The Mount of Olives Ridge served in ancient times as the eastern border of Ancient Jerusalem, as it creates a clear buffer separating the city from the Judean desert. The elongated mountain ridge, which extends from Mount Scopus in the north to the slopes of the Kidron Valley in the south, to the foot of the peak known as the “Mount of Unction”. Due to its relative height, the Mount of Olives allows a breathtaking view of the city to the west, and the desert to the east.
During the First and Second Temple periods, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were the focus of Jewish life. This greatly influenced the status of the Mount of Olives in history and Jewish heritage. The mountain was attributed special religious significance and became an integral part of religious services due its proximity to the Temple Mount and especially because of the view that it offered of the surrounding area.
Biblical sources tie the Mount of Olives with future miraculous occurrences that will take place during the Redemption. As a result, the Mount of Olives became an important site in Jewish tradition and various customs developed. The mountain was sanctified and it became a place of Jewish pilgrimage. The mountain’s sanctity, its proximity to the city and its soft chalky consistency which made it easy to dig into, contributed to the mountain becoming a place of burial throughout the generations. The tradition of burial began during the First Temple period, and continues to this very day.
Today, visitors flock to the Mount of Olives for its breathtaking views and to learn about its history in special guided tours. Its rocks whisper stories from centuries past, engaging visitors with its secrets and glorious history.