the Mount of Olives

Kidron Valley and St. Steven's monastery
Kidron Valley and St. Steven's monastery

Jerusalem turned into a capital of  Israel only during the reign of the famous king David, in 1004 - 965 BC. And it served as a capital till the times of the last Jewish king, grandson of king Herod the Great, Agrippa, 41-44 AD.  The Mount of Olives has always been the eastern border of the city and of a whole climatic zone - Judean mountains. Behind the mountain ridge lays vast Judean desert. The average width of the ridge is 2.5 km (1.550 ml), maximum - 3.5 km (2.174 ml). It consists of two major ridges - Scopus Mountain - 826 m high (2709 foot) and  Ascension Mt -746 m (2447 foot).

 

The gates of Mercy and the wall of the Old city of jerusalem
The gates of Mercy and the wall of the Old city of jerusalem

Mount of Olives is first mentioned in the Old Testament when King David flees the city from his own son Absalom. King Solomon erected an altar on the hill dedicated to other gods.

 Prophet Zechariah (14) relates to the mount of Olives as to the place on which the glorious apocalyptic events will occur.

View of Kidron Valley and St. Steven Monastery
View of Kidron Valley and St. Steven Monastery

 

"A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake[a] in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name."

The Jewish cemetery on the slopes of Mt. of Olives
The Jewish cemetery on the slopes of Mt. of Olives

 That is why there are so many cemeteries cover the mountain and the nearest valley Kedron. The largest cemetery is Jewish. There are more than 1500 toms there, some of them date back to 2000 years ago. It exists even from the First temple period but only in the 14Th century CE it obtained its current form.

 Most famous are buried there. Among them are Or Ha-chaim, the first European Rabbi of Jerusalem - Abraham Itshak Cook, Henrietta Sold - the founder of women's fund Hadassa, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the reformer of Hebrew Language, the Nobel prize writer Shai Agnon, the sixth prime minister of Israel - Menachem Begin and etc.

There was an ancient route laid through the Mount of Olives. And crowds of people came to the Temple during major Israeli feasts. According to the Gospel Jesus from Nazareth came to Jerusalem by this road. 

 The Triumphal Entry:

"When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

 saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied {there} and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me.

 "If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them."

 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

"SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, 'BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'"

 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them,

 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats.

 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.

 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!"

 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, "Who is this?"

 And the crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee."

(Mt.21:1-12)

A firm Christian tradition argues that Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives after his resurrection. But the Gospel of  Matthew 28:16-20 does not say so.

The Great Commission.

 " Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The mountain described here is in Galilee. But it says in the Gospel of Luke 24:50-53:

"When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God."

Bethany is situated just on top of the mount of Olives. And finally apostle John (21 ch.) reports:

"Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee."

In the book of Acts of the apostles, it says:

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come backin the same way you have seen him go into heaven...”Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city."

According to this account, Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives.