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Mount of Olives

Also known as Olivet, Mount Olivet, Har HaZeitim

From the Kidron Valley

Separated from the Eastern Hill (the Temple Mount and the City of David) by the Kidron Valley, the Mount of Olives has always been an important feature in Jerusalem’s landscape. From the 3rd millennium BC until the present, this 2900-foot (880-m) hill has served as one of the main burial grounds for the city. The two-mile- (3.2-km-) long ridge has three summits each of which has a tower built on it.

Dome of the Ascension

The Church of the Holy Ascension was taken by Saladin in 1187, converted into a mosque, and remains such today. It contains what is traditionally the last footprint of Jesus on earth before He ascended into heaven.

Two other places are claimed to be the location of the ascension. Constantine’s mother Helena built a church under the modern Paternoster Church to commemorate this event. A much later tradition connects the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension to Christ’s return into heaven.

Scripture indicates that the Jesus ascended into heaven in the vicinity of Bethany. This village is down the east slope of the Mt. of Olives about 1.5 miles (2.2 km). In this case, none of the traditional locations for the ascension are correct.

Garden of Gethsemane

Early Christian pilgrims located the Garden of Gethsemane at the bottom of the slope of the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple Mount. Byzantine, Crusader, and a modern church were built successively on the site where it is believed that Jesus prayed to the Father hours before His crucifixion. The modern Church of All Nations has a beautiful mosaic on its facade.

Olives Trees in Gethsemane

Adjacent to the Church of All Nations is an ancient olive garden. Olive trees do not have rings and so their age can not be precisely determined, but scholars estimate their age to anywhere between one and two thousand years old. It is unlikely that these trees were here in the time of Christ because of the report that the Romans cut down all the trees in the area in their siege of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Church of Mary Magdalene

This Russian Orthodox church was built in honor of the czar’s mother in 1888 and the mosaic inside depicts the legend of Mary Magdalene presenting an egg to Emperor Tiberius. The egg allegedly turned red when she handed it to him, symbolic of Jesus’s blood. Approximately 30 nuns from all over the world live in the convent here today.

Dominus Flevit Church

Built in 1955 to commemorate the Lord’s weeping over Jerusalem, Dominus Flevit features a beautiful view of the city through its distinct chapel window. Excavations during the construction of the church uncovered a number of ossuaries (bone boxes) from the time of Jesus with numerous inscriptions.

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Related Websites

Mount of Olives  (Biblewalks.com) Describes many structures, all over the city, that you can see from the Mount of Olives. Includes background information on many of these sites.

Mount of Olives (See the Holy Land) Highlights the biblical importance of Jerusalem’s eastern hills, also briefly describes the many holy sites dedicated to events in Jesus’s life and ministry.

Mount of Olives (official site) Including interesting data like cemetery capacity, and all sorts of background info, this site is worth perusing.

Mount of Olives Walking Tour (Hike Israel, written by Erez Speiser) This guide is detailed and nicely illustrated, providing an afternoon of enjoyment for those looking to tour this area well.

Mount of Olives  (WebBible Encyclopedia, ChristianAnswers.Net) Interests the reader with both physically and biblically descriptive facts, including internal links to related topics.

The Mount Of Olives (Encyclopedia Britannica) General information about the area laid out in a straightforward manner.

Mount Olivet (Catholic Encyclopedia) Discusses the biblical events that occurred in the region. Text only, no photographs.

The Testimony of Gethsemane – Part 1 – The Mount of Olives (The Open Scroll)  A lengthy article about the Mt. of Olives, presenting the mount as a spiritual symbol of separation. It is followed by The Testimony of Gethsemane – Part 2 – Separation in the Olive Press Place, also rather lengthy, discussing the name “Gethsemane” as a symbol of Jesus’s experience in the garden.

Jerusalem – Beyond the Old City Walls (Virtual Israel Experience, Jewish Virtual Library) Details the sites commemorating the final hours of Jesus’ life on earth.  Contains some factual errors.

Dominus Flevit (Franciscan Cyberspot) Highlight of this page is a few photos of the archaeological finds from below the church.

The Basilica of the Agony (Church of All Nations) (Israel MFA) This page serves as an introduction to the Church of All Nations, which adjoins the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Church of St Mary Magdalene (Christian Media Center) An intriguing perspective on the beautiful church that brightens the Mount of Olives with its golden domes. Includes a video and limited information.

Chapel of the Ascension (Bein Harim Tours) This site gives a brief introduction to this chapel.

Church of the Pater Noster (Atlas Obscura) Features some nice photographs of this unique church, along with some helpful information.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives (Artchive, oil painting) A beautiful painting, amazingly detailed, depicting the Old City of Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives.

Mount of Olives: The Suffering and Glory of the Messiah (Evangelical Magazine) A 2019 article about the mount, including comparisons and contrasts between David and Jesus as related to the site.

Bethphage

Bethphage (See the Holy Land) Briefly introduces this village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and its biblical role.

Bethphage (Holy Land Tours) Another brief introduction to Bethphage and its relevance.

Bethphage (Custodia Terrae Sanctae) Includes photos and information specifically about the church onsite.

Bethany

Bethany (See the Holy Land) Highlights this town’s biblical importance and adds a few photos.

Tomb of Lazarus (Jerusalem Experience) A 3-minute video tour of the tomb, along with background information.