Mount of Olives DIY Walking Tour
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
Take a taxi to the Chapel of the Ascension: @ 30 NIS from the Jaffa or Damascus Gate, or Arab bus 75 (or 275) from Damascus Gate
① Chapel of the Ascension located on a site the faithful traditionally believe to be the earthly spot where Jesus ascended into Heaven forty days after his resurrection (Acts 1:12 “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city”). A church in one form or another has been located on this spot since 390 A.D. In 1187 the current structure was turned into a mosque and a mihrab was installed. Saladin subsequently ordered a second mosque constructed so Christians could visit the chapel. Inside is a slab of stone called the "Ascension Rock” said to contain the right footprint of Christ (the section bearing the left footprint having been taken to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Middle Ages - not sure why). The faithful believe that the impression was made as Jesus ascended into Heaven (assuming of course that heaven is in the clouds) and is venerated as the last point on earth touched by the incarnate Christ. There is a nominal admission fee @ 5 NIS. Cash only.
Note: According to Rev. William McClure Thomson (The Land and the Book, 1859) "it has no resemblance whatever to a human foot: and it is humiliating to see the pilgrims . . . covering with kisses a forgery so manifest . . . owes it present celebrity to the impressive view of the holy city . . . ").
② A Large Israeli Flag flies over the small Jewish community of Beit Hoshin. Many Jews want to be (and have been) buried on the Mount of Olives since antiquity, based on the Jewish tradition (Zechariah 14:4 “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”) that when the Messiah comes, the resurrection of the dead will begin there. This has led to the establishment of numerous Jewish settlements on the Mount of Olives. Notice some of the cemeteries as you descend. View the flag from the Chapel of the Ascension, then proceed down the road to Church of the Pater Noster.
Note: As far as being resurrected; does it really matter if you are first or last, or just that you are?
③ Monastery Carmel of the Pater Noster contains a Roman Catholic Church that is part of a Carmelite monastery and that stands next to the traditional site of Christ's teaching of the Lord's Prayer. (This location is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, it is based on Acts of John Chapter 97 “but fled unto the Mount of Olives, weeping at that which had befallen. And when he was crucified on the Friday, at the sixth hour of the day, darkness came upon all the earth. And my Lord standing in the midst of the cave and enlightening it” - which to me seems rather vague). On walls around the church and its vaulted cloister are translations of the Lord’s Prayer in over 140 languages, inscribed on colorful ceramic plaques. You will be entering French territory. Tarif d'entrée @ 10 NIS. Payer en espèces.
④ Tomb of the Prophets is a catacomb believed to be the burial place of Haggai, Zechariah (see above ②) and Malachi, the last three Hebrew Bible prophets who are believed to have lived during the 6th-5th centuries BC. If you are short on time you can bypass.
⑤ Dominus Flevit Church is a Roman Catholic Church constructed 1953 - 1955 by Antonio Barluzzi and is held in trust by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land . Dominus Flevit, which translates from Latin as "The Lord Wept", was fashioned in the shape of a teardrop to symbolize the tears of Christ. Here Jesus, while riding toward the city of Jerusalem, became overwhelmed by the beauty of the Second Temple and predicted its future destruction, and the diaspora of the Jewish people, weeps openly (Luke 19:37-42 “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives . . .). Enter the church and view the Dome of the Rock through the altar window (Note that this church is oriented west -east). From the garden take a moment to look across the Valley of Kidron at the Old City, then look to your right to examine ⑥ below, as you will not be able to see it as you continue on your walk.
⑥ Church of Mary Magdalene is a Russian Orthodox Church dedicated to Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus. According to the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, Mary Magdalene was the first to see Christ after his resurrection (Mark 16:9 “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils”). The church was built in 1886 by Tsar Alexander III to honor his mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia and was constructed in the traditional tented roof style popular in 16th- and 17th-century Russia, and includes seven distinctive, gilded onion domes. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh's mother is buried in a crypt below the church.
⑦ The Garden of Gethsemane contains the Church of all Nations (also known as the Church /Basilica of the Agony), is a Roman Catholic Church built 1919-1924 (over previous churches). It enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his betrayal. (Mark 14:32 “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray”). The olive trees in the garden are amongst the oldest known @ 1000 years old. Note the beautiful mosaic on the front of the tympanum and the row of supporting Corinthian columns, atop which sits statues of the Four Evangelists (left to right: Mark, Luke, Matthew and John). The church was built using funds from numerous nations (whose named are inscribed in the ceiling) - hence the name. According to the author, the most beautiful church in Jerusalem (see photo below).
⑧ Tomb of the Virgin (Church of the Sepulcher of Saint Mary) is believed by Eastern Christians to be the burial place of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The church above has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, while the tomb below was excavated in an underground rock-cut cave entered by a wide descending stair dating from the 12th century. On the right side of the staircase (towards the east) there is the chapel of Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne, initially built to hold the tomb of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem, the daughter of Baldwin II. On the left (towards the west) there is the chapel of Saint Joseph, Mary's husband. The status quo applies to this site.
⑨ Then walk through the Lions’ Gate into Old Jerusalem and have a well-deserved "refreshment" at the Quarter Café (by the Burnt House) while overlooking the Mount of Olives and the Western Wall.
1. Sandemans does a solid Mount of Olives walking tour. They also have an excellent free tour of the Old City.
2. The restaurant across the street from the Chapel of the Ascension is to be avoided at all costs.
2. It's best to start at the Chapel of the Ascension, as then it’s downhill all the way.
3. If you need to say hello along the way try: "As-salam alaykom" ("peace be upon you"- السلام عليكم) or "Shalom" ("Peace"- שׁלום), audience depending, of course.
4. The status quo (see ⑧ above) is an understanding between the three major religions of the Holy Land on how nine shared holy sites are to be controlled and is also a commentary on the ability of these religions to play nice.
5. Required Reading: The Bible