Outside the walls of Old Jerusalem, the historic city’s magic continues with the legendary Mount of Olives rising up in the east.
The distinct shape of the Seven Arches Hotel at its summit often glints bright in the sunlight, a direct contrast to the golden glow from the Dome of the Rock far below. It is a 760-meter climb to the top but a sherut – a shared taxi – takes me to the summit, where I plan what to see during a gentler stroll down.
The southwest slopes of the Mount of Olives have been used as a place of Jewish burial since biblical times and, according to Jewish tradition, it is where the resurrection will begin when the Messiah finally comes. The cemetery now holds more than 150,000 souls, many dating back over 3,000 years. There are some notable names interred here, both in the cemetery itself and in various churches nearby. Among them are King David’s son Absalom, former prime-minister Menachem Begin and his wife Aliza, and even Princess Alice, mother of Philip Duke of Edinburgh, and the Hollywood-immortalized Oskar Schindler.
The Tomb of the Virgin Mary, the Cave of Betrayal and the Garden of Gethsemane lie suitably close to each other at the base of the Mount, befitting the drama played out there. Standing next to Gethsemane’s ancient olive trees, a biblical picture opens up in my mind and I silently relive the story of Jesus’ betrayal.