Here they would throw stones at the monument to remind their sons of the punishment meted out to a rebellious a son – stoning.  This ancient educational method originates with the legend that connects this burial site to Absalom, the beloved son of King David, who rebelled against his father and who was killed while escaping from David when his hair became entangled in the thick branches of a tree.

In the 1920s, when archaeologists came to investigate the site, they were forced to first remove a huge pile of stones over three meters high.

Avshalom’s Pillar in the Valley of Jehoshaphat

Photo: Ron Peled

Jewish tradition links the monument to the monument built by Absalom, as noted in the verse from the book of Samuel II (18:18):  “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and built for himself the pillar, which is in the king’s valley…”  However, in reality, this tomb has been dated by archaeologists to the 1st century CE, about a thousand years after Absalom.

Absalom Monument in Jerusalem

Photo: Ron Peled

And from the lesson we learned about rebellious sons, we should take another look at Absalom’s Pillar and have a short lesson in Hebrew language.  The Hebrew world “yad” also means a statue or memorial (in addition to its other meaning, “hand”).  Above or alongside the tomb was a statue, in this case a carved roof, known as a nefesh (“soul”) – a Jewish funerary monument similar to the Greek stele and meant for the soul of the departed.