Guide to Mount of Olives in Jerusalem – a holy place for all believers

 Mount of Olives, is one of the main attractions of Jerusalem. It has a close connection with famous biblical events hence, attracting thousands of pilgrims from around the world. Ordinary travelers visit Jerusalem to see the unsurpassed beauty of this region with their own eyes.

Mount of Olives

What attracts people to Mount of Olives

Mount of Olives often called Eleon, is famous not only for its rich historical past but also for its impressive size. Its height is 826 m, which far exceeds the size of other surrounding hills. This place attracts people for three different reasons. The first being that important biblical events took place here. Secondly, the huge sheer walls of the mountain range reliably protect the Old City from the destructive proximity to the Judean desert. And third, that from the top of Olivet, a beautiful panorama opens, which is equally enjoyed by both deeply religious people and ordinary tourists, eager for new experiences.

Old city

History of Mount Of Olives

The history of Mount of Olives is closely connected with the name of King David. According to one of the books of the Old Testament, it was on the slopes of Mount of Olives, overgrown with lush thickets of olive trees, that then ruler of Israel was hiding from the offspring who had mounted on him. By the way, it was these trees that gave grief its second name. The next mention of Olivet is in the New Testament. Religious scholars claim that it was there that Jesus Christ taught his disciples the word of God and ascended into heaven after the resurrection.

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The Mount of Olives consists of 3 peaks: Southern or Mount Temptation, which housed sanctuaries for the wives of Solomon. Northern or Lesser Galilee, so named after foreign wanderers staying in inns, and Srednyaya or Mount Ascension. Nowadays, each of the points has its own attractions, including the Lutheran Center, the Ascension Monastery, and the Hebrew University campus.

Lutheran Center on Mount of Olives
Lutheran Center
In addition, there is a Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives, founded more than 3 thousand years ago, and several ancient tombs. Finding the last refuge here is considered a great honor, so most Jews prefer to bury their dead relatives in this cemetery.

And one more remarkable fact! The road from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives is often called the “Sabbath Way.” The fact is that they are separated by exactly a thousand steps – that is how many God-fearing Jews can go on Shabbat.

Sacred places at Mount of Olives

On the peaks and slopes of Mount of Olives, there are a large number of sacred places and architectural monuments. Let’s get acquainted with the most interesting of them.

Temple of the ascension
Temple of the ascension

The Ascension Temple on Mount of Olives was erected in honor of the coming of Christ. It is considered a holy place not only for Christians but also for followers of Islam.  its foundation dates back to the end of the 4th century. The first building could not be preserved – it was destroyed in 613 during the war with the Persians. The church building was reconstructed by the crusaders in 2 thousand BC, however, it quickly fell into decay. The temple got its present appearance only in the 17th century when Muslims attached a dome, a large mihrab, and a mosque to it. The main historical value of this place is a stone with the imprint of the foot of the Messiah.

Stone with the footprint of the Savior

Opening hours: daily from 8.00 to 18.00.

Holy Ascension Convent
Holy Ascension Convent

The Ascension Monastery on Mount of Olives was built in 1870. It has become a permanent abode for 46 inhabitants of various nationalities. Its main distinguishing features are the stone on which the Virgin Mary stood during the ascension, and the white bell tower of John the Baptist nicknamed the “Russian Candles”. It won the title of the highest church building in Jerusalem. On the last tier of the 64-meter bell tower is an observation deck, which leads to a long and rather steep staircase. It is said that that the most beautiful view of the Old Town opens there.

Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane, located at the foot of the hill, is a beautiful and sparsely populated area, which offers a quiet and relaxing holiday. Once upon a time, it occupied a vast territory but now only a small piece of it remains, densely covered with olive. Scientists claim that at least 8 of these trees were planted more than 2000 years ago. It is very easy to recognize them, as old olives grow only in width.

Gethsemane
Garden of Gethsemane

However, ancient trees are far from the only pride of Gethsemane. According to the New Testament, it was in this garden that Jesus Christ prayed after the Last Supper and the betrayal of Judah. Currently, there are several churches belonging to different faiths.

Opening hours:

  • April-September – from 8.00hrs to 18.00hrs;
  • October-March – from 8.00hrs to 17.00hrs.

Church of St. Mary Magdalene

As can be seen in numerous photos of Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, one of the most striking buildings of this area is the Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, built in 1886. Located in the heart of the Garden of Gethsemane, it is clearly visible from almost all corners of Jerusalem.

Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene

The church building is built of white-gray stone. It can be called the best example of classical Russian architecture of the XVII century. It includes a small bell tower and as many as 7 domes. However, tourists are not as impressed by the impressive size of this building as they are by the richness of its interior. On the walls of the church, one can see frescoes depicting scenes from the life of the Mother of God, the floor of the temple is made of expensive colored marble, and the main iconostasis is decorated with elegant bronze ornaments.

Inside the Church of Mary Magdalene

In addition, several ancient relics are kept there. These include the miraculous icon “Hodegetria”, as well as the relics of three famous women – the Greek Princess Alice, nun Barbara, and Princess Elizabeth Fedorovna, who died during the Bolshevik uprisings.

