The tour begins at the entrance gate, above which is the Rothschild Family coat of arms, symbolizing unity and strength: a bronze shield in the centre is supported by a lion (representing strength) and a unicorn (purity) and surmounted by a coronet. The quarters of the shield are embossed with the pattern of an eagle, a lion, and a clenched fist holding five arrows, representing the unity of the five sons of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744 - 1812), founder of the dynasty. In the centre of the shield is a smaller shield depicting the round hat that was required to be worn by Jews of the medieval Frankfort ghetto. Below the shield appears the Rothschilds’ Latin motto: Concordia, Integritas, Industria (‘Unity, Integrity, Diligence’).
The five sons of Mayer Amschel established branches of the Rothschild bank in various capitals of Europe, and together exerted significant influence on the financial world of the nineteenth century. The youngest son, Jacob (or James, as he was known in France), settled in Paris and was the father of Edmond (Binyamin) de Rothschild, who is buried in Ramat Hanadiv.
Inside the gate, the paved entrance area is divided into five long sections, separated by strips of grass. The number five, representing the Rothschild brothers, repeats itself as a motif throughout the Gardens.
Indian beech trees, which reach a height of twelve metres, have been planted in the entrance area. The trees rustle in the pleasant breeze that wafts through the Gardens.
Continue until the end of the entrance area, where there are six steps leading up to a path lined with carob trees. The female carob tree bears fruit, while the male exudes a flowering scent in autumn that attracts bees for pollination.
Please note: The Cascade Garden has seven flights of steps, four steps per flight, with a distance of two metres between each one.
The Gardens were designed so the visitor passes through alternating open and closed spaces. The cool, shady path you are on leads to the Cascade Garden, where you will hear the sound of falling water. This garden opens up to the Mediterranean Sea below. A stone relief map at the top of the steps indicates the location of forty-four settlements established or supported by the Baron. The names of several settlements recall members of the Rothschild family: Binyamina for the Baron himself, Binyamin; Zikhron Ya’acov, in memory of his father, Jacob; Meir Shefeya, in memory of his paternal grandfather, Mayer Amschel, founder of the Rothschild dynasty, together with the original Arabic name for the spot, Shafa (‘beautiful’); Bat Shlomo, in memory of his uncle and maternal grandfather, Solomon; Givat Ada, in memory of Baroness Adelheid; Pardes Hanna, in memory of his Uncle Nathan’s daughter; Mazkeret Batya, in memory of his mother, Betty; Ashdot Ya’acov, in honour of his son, James, who carried out his Will.
The garden poses a contrast between life and death, flowing water and stone paths, sun and shade. The steps are planted with specimens of the dragon tree that vary in their size and form. Alongside, a stream of water cascades into a small pool - you may hear the sound of water gushing into it. At this point, you have two options:
1. you may proceed directly to the Crypt by continuing on the path (directions below); or
2. you may descend to the bottom of the cascade, to another pool that has a sculpted pair of hands on the rim. The hands seem to be trying to hold the water that streams forth, symbolizing the inability to stop time. (Note that option #2 approximately doubles the tour distance.) To proceed towards the Crypt, turn right and continue along on the path. At the first opportunity, turn right again and then left to the Crypt area.
About forty metres after turning right, follow the curve of the path as it turns right off the main route. An evergreen-shaded lane, with natural rock on either side, leads to the Crypt. Go up three small steps and continue straight ahead. The path to the Crypt is cut in the rock and left deliberately stark to emphasize the ultimate passage of all life. The Crypt itself is located, by design, in the centre of the Memorial Gardens.
The iron gate of the Crypt courtyard is decorated with clusters of grapes, reminiscent of the first vineyards planted at the Baron’s initiative and of the wineries at Zikhron Ya’acov and Rishon Le-Zion.
The motif of water, as the source of life, appears here as well. Around the courtyard runs a channel of water filled with lily pads and goldfish. A sculpted stone ‘cup of tears’ is on the wall to the right of the entrance to the Crypt; the sound of water dripping may be heard at all hours of the day. A large cypress tree, in shape reminiscent of a flame, stands on the other side of the entrance. Five wide steps will take you down into the Crypt itself.
The passageway down to the Crypt is relatively low, almost compelling the visitor to bow in respect. The burial tomb, in a niche pointing to Jerusalem, is made of black polished basalt in the form of a seven-sided polygon. It is here that the Baron and Baroness were reinterred twenty years after their deaths. Their names and dates of death are engraved in Hebrew on the tombstone. Above the tomb is a round, white stone relief of a Star of David, brought from the traditional site of the tomb of King David in Jerusalem, a gift from the Department of Antiquities. In front of the tomb is a basalt oil memorial lamp, symbolically held by a pair of hands.
Return by the same passageway and leave the courtyard. The main path turns right. At the intersection of paths are two large carob trees. A round bench beneath one of them offers a shady spot to rest. Further along the path is the Rose Garden, which is rich in colour and full of blossoms for most of the year. The roses are arranged according to colour: yellow, white, pink, and red, in a wide range of varieties and fragrances.
The garden is designed in the French style, characterized by symmetry, fountains, paved paths, and even a sundial. The motif of five is evident in the number of fountains, surmounted by a larger fountain, symbolizing the father of the family, Mayer Amschel Rothschild. Take the narrow path to the right and note the rough stone paving. At the far end of the garden is a semicircular stone pergola rising behind the sculpture of a crouched woman holding a sundial. The woman looks away from the dial, as if divorced from time, hinting that here time stands still.
Samaria Observation Point
From the stone pergola, turn left to the main path leading to the Palm Garden. Along the way, you will pass the Samaria Observation Point, which opens onto a view of the Samarian hills.
Continue straight ahead on the path, which is shaded overhead with palm branches. The Palm Garden contains a small sample of the more than 2,800 varieties of palms in the world. Among the types of palm cultivated here are those with tall, straight trunks and tousled boughs; round, crested sprouts that grow close to the ground; and fountain-like splayed foliage. Most familiar of these is the Washingtonia, long known as a trademark of the Baron’s settlements.
At the next intersection of paths, you may continue straight ahead to the Amphitheatre, or turn left to the Fragrance Garden. A change in the type of paving stones used indicates the entrance to this garden, which was designed especially for visually impaired visitors. It is intended to appeal to the senses of smell, touch, and sound, as well as of sight. At the entrance to the garden, in a locked case, is a specially designed relief map that offers an initial orientation. The key to the case may be obtained by prior arrangement with the Information Centre. The garden contains raised beds of fragrant and sweet-smelling plants, flowers, and herbs. Start on the path to the right, holding on to the guide rail, which is studded with explanatory labels in Braille, in addition to signs in Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic. In the centre of the garden is a round pool and a fountain, surrounded by a wooden pergola with benches, where you may sit in the shade and enjoy the sounds of the fountain.
Upon leaving the garden, turn right onto the main path. Along the way you may feel the deep shade cast by large fig trees, the thick roots of which serve as a walking path. These trees have additional roots that hang in the air. You may turn off the path and touch them.
The path passes a Meeting Point on the left, and ends at the entrance area, where your tour began.
Braille Booklets may be borrowed from the Information Centre, by prior arrangement.
Fragrance Garden: The key to the relief map case may be obtained from the Information Centre, by prior arrangement.