I saw a local Jewish organization boasting in their building campaign that part of the building will be built with “Jerusalem stone.” What exactly is it and is there a custom to specifically use Jerusalem stone?


Jerusalem stone is the name for various types of limestone found in and around Jerusalem, ranging in color from white to yellow, pink and orange-brown, that have been used in buildings since biblical times. The most famous structure built with Jerusalem stone that stands until this very day is the Western Wall (Kotel).

From the time of the British Mandate until the present, municipal laws in Jerusalem require that all buildings built in Jerusalem be faced with local Jerusalem stone. Interestingly, an exception was made for the building of a replica of “770”—the Lubavitch world headquarters—that was built in the Jerusalem suburb of Ramat Shlomo.

But although it has become increasingly popular to use Jerusalem stone in various Jewish buildings in the diaspora as a way to show affection and longing for Jerusalem, there isn’t any actual “custom” to do so. At the same time, there is precedent for building a synagogue with literal Jerusalem stone, dating back to the destruction of the First Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The old Jerusalem neighborhood of Meah Shearim is built almost all of Jerusalem stone (photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).
The old Jerusalem neighborhood of Meah Shearim is built almost all of Jerusalem stone (photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).

The Exile of King Jeconiah

Eleven years before the destruction of the First Holy Temple, King Jeconiah (also referred to as Jehoiachin or Coniah) succeeded his father, Jehoiakim, as king of Judah. He only ruled for three months and ten days before King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia laid siege to Jerusalem and King Jeconiah surrendered. Nebuchadnezzar plundered Jerusalem and the Temple and took many prominent Jews, including King Jeconiah and the prophet Ezekiel, to Babylon (the Temple was not actually destroyed until a few years later).1

Expounding on the verse “You will rise, You will have mercy on Zion for there is a time to favor it, for the appointed season has arrived; for Your servants desired its stones and favored its dust,”2 the Midrash relates that when Jeconiah and his fellow exiles left, they carried with them some of the stones and the earth of Jerusalem to build for themselves a synagogue in Babylon.3 Although destroyed and rebuilt, this synagogue was still in existence hundreds of years later during Talmudic times.4

Earth from Israel During Burial

While there is no specific custom regarding building a synagogue with Jerusalem stone, we do find that there is a Jewish custom, related to the verse in Psalms quoted above, to place some earth from Israel in the coffin during burial. This is done both as a means of atonement and a symbol of our longing for the Redemption and the Resurrection of the Dead (for more on this see Why Do Some Put Earth From Israel in the Coffin?).

Remembering the Destruction

One way in which Jerusalem is literally built into our homes is the law that when building a new home (as opposed to buying an already painted or finished building) one should endeavor to leave a patch unfinished, measuring an amah by an amah (approx. 1.5 ft. x 1.5 ft.), to remind us of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.5 Through this reminder, we fervently pray for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple with the coming of Moshiach. May it be speedily in our days!