Mount of Olives

This view point is called the Rehavam Observation Point after Rehavam Zevi (Gandhi).  Other, more common names would be the Mount of Olives Observation or the Seven Arches Observation Point.

Practical Issues:

  • Before people are distracted by the view, it is important to warn people about pickpockets, preferably before arriving here.  
  • The toilets here are very good: it is wise to use them before continuing the day.
  • It is best to do this viewpoint first thing in the morning before it gets too hot and while the sun is in a good position to take photographs.
  • It is a good idea to use headsets here if possible, so as not to disturb other groups.

Introduction: The name Mount of Olives derives from the olive trees that grew here from the Biblical periods until today.  Historically, the lower, western side of the ridge is the oldest Jewish burial site in the world.  Part of the reason for this is that according to the book of Zechariah, the Jews believe that Messiah will come to the Mount of Olives and that at this point the dead will be resurrected.  The burial continued through the First and Second Temple Periods and burials still take place on the Mount of Olives today. A-Tur is the name of a village located on the Mount of Olives. It comes from the Aramaic Tura, which means mountain. A-Tur therefore means THE Mountain, perhaps referring to the ascension of Jesus.  This description would have been enough for everyone to know which mountain was being mentioned.  Aramaic would have been the main language of the Jewish people in Second Temple times. 

Geographical location:

The Mount of Olives is one of the many names for the ridge which is located to the east of the city.  It is not a single peak, but rather a long north to south ridge having several parts, each with a different name.  For example, Mount Scopus is the northern part.  The Mount of Olives is the central and highest part, being 820m in height.  The Mosque/ Chapel of the Ascension is located on the highest point. 

What do we see geographically from the Mount of Olives?

  1. The Mount of Olives forms a natural border/ defense between the city of Jerusalem and the Judean Desert. We might mention the importance of the desert for Christian monasticism, continuing the pattern that began in the Biblical Periods.
  2. Below, in front of us, we see the Kidron valley/ valley of Enar.  The northern portion (seen to the right) is known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat or judgment/ Wadi Joz.
  3. To the south west, the Kidron valley is connected to the Hinnon valley. If we look at the shape of the valleys, it looks like the palm of a hand, as well as like the letter shin in Hebrew.  This is the first letter of El Shaddai; one of the names of God.
    Isaiah 49 v 16 and 1 Kings 8 v 29, 2 Chronicles 6 v 20.
  4. There used to be a valley running parallel to the Western wall known as the Tyropeon/ Cheese-makers/ central valley. Today all the valleys are much less deep than they used to be and the cheese maker’s valley is almost entirely filled in.
  5. The mountains that we see from the view point are: Psalm 125 v 2
    • Mount Moriah upon which the First and Second Jewish Temples stood and upon which today the Al Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock stand.
    • Mount Zion where the early church met, both during Jesus life and after His death.
    • The Bethzetha and Antonia Ridges
    • Har Shmuel – the Mountain of the Prophet Samuel

Churches located on the Mount of Olives: 

(Starting from the north to south, then descending down the slope towards the Kidron Valley.)

  1. The Lutheran Augusta Viktoria Church.  The foundation stone was laid during the 1898 visit of Kasier Wilhelm II and his wife, Augusta Viktoria.
  2. The Greek Orthodox Church of Viri Galilae, owned by the orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The name is taken from Acts 1 verse 11 that says: “men of Galilee….” Location of the 1964 historic meeting between Pope Paul VI, leader of the Catholic Church and the Patriarch of Constantinople AthenagorasEcumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church. Two pillars have a Greek inscription: Mt 28 v16: “the eleven disciples return to Galilee”.
  3. The Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension & 64 ft bell tower; the highest one.
  4. The Chapel/ Mosque of the Ascension
  5. Carmelite Convent
  6. Pater Noster Church/ Eleona – one of the four churches of Queen Helena. Pater Noster commemorates a tradition that Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer in a cave on this location.  Eleona means olives and the ancient church commemorated the location of the Ascension of Jesus to heaven.
  7. Benedictine Monastery for French-speaking nuns.
  8. Dominus Flevit – Grey dome with four little urns for tears 
  9. Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene (Golden onion-shaped domes) Church of All Nations/ Church of Gethsemane/ Church of the Agony
  10. Tomb of the Virgin Mary and ancient olive press in the cave of Gethsemane.

Churches that can be viewed from the Mount of Olives:

  1. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher/ Anastasis – one of the four churches of Queen Helene, mother of Constantine the Great.
  2. The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, dedicated by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898.
  3. St Peter Galicantu – possible location for the house of Caiaphas and the trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin.
  4. The Domitian Abbey (Franciscan) – foundation laid by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898.  Important for Catholics, commemorates the assumption of the virgin Mary.  
  5. The Upper Room – cannot be easily viewed but should be mentioned.

