Waiting to Rise Again: A Visit to Mount of Olives

mount of olives jerusalem

From grave sites marked by bedposts in Virginia City’s cemetery to the teeny-tiny hillside cemetery in Tuscany, I’ve definitely walked among the dead.

But nothing prepared me for the Mount of Olives.

Located on a hillside right outside of the Jerusalem’s Old City, you can see the Mount of Olives from throughout Jerusalem, Israel. Like the rest of Jerusalem, it is beige and blends in with the earth, so it’s not imposing. Yet, this Jewish cemetery covers 3.5 kilometers. No small potatoes considering the Old City itself is less than one square kilometer!

Not only is it physically large, but it holds about 150,000 graves. And, some of them are more than 3,000 years old! (The superlatives just keep coming, don’t they?) It’s so hard for me to wrap my head around graves that are thousands of years old. Truly.

The Mount of Olives is right near the Old City’s Mercy Gate. It’s believed that, when the Messiah comes, the Mercy Gate will reopen, and the resurrection will begin here. The resurrected will follow the Messiah through the Mercy Gate to the Temple Mount.

mount of olives jerusalem israel

The tombstones are all fairly standard — nothing ornate or fancy. There are holes in each of the tombstones that people fill with rocks. People also place rocks on top of the graves. Apparently the resurrected will carry these rocks to the Temple Mount to build the Third Temple.

People can still be buried at the Mount of Olives, but apparently it’s very expensive.

mount of olives cemetery israel

The Mount of Olives was a strange cemetery to visit. I didn’t get a chance to walk among the graves themselves, but there also isn’t a whole lot to see.

Our visit to the Mount of Olives left a different lasting feeling than visits to other cemeteries. It wasn’t beautiful, and it didn’t resonate with me. Generally, cemeteries are the “final resting place.” Yet, that’s not the case here. The Mount of Olives is simply a place to wait for a future unknown date — and this could clearly be a very long wait.

To me, it’s the historical significance and the age of the cemetery that made it a noteworthy visit.

3 Responses to “Waiting to Rise Again: A Visit to Mount of Olives”

  1. Ray Johns

    For me the Mount of Olives Cemetery was one of the most clear demonstrations of just how long people have been living (and Dying) in Jerusalem. the tightly packed graves may not outnumber the current population of the city, but they take up enough physical and psychological space that I felt outnumbered by the dead.

    • JoAnna

      Hey Ray! Thanks for your comment!

      Yeah, it’s kind of mind-boggling to me how many people live in the Old City considering how small it is. The cemetery is bigger with fewer people – but not by much!

  2. Jill

    What an unusual place…..like boxes lined up in a row. Very odd.


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