Opening hours: Tue and Thurs. from 10.00 to 12.00.

Remains closed on all other days

 
Tomb of the Virgin
Tomb of the Virgin

The underground tomb of the Virgin, located near the Garden of Gethsemane, is a small room in which the Virgin Mary was supposedly buried. A visit to this tomb makes a truly indelible impression. To get inside, you need to go down the stone stairs which were carved back in the 12th century. Having overcome the last obstacle, visitors find themselves in a narrow room, hung with ancient paintings and icons. At the altar, one can leave a note with a wish and request. In addition, the tomb has a separate section for Muslims who considered the Virgin to be a model of purity and purity.

Opening hours: Mon-Sat – from 6.00 to 12.00 and from 14.30 to 17.00.

Closed on Sundays

 

Mountain view

The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is rich not only in religious buildings but also for its views. From the mountain, the gleams of the golden gate, the slender candles of the minarets, the roofs of the houses of the old part of the city, the Christian Quarter, the ancient fortress walls located beyond the Kedron River, and other buildings of Jerusalem are perfectly visible.

Mountain view

Visiting charges

Most of the memorial sites of Mount of Olives are in the public domain, but you will have to buy a ticket to enter some attractions. The cost of visits and opening hours are best specified in advance by contacting the information center or by viewing the information on the official website: mountofolives.co.il/en.

 

How to get there

Gate of St. Stephen
Gate of St. Stephen

 

Mount of Olives, which is decorated with many tourist avenues, is located at Mount of Olives Road | East Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel. You can get to it either on foot or by taxi or public transport. The nearest walking route is from the gates of St. Stephen, which is also called the Lions. When approaching the foot, you will find yourself in a gorge that separates the mountain from the Old Town. The climb will not be easy, especially in the summer heat. But the pay for one’s diligence will be stunning views that open at each level of ascent.

Bus number 3

As for transport, several buses go to the main viewing platform on the Mount of Olives – Nos. 1, 3, and 75. They all leave from the Arab bus station near Damascus Gate and move along the Western Wall to the stop Derech Jericho / Derech Ha’Ophel. At the foot of the hill, you can take a taxi. Cabs can be hired in the Old Town. In this case, a trip to the Mount of Olives will cost 35-50 ILS. If you are going to climb to the top on your own transport, be prepared to face the lack of free parking spaces.

 

Information center

Information centre

Information about the cemetery on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem as well as about other attractions of this holy place is provided by the information center located on Derekh Yericho Street. In addition to well-known information, here one can find the names of those who were laid to rest at the local necropolis, clarify the location of their graves and even order a tombstone. In addition, the information center offers drinks, snacks, and themed printed materials on the history of the mountain.

Cemetery on Mount of Olives

Opening hours:

  • Sun-Thu. – from 9.00 to 17.00;
  • Closed on Fridays

Useful Tips

Having decided to visit the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, adopt a few useful recommendations:

    1. The most comfortable time to explore the local attractions is in November as Israel has a comfortable temperature in November, rarely exceeding 22 ° C;
    2. It is better to start the overview of the mountain from the top, gradually going down to the grave of the Virgin Mary.
    3. To avoid a large influx of tourists, one must arrive early. In order to fully enjoy the beautiful panorama of the Old Town;
    4. The most beautiful photographs can be taken at the observation deck. Filming should be carried out in the morning – after lunch, the sun shines directly in the eyes;
    5. During the tour, use the services of a guide or take a detailed guide with you. Otherwise, understanding such a huge number of attractions will be quite difficult;
    6. When planning a trip to Jerusalem, one must take into consideration that in the afternoon of Friday and Saturday, life in the city stops – there are no passers-by in the streets, establishments are closed, and transport almost does not go;
    7. Despite the fact that many travelers prefer to climb Mount of Olives on foot, it is better for people who are aged or are not in good physical condition to take a taxi or catch one of the tourist buses;
    8. In Jerusalem, as in any other Muslim city, there is a dress code. According to his laws, the outfit should cover both knees and shoulders. In addition, the ladies will have to cover their heads with a scarf.
    9. Those who wish to enjoy an incredibly beautiful sunset are advised to climb to the observation deck in the late afternoon;
    10. Near Gethsemane there is a paid toilet;
    11. If you want tea or coffee, check out the information center. You will certainly be invited to the Absolom Pillar restaurant and be treated to a free drink and entertain with pleasant live music;
    12. Tourists who come to Jerusalem for a long time and want to join the life of its inhabitants are advised to volunteer and help restore the destroyed graves. The work of volunteers is supervised by the same information center. Of course, no one will pay money, but you will have a unique opportunity to learn Mount of Olives from the inside.
Beautiful sunset

The Mount of Olives in Israel is not only an important monument of world architecture and history but also a truly interesting place, the sights of which will conquer representatives of all existing religions. Visit this area without fail, touch unique relics, feel the spirit of bygone times and simply bow to the Holy Land.

 

 


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