The Mount of Olives
The hills of the Mount of Olives have served from time immemorial as the eastern border of ancient Jerusalem, forming a clear partition that separates the city from the edge of the Judean Desert. In fact it is a long hilly range that runs from Mount Scopus to the slopes running down to the Kidron Valley in the south, and to the foothills of the summit known as the Mount of Corruption. Its height, which is impressive in relation to its surroundings, provides a spectacular view of the city to the west and of the desert to the east.
During both the First and Second Temples Periods, the city of Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount at its centre, was the focus of Jewish life. This was to have a great influence on the status of Mount of Olives in Jewish history, tradition and culture. Its proximity to the Temple Mount, and, primarily, the view that could be had from it, gave the Mount of Olives a special religious significance and it became an integral part of the holy rites of Jerusalem. Jewish sources connect the Mount of Olives with future miraculous happenings that will occur at the time of the Redemption. These traditions turned the Mount of Olives into a place of deep Jewish significance from which developed religious practices and the Mount came to be regarded as holy and a place of pilgrimage.
The holiness of the Mount, its proximity to the city and in addition to these the texture of its rock (soft chalk, that is relatively easy to chisel out) resulted in the Mount becoming a burial place over the generations. The tradition of burial here started in the First Temple Period and has continued right down to the present day.
The Mount of Olives now offers spectacular views for tourists who come to its summit, and in addition to the impressive scenery, a variety of tours of the Mount that explore the depths of Jewish history are also available. From between its rocks the Mount softly whispers its stories and all we have to do is wander through its hidden corners to recognize its glorious past.