One of the best views of the Mount of Olives can be found from the ramparts of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. The Rampart Walk is cheap (around $4 at this time) and permits unique views of Jerusalem. I posted on this experience last year and included a short video from the experience. The walls were built from 1537-1541 when the Ottoman Turks controlled the city. They are nearly 500 years old – built just after Columbus discovered the New World – but in a city continuously occupied for thousands of years, some locals joke that the walls are “new.”
Here is a broad view of the Mount of Olives taken from the ramparts of Jerusalem’s southwestern walls. We are looking east in the photo. This view shows most of the mountain without including the buildings on the Temple Mount. The right portion (the southern end) of the mountain is covered with hundreds of thousands of Jewish tombs, some of which date back many centuries. These graves are here in the hope that their Jewish occupants will rise at the coming of the Messiah from the east and enter Jerusalem with him.
The Mount of Olives viewed from the ramparts of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. This perspective gives an idea of the size of this mountain lying east of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. (Photo by Luke Chandler)
Interestingly, the Bible mentions this mountain by name in conjunction with only two men: David and Jesus. David fled over it during the coup d’etat of his son Absalom. The following Bible passage describes how David planted an agent in Jerusalem as he was fleeing, and indicates there was an active “high place” for worship on the summit.
David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went.
While David was coming to the summit, where God was worshiped, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat torn and dirt on his head. David said to him, “…If you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king…’ then you will defeat for me the counsel of Ahithophel [Absalom's chief advisor]… So Hushai, David’s friend, came into the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem.(1 Samuel 15:30-37)
David’s city was just off to the right in the above photo. The biblical text states that David went over the mountain and down the other side to the Jordan River Valley, where he crossed the river and proceeded to set up a base at the defensible site of Mahanaim. From here, David gathered his strength and defeated Absalom’s revolt.
Jesus climbed and crossed this mountain numerous times, most notably during the week prior to his crucifixion. He taught daily on the Temple Mount (just off to the left of the above photo) and spent his last nights in the village of Bethany on the opposite slope. Jesus was eventually arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, located along the visible slope above.
More could be said about the Mount of Olives, but we are about to join the new excavation at Lachish and time is precious. Lord willing and internet connection permitting, I will post more on the experiences of our tour and excavation experience in Israel.