On a rainy morning we climbed the Mount of Olives. We walked from somewhere behind that copper dome, to the right to circumnavigate the old city, crossed the Valley of Josaphat (to the right, below) and then climbed the Mount of Olives. The view here is incredible in a historical and Biblical sense. This is also the place where it finally dawned upon me, how deep the rift between the Israeli's and Palestinians are.
The city today (including the “Old City”) has grown and shifted from its original location. The earliest city of Jerusalem is the “City of David,” a smaller hill south of, and lower than, the Temple Mount. The City of David is to the left of the green embankment in the middle left, of this picture. All that remains of that part, is the archaelogical diggings and a tourist facility as access to parts of the findings.
The Jebusites lived in Canaan with Jebus (or Jerusalem) as their stronghold, at the time that Joshua led Israel into the land of milk and honey. Joshua failed to clean out the Jebusites, who committed attrocities in the eyes of God. So the Jebusites shared the general area with the Benjamanite Judeans. Originaly, David ruled over Judeah from the city of Hebron. He was then called to become king of all of Israel. Jerusalem was thought to be an impregnable city, but David managed to surprise the ruler of the fortress city, by attacking through their water supply channel. This happened around 1,000 BC. The Biblical account can be read in 2 Samuel 5: 1 - 12.
Although, termed a city and fortress, the Jerusalem of those days was quite small. Maybe a square mile on the flat part above that embankment and it is also known as Zion. David's son, Solomon, built the temple on the Temple Mount, where the copper dome of the mosque can be seen. The Jewish history refers to the pre-temple, first temple, second temple and post temple periods. A daily prayer includes the wish for a third temple, but Jewish authorities are divided about this.
In the middle of this picture you can see a wall stretching from right to left and before the green embankment it turns and zig-zags into the distance. That is the wall of what is referred to as the Old City of Jerusalem, which is a lot younger than the Jerusalem, known as "David's City". This old city grew over the years and the core shifted away from David's City to the general area of the Temple Mount. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, the "Old City" grew over time into a much larger city than for instance at the time of Jesus. After the need for city walls became redundant, the city sprawled far beyound the the walls.
The Mount of Olives was originally covered by olive groves, but they got burned down in 70 AD. The hill is now covered by stone burial tombs for Jews. What you may think are bee hives. Some are family size and some are for individuals. Now you may know that the Jews don't believe in Jesus as the Messiah. According to them the Messiah must still come and when that happens, he will arrive on the Mount of Olives and ressurect the dead, starting with those closest to him. To be buried here and "be around" when their Messiah comes, comes at a steep price or you must have been a great statesperson.
Down below the tombs, you can see the silhouettes of some conifer trees. The Garden of Gethsemanè is just beyond those trees.
The valley to the left and at the foot of the green embankment, is the Kidron Valley.
According to the Bible (Acts 1:12) Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives. Exact spot unknown. Yet, there are three claims of other areas in and around Jerusalem. One of those spots is referred to as the Hill of Ascension. Look carefully to the left of the copper dome, there is a smaller dark coloured dome, still within the Old City walls. That building was a church and is now a mosque, marking the alleged Hill of Ascension.
Ever since 70 AD, when the Jews were spread over the face of the earth, this area has become the focus of the Jewish lament. In fact, the wailing wall is just beyond that copper dome. After the Roman Empire ceased to be, the forebears of the Palestinians ruled the country, bar a period when Jerusalem was freed from Muslim reign, by Crusade reign. The remaining Jews were suffered by good rulers and suffered for being suffered when a bad ruler take over. What is holy to the Jews, were often desecrated by these rulers. Building a mosque on the temple site. Closing the eastern gate. In 1948 the part from where I stand to just beyond the copper dome, was part of the Jordanian Kingdom and known as Eastern Jerusalem, until 1967. Tombs were descrated, there was an instance of a farmer who removed the tombs and started ploughing. Roads were built and tombs removed as part of the earth works. Jews were not allowd into this area, so had to watch all of this happening. As a result of the 1967 6-day war, the Israeli's occupied Eastern Jerusalem and the UN found it to be illegal. I believe the Israeli's just noted the UN's opinion and continued with life.
On the other side of the Mount of Olives - just behind my back and two or three kms away - is Bethlehem with the West Bank wall I have showed in my previous posting.