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New Delhi, India
July 4, 2002
A short walk from Nablus Road- where we were staying- brought us to the first of the churches on the Mount of Olives. This is the Church of All Nations, with its beautifully crafted mosaic façade and its multiple domes. It’s been built from donations by countries from across the world, hence the name. The Church of all Nations is also known as the Basilica of the Agony, for this is where Christ prayed- in the garden of Gethsemane, next door. They say that the eight gnarled old olive trees in the grove are the same ones which stood here during the days of Christ.
Higher up on the Mount of Olives is the golden-domed Church of Mary Magdalene, and the unusual black-and-white tear-shaped building of the Sanctuary of Dominus Flevit (`He Wept’- an allusion to Jesus’ weeping when he saw the city of Jerusalem). The latter, in particular, was a beautifully quiet place to sit for a while- very serene and peaceful.
You can walk further up the Mount of Olives if you wish- the view from the top is a stunning one, and it’s a great place to take photographs of the Old Walled City of Jerusalem.
From journal A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
London, United Kingdom
August 29, 2001
Various religious monuments are built into and onto the Mount, not least the Tomb of the Prophets, believed to be the burial site for the last three Old Testament prophets. Further down the hill is the Chapel of the Ascension, holy to the Christian faith as marking the spot of the ascension of Jesus to heaven 40 days after the resurrection.
Today, the Mount of Olives is most known as perhaps the holiest of Jewish cemeteries, which has been in use for over three thousand years. This site overlooking the Old City is such a desirable final resting place that the graves are now crowded together down the hillside, creating a rather unusual atmosphere of expectation and excitement. The expectation is, according to the Jewish faith, for the coming of the Messiah. As available land is quickly disappearing, discussions are taking place on how further numbers of devotees can be accommodated in the cemetery. Interesting proposals have included double-decker burials and vertical graves.
The Mount of Olives is a simple bus ride from a number of places in central Jerusalem and well worth a look and a wonder. Make your visit early in the day so that you can enjoy the panorama in the glow of the morning sun and without having to share it with too many (living) people.
From journal Jerusalem, the golden city
August 29, 2003
The best way to experience these churches is to walk from the bottom to the top stopping in at each one. However, this is strenuous. Some people take a taxi to the top and then walk down. Others take tour buses, which stop at each individual church. I like to climb up because it gives you an appreciation for what it would be like to walk up to Jerusalem. On the other side of the Mount of Olives is Bethany and Bethphage. If you have the time, the hike to Lazarus's tomb is excellent.
My favorite church was Dominus Flavit. The view is spectacular and the mood was appropriate. Another interesting feature of the Mount of Olives is the hundreds of graves covering the side of the Mountain.
From journal Jerusalem: Semester Abroad