Beth Haim means “House of Life,” and as you will see, it is indeed full of life. The cemetery is like a lush and peaceful secret garden. Most of the tombstones are hidden in the midst of tall grass and wild bushes. The grave markers depict detailed scenes from the past that tell the stories of the people who are buried here, of their lives, their values, and their beliefs.
There are about 28,000 graves at Beth Haim, many of which belong to the Sephardi Jews, whose ancestors came from Spain and Portugal. The cemetery was purchased by the Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1614 and almost reached full capacity in 1923. Many famous Jewish rabbis, diplomats, and scientists are buried here, such as the parents of the Dutch philosopher Spinoza. The tombstones have inscriptions in Dutch, Portuguese, and Hebrew, and are carved with elaborate scenes containing many beautiful mystic symbols.
The Rodeamentos House is where the funeral ceremonies take place. It was built in 1705 and divides the old part of the cemetery with historical monumental tombstones from the section containing relatively new graves. Across the road from the cemetery, you can see the St. Urbanus church. In every direction you look here you can see something stunning. The graveyard fits so perfectly with its surroundings that its magic fully blends in with the bordering streets and buildings.
Update as of March 2021: Many of the gravestones’ have been replaced and are no longer visible.
Know Before You Go
The cemetery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and is closed on Saturday and Jewish holidays. The house rules are listed at the entrance gates.