Mount of Olives today
The Mount of Olives continues to be a sacred place today and has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years. According to tradition the cemetery on the Mount will be the place of the second coming mentioned in Zechariah 14:4. Due to this scripture, many Jews have sought to be buried at the Mount of Olives in order that their earthly bodies will be at the site where Messiah will return on the day of the resurrection. Throughout the centuries, the cemetery has grown to cover the entire western slope and much of the southern slope, holding approximately 150,000 graves. Some of the prominent figures buried here include medieval sage Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura, and the prime minister Menachem Begin and his wife Aliza. The cemetery has become a popular site for visitors and tourists, where information can be found on the locations of specific tombstones.
The Mount also remains as a holy site of observation, prayer and worship and several churches have been erected in honour of its biblical significance. At the top of the mountain stands the Ascension Edicule, a small chapel built in the 4th century. The Pater Noster Church was built on the mount in 1886, and was built over the cave which is believed to be where Jesus taught the disciples the Lord’s prayer. Furthermore, the Gethsemane Church was built to remind its worshippers of the solemnity of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane before his arrest. Its courtyard contains a rich garden of olive trees, which is believed to be the garden of Gethsemane mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel. The church of Mary Magdalene was built in 1885 and now serves as a convent, with 30 nuns living there today. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is Mary’s Tomb, argued to be the burial site of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Every August, the church attracts pilgrims who come to celebrate the assumption of Mary.
Thus, it is clear that the Mount of Olives is not only a popular tourist attraction, but also serves a special religious purpose to worshippers across the world today.