The rocks atop the stones at Arlington National Cemetery

As visitors walk through Arlington National Cemetery en route to the Tomb of the Unknowns or John F. Kennedy’s grave, they often ask why rocks are atop tombstones.

Simply, it’s a Jewish tradition. Rocks serve as a reminder of one’s visit to a grave much like Christians leave flowers.

I’m not Jewish, but I asked some Jewish friends and read up on this since first seeing the tradition at the end of  “Schindler’s List.”

The tradition dates back to Jacob’s sons placing rocks atop their mother Rachel’s grave. It also serves as a cover to a grave in sandy climates where winds may expose the buried to animal predators.

The rock tradition has spread. Some Muslims do it and I’ve seen rocks on markers with Christian symbols. Colored beads are also used so it appears a widening tradition.

This entry was posted in Arlington National Cemetery and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.