Located east of Jerusalem’s Old City and separating it from the Judean Desert, the Mount of Olives is one of the most prominent sites in the Jerusalem vicinity mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. It is first mentioned as King David’s escape route during the rebellion of his son Absalom, then later in the prophets; but it is most often referred to in the New Testament, being the route from Jerusalem to Bethany and a favourite location for Jesus' teachings to his pupils and where he wept over Jerusalem. Here, the Dominus Flevit Church was built by the Franciscan order in 1954 to designs by A. Barluzzi in the shape of a tear atop remains of a Byzantine church.
At the foot of the mountain, adjacent to the Church of All Nations, stand the Gardens of Gethsemane (Gat Shemanim- oil press in Hebrew), in which one finds the golden turreted Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalene. Besides the compound of churches adjacent to Mount Scopus at its north, which includes the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Basilica Eleona and the convent of Pater Noster, it is perhaps best known for the extensive cemetery that faces Jerusalem all along its western slopes.
Believed to be the place from which God will begin to redeem the dead when the Messiah comes, Jews have always sought to be buried here. The most famous of these graves actually lie at the foot of the mountain, flush against the Old City walls, including the Tomb Of Zechariah, the tombs of the sons of Hezir and Yad Absalom. Further up, among the 150,000 graves in the Jewish cemetery, one may find the final resting places of Jewish philosopher Nahmanides, Hebrew language reviver Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Chief Rabbis Avraham Isaac Kook and Shlomo Goren and media mogul Robert Maxwell.
Presently, the Jerusalem Municipality in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s Office is embarking upon an ambitious renewal and development project for the entire site. The 100 million shekel project includes the renovation of thousands of graves destroyed during the Jordanian rule over Eastern Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967 and the development and maintenance of roads, fences and a tourist information centre. The project is expected to last for five years, due to the religiously sensitive nature of the area, which inhibits the use of heavy machinery.
The article is courtesy of Jerusalem Tourism Authority http://tour.jerusalem.muni.il