Mount of Olives in Jerusalem

Jews have been buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem since Biblical times. It is estimated that there are around 150,000 graves on this site.

Mt of Olives is the hill facing the old city of Jerusalem, on the eastern side of Kidron valley.

According to Jewish tradition the Messiah will appear here and bring the dead back to life. For this reason it became the holiest cemetery in the Jewish world

Beautiful view of Mt of Olives

1949 – 1967 under Jordanian Occupations

Burial was halted in 1948 when Old City Jerusalem felt on Jordanian hands. By the end of 1949, and throughout the Jordanian occupation of the site, Arab residents uprooted tombstones and plowed the land in the cemeteries, while skeletons and bones were strewn about and scattered.

An estimated 40,000 tombstones were smashed or damaged in total. Jewish tombstones from the Mount, both ancient and new, were used by the Jordanians for various purposes, including flooring for latrines and paving stones for roads.

During this period, four roads were paved through the cemeteries, in the process destroying graves including those of famous persons. Buildings, including the Intercontinental Hotel and a gas station, were erected on top of ancient graves.

After the Six Day War, when Jerusalem was reunited as one and only city, restoration began and the cemetery was reopened for burials.

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The Jewish Cemetery on the Mt of Olives

Jewish Tradition

Many religious ceremonies were held on the Mt of Olives because of its position higher than the Temple Mount offering a panoramic view of the Temple site. Later it became a traditional place of Pilgrimages and lamenting the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av.

A famous Italian Jewish Pilgrim of the 15th Century, Rabbi Meshulam Da Volterra wrote: "And all the community of Jews, every year, goes up to Mount Zion on the day of Tisha B’Av to fast and mourn, and from there they move down along Yoshafat Valley and up to Mount of Olives.

From there they see the whole Temple Mount and there they weep and lament the destruction of this House”

The most famous of the mentioned graves actually lay at the foot of the mountain, flush against the Old City walls, including the Tomb of Zechariah, the tombs of the sons of Hezir and Yad Absalom.

Further up, among the 150,000 graves in the Jewish cemetery, one may find the final resting places of Jewish philosopher Nahmanides, Hebrew language reviver Eliezer Ben Yehuda, former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Chief Rabbis Avraham Isaac Kook and Shlomo Goren and media mogul Robert Maxwell.

Church of All Nations and Church of Mary Magdalene in the Mt of Olives

Christian Tradition

The Mt of Olives is frequently mentioned in the New Testament as the route from Jerusalem to Bethany and the place where Jesus stood when he wept over Jerusalem.

Jesus is said to have spent time on the mount, teaching and prophesying to his disciples, and also coming there on the night of his betrayal.

At the foot of the Mount of Olives lies the Garden of Gethsemane. The New Testament tells how Jesus and his friends sang together and went to the Mount of Olives. Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives.

This different view is towards the Old City Jerusalem

Mt of Olives is associated with the Life of Jesus

Jesus had many encounters on Mount of Olives, and the area has many Churches that glorify his acts in this part of Jerusalem like the Basilica of Agony called the Church of All Nations. There are additional Christian sites on Mount of Olives such as the Tomb of Mary.

Mt of Olives is associated with acts in the life of Jesus. Several churches mark these places: Pater Noster church, the place where according to tradition Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s prayer; the tear shaped church of Dominus Flevit, meaning The Lord wept, where Jesus wept over the future destruction of the city and Gethsemane where Jesus was betrayed and arrested. At this site you may find the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene.

Adjacent is a compound of churches in Mount Scopus including the basilica of Sacred Heart, Basilica Eleona and the convent of Pater Noster.

Presently the Municipality in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s Office is embarking upon an ambitious renewal and development project for the Mt of Olives in Jerusalem.

Image Credits:
mt of olives by petern va de sluijs
All courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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