Also known as Mount Olivet, the mountain ridge to the east of Jerusalem’s Old City is one of the most known sites of significance within the Holy Land. From the time of the Biblical Kings all the way through the life of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, the Mount of Olives has played an important part in Israel’s history. Today, the Mount is a site of Christian pilgrimage for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and protestants alike, with the hilltop now a neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
Old Testament Significance
The Mount of Olives was first mentioned in connection with King David escaping the city from his son, Absalom, who was conspiring against him (2 Samuel 15:30). The mount is also known for King Solomon’s use of the its southern peak during the First Temple period, having been called the Mount of Corruption, for the worshipping of the false idols of his Moabite and Ammonite wives (1st and 2nd Kings). It wasn’t until King Josiah of Judah that the Mount returned to its holy beginnings.
Also noteworthy is an apocalyptic prophecy written within the Book of Zechariah stating that the Mount of Olives will be the place of the Messiah’s return during the end times. Following David’s conquest of the city in 10th century BCE and still occurring today, Israeli’s and Jews alike have requested to be buried on the Mount because of this exact reason. To date, there are over 150,000 tombs located on and around the Mount, some of which include the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
New Testament Significance
The Mount of Olives is frequently mentioned throughout the New Testament, especially in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in regards to the life of Jesus. The teaching of the Lord’s Prayer, the weeping over Jerusalem at Dominus Flevit, His prayer and capture within the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as His Ascension into Heaven all occurred on the Mount. It is important to note that the Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Stephen, the first bishop of Jerusalem who was stoned to death, are both buried here according to ancient tradition.
Throughout the last century, the Mount has faced hard times, including certain destruction of property. By the end of 1949 and throughout Jordanian occupation, an estimated 38,000 tombstones were damaged for the construction of the Intercontinental Hotel and adjacent parking lots. In recent years, it was often a target for the desecration of tombstones, as well as mourners having been assaulted on site. Since then, an international watch-committee has been put in place, bringing back the safety and tranquility that the Mount once boasted.