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.
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.
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.