Importance of the Mount of Olives for all three monotheistic religions:

For Judaism:

  • The M o O looked out over the First and Second Jewish Temples and the Temple Mount. Mount Moriah is the heart of the Jewish faith:
  1. The foundation stone of creation In Rabbinic sources it was called the center of the world or Even ha Shtia.
  2. Location of the creation of Adam and Eve
  3. Location of the center of the Garden of Eden
  4. Location of the Binding of Isaac
  5. Possible location of Jacobs Ladder, if Beit El is not taken to be the place, but rather the House of God; i.e. the Temple.
  • It was a historic observation place for Jewish pilgrims, many of whom would see the Temple for the first time from here.
  • When the Shekinah presence (manifest presence of the Glory of God) left the Holy of Holies it is said that it happened gradually, like a journey.  It is believed that for three and a half years it rested on the Mount of Olives and that when the Temple was destroyed, the Shekinah ascended to heaven. In the Second Temple Period the connection to the Mount of Olives was very strong.  It is said that there were shops there, where people could buy items that were needed for the Temple.
  • Some of the Temple rites took place here, for example the sprinkling of the ashes of the red heifer.  In order for the priest to perform this ritual, he needed to stand outside the Temple complex.  The most common understanding as to where the ritual was performed is that it was done at the location of Dominus Flevit.  It is said that a special bridge was built for this purpose, but no remains have been found yet.
  • Once a year on Yom Kippur, all the sins of the nation were placed onto the scapegoat, which was then taken to the desert to die, being led out of the city on this special bridge.  
  • Torches for the New Moon were lit on the Mount of Olives and then the signal was carried via a chain of mountains, each of which was in visual range of the previous one. This connection was maintained even after the Temple was destroyed.
  • On the seventh day of Sukkot, the Hoshana Rabbah was celebrated by making a circle seven times around the peak of the Mount of Olives. It became an alternative to the Temple during periods when access for Jews was not permitted.  This occurred more or less at the View Point, near the Seven Arches Hotel.
  • During the Crusader Period, they did not allow any of these practices to continue.
  • In order to expand the Temple Mount, Herod built arches at the southern end, and cut away a rock scarp at the northern end of Mount Moriah, effectively encasing the Mountain. 
  • The Jewish People also placed importance on the Mount of Olives for the end of days; the final judgment and resurrection of the dead.  This idea contributed to the practice of Jewish burial in this location, starting from the First Temple Period and continuing into the Second Temple Period.  
  • In Judaism the northern portion of the Valley of Kidron is the place of Judgement.

Islam and the Mount of Olives:

  • In the day of the Last Judgment it is believed that there will be a “bridge’ from the Mount of Olives to Haram al Sharif which will be as narrow as a single hair and supported by seven arches.  It would be called the Straight Way of the righteous ones, which is mentioned in the first Sura of the Qur’an. Allah will demand all people to walk on it and the idea is that only the righteous would arrive to the other side.  Sinners would fall down to Wadi Gehenon and to the fires of hell.  The Seven Arches Hotel was built by the Jordanian Kingdom and by King Hussein in 1964.  The central part of the hotel has 7 arches in order to remind us of the bridge and of the end of days. 
  • Mount Moriah is said to be the location of the night journey of Mohammad and the location of the farthest mosque. Sura 17.

The Last week of Jesus life:

On the eastern side of the mountain, at Al Azaria/ Bethany Lazarus was raised from the dead and Yeshua spent His last night.  On Palm Sunday Jesus takes a donkey from Bethpage and rides it to Jerusalem. (Bethphage means a young fig and Jesus cursed the fig tree in that location.)  He sees Jerusalem and laments for the future destruction, prophesying what would take place. (Dominus Flevit, the shape of a tear drop.)  Then He entered the Temple Mount, perhaps from the Golden/ Beautiful Gate or Gate of Mercy.  Then he cleansed the Temple, heals sick people and turned the tables of the money changers upside down.  After this He returned to Bethany.  On Thursday night He celebrated The Last Supper or Pesach Seder together with the 12 disciples in the Cenacle or Upper Room. 

During the supper Judas left. After the last Supper He went to Gethsemane with only 3 disciples.  You can see the triangular gable of Gethsemane.  Here He prays and is betrayed and arrested.  He is then taken to the House of Caiaphas, the High Priest.  The traditional location for this is on Mount Zion, at St Peter Gallicantu Church.  This is a massive church with a round grey dome. On Good Friday He was taken by the High Priest to Pilate.  The traditional location for this is the Antonia Fortress which was located on the North West corner of the Temple Mount on the site of today’s Omariya School.  He then carried the cross to Golgotha and was buried nearby in a garden on Friday afternoon.  On the first day of the week, before first light, He was resurrected in the tomb.  

We should point out the location of the Holy Sepulcher.    This has two grey domes, one larger and one smaller and is to the left of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.  It is almost in line with the Dome of the Rock, depending exactly on where you stand. The Garden Tomb is located north of Damascus Gate.  40 days after the resurrection, he ascended to heaven, after walking to the Mount of Olives with His disciples.

 

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