Yad Kennedy Memorial, a Tribute to the US and its Famed President

The Yad Kennedy Memorial in Jerusalem mountains

photography by: Omri Westmark

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When John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated in 1963, Jewish communities throughout the country were overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. As a tribute to their venerated president, a hefty amount of funds was donated to erect a memorial in Israel, entirely dedicated to JFK. Tucked away in the forested mountains around Jerusalem, Yad Kennedy is not merely a place of remembrance, but also an architectural oddity coupled with the sweeping views of the surrounding biblical landscape.

In the aftermath of JFK death on 1963, dozens of memorials to the late president popped up all over the world. As John F. Kennedy was particularly popular among American Jews, it seemed natural for many of whom to pay a tribute to the hallowed leader by constructing a similar memorial in their ancestral land, Israel.

 

Inaugurated by the then American chief justice, Earl Warren, on the 4th of July 1966, during the US Independence Day, Yad Kennedy is a monument in memory of JFK and his legacy. Located atop a wooded hill in the mountainous area west of Jerusalem, the memorial was designed by architect David Reznik. According to Reznik, the building is reminiscent of a felled tree trunk, a reference to the life cut prematurely short.

 

As Reznik was an ardent admirer of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, it was rumored that Yad Kennedy was inspired by one of Niemeyer’s most renowned works, the Cathedral of Brasília. Regardless whether that is true or not, the memorial site is an intriguing landmark by its own right. The building is comprised of 53 concrete columns centered around a circular hall, where an eternal flame glows at its middle, facing a bronze relief of Kennedy himself as well as a series of brutalist-style ornaments.

 

Each of the 7.2-meter-tall pillars is decorated with an emblem, including 50 symbols of the fifty US states, one of the District of Columbia and additional two with a logo of the Jewish National Fund, the non-profit organization that initiated the project. The slightly curved columns are separated from each other by glass panels, both of which merge perfectly with the black and white striped patterns across the 1,500 square meter platform that surrounds the building.

 

As the memorial is nestled on of the area’s hilliest points, it offers a glut of breathtaking views, most notably a distant glimpse of Jerusalem.