The Mount Of Olives PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
Article Index
The Mount Of Olives
City Of David
Solomon to Herod
Pater Noster Church

The Mount of Olives is the messianic mountain. When Jesus rode down it on "a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9), he was fulfilling Zechariah's prophecy not only by his choice of transport, but also by his choice of location. The tradition was already well established that over this mountain the Messiah would come. Yahweh's feet, the same prophet had said (14:4), "will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east." 

"Olivet," as the mountain is also called, offers the best view of Jerusalem, as though the city were tilted toward us on a platter:


At the center of vision is the Dome of the Rock, commemorating Muhammad's ascent into heaven. It probably stands, we shall see, where the Temple stood. Beyond it, to the north, west and south, spreads a city of 900,000 people. In antiquity Jewish pilgrims, on reaching the top of Olivet and seeing the goal of their journey before them, would sing Psalm 122.


The area including the golden Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque is known in Arabic as the Noble Sanctuary (Haram es-Sharif). Jews and Christians also refer to it as the Temple Mount. In the picture below, beyond al-Aqsa we see the buildings of the Jewish Quarter, behind which lies the Armenian quarter. Beyond the Dome of the Rock is the large gray dome of the Holy Sepulcher, around which huddles the Christian Quarter. The Haram, with the area to its right, is the Muslim quarter.


Before 1850, Jerusalem existed only within what we today call the Old City walls. Standing here, say, in 1849, we would have seen just landscape around those walls, as well as a caravanserai and perhaps the occasional ruin of a church. 

Here is a photograph from the opposite angle, taken at a time when al-Aqsa's dome was silver. Note that the Mt. of Olives forms a barrier between Jerusalem and the wilderness.

Jerusalem from the West

If you want a closer view from this side, enlarge the photo on the left.

Of the many themes on the Mount of Olives, we pick out several (see the Article Index on this page). From here as nowhere else we can trace the development of ancient Jerusalem. Also, as mentioned, it is the mountain over which - says prophetic tradition - the Messiah will arrive. That tradition stands behind the decision of Jesus to enter Jerusalem over this mountain. He is said to have taught the Lord's Prayer on its peak, and Acts records that from here he ascended. At the mountain's foot is the "place of the olive press" - gat shemanim, Gethsemane. And here we find Jewish cemeteries, ancient and modern.