of Jewish
burial places in their village in order to discourage
pilgrims. Nonetheless, some of the locals did retain a
tradition of another burial site for Esther and Mordechai.
This one, however, bears no resemblance to the descriptions
from the Middle Ages.
Ruins of an ancient megalith building in the Bar'am National
Forest, more than a kilometer southwest of the ruins of
ancient Bar'am, are currently cited as the graves of Esther
Hamalka and Mordechai Hayehudi. The road to the site begins
at the Hiram-Bar'am junction (road 899-the Northern Road)
about 300 meters south of its junction with the road to the
Circassian village of Reichaniya. A brown sign on the right
side of the road marks the turnoff to the site.
Drive in along a rocky, dirt road for about five minutes.
You will see a barbed wire fence on your right, with an
opening marked by an orange sign reading (in Hebrew)
"Latziyun." Follow the path with the red markings
placed there by the Israel Holy Sites Authority. A good ten-
minute walk will take you to the "burial place."
The path leads you through the stately Bar'am forest,
considered to be the most beautiful natural oak forest in
Israel. The forest is pleasantly cool even on sweltering
summer days. In the fall and winter you may meet mushroom-
collectors from around the country. (Warning: mushrooms must
be identified by experts before eating!)
Startling when first seen in the middle of the forest, the
five-meter-square ruined building made of limestone slabs is
marked with red paint identifying the site. Since the
identification of this building as the gravesite is
precarious, there has been considerable speculation
concerning the possible alternative nature of this large
structure. Some suggest that it was used as a fort during
the Roman siege of nearby Gush Halav. But the siege only
lasted two days.
Others have suggested that the building served as a
watchtower for guards guarding local vineyards. This would
be disputed by the fact that surely such a large building
would not be needed to house one or two guards.
The tsiyun is a magnet for those praying for
yeshua in the merits of Esther Hamalka and Mordechai
Hayehudi. Ever since Purim in 1949, groups of Jews once more
make the trip from Tsefas to read the Megillah at the