The “End Times,” Ancient Jewish Cemetery and the Mount of Olives

Rainbow over the Mount of Olives.

Jerusalem Archaeological ParkAbout two weeks ago, to shamelessly aid in promoting my goodStories site, I began posting  a photo each day to my goodStories Instagram gallery, photos I am taking and have taken in Israel. I simultaneously share these on Facebook and Twitter. The above shot was met with a nice response (It’s also one of my favorites.), including several questions.

The photo was taken from an Old City vantage, near the southernmost corner of the Western Wall overlooking the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. (Compare to the inset photo above, taken farther from the wall, credit  http://www.yourway.co.il ) The history of the rainbow shot is simple. On a wet, dark day, the clouds opened briefly, a spectacular rainbow appeared over the Mount of Olives and I happened to be carrying a camera. This post briefly discusses the Mount of Olives and the Jewish cemetery at its base and includes a few additional original photos of the area which may or not eventually make it to my Instagram feed.

The Ancient Jewish Cemetery at the Mount of Olives

Burial on the Mount of Olives started some 3,000 years ago in the First Temple Period and continues to this day. The cemetery contains about 70,000 tombs from various periods, including the tombs of famous figures in Jewish history. (link)

The rainbow photo was taken from point 1 in the (doctored, Google) map of the temple mount and Mount of Olives area shown below. The grouped photos below, showing two ancient tombs and a close-up of the cemetery, were taken from point 2 on the map. The chalky white area extending upward from the lower left corner in the Google map shows the sprawling extent of the ancient Jewish Cemetery (the part under the rainbow in the main photo). The green area between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives is the biblical Kidron Valley which joins the Hinnom Valley farther south. Their juncture is the famous “Valley of Jehoshaphat,” mentioned by name in Joel 3:2 and Joel 3:12…

“I will gather together all nations, and will bring them down into the Valley of Jehoshaphat: and I will plead with them there for my people, and for my inheritance Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations”; “Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side”. (link)

Mount of Olives and Temple Mount

The old Jewish cemetery sprawled over the slopes of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Kidron Valley (Valley of Jehoshaphat), radiating out from the lower, ancient part, which preserved Jewish graves from the second Temple Period; here there had been a tradition of burial uninterrupted for thousands of years. The cemetery was quite close to the Old City, its chief merit being that it lay just across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount: according to Jewish tradition, it is here that the Resurrection of the Dead would begin once Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives and head toward the Temple Mount. (Link)

The leftmost photo in the grouping below (labeled Gravesites) is a closeup of the shot taken from point 1 on the above map. The other two photos are of ancient tombs on the Kidron Valley floor taken from point 2.

The End Times and the Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives, within walking distance from where Marcia and I live, is the focal point of the end times scenario in the book of Zechariah…

Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.  And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.   ( Zec 14:3-9 )


More Original Photos:

1. El aqsa mosque:

The Southern Wall is 922 feet in length. Herod’s southern extension of the Temple Mount is clearly visible from the east, standing on the Mount of Olives or to a visitor standing on top of the Temple mount as a slight change in the plane of the eastern wall, the so-called “Straight Joint.” Herod’s Royal Stoa stood atop this southern extension. The enormous retaining wall is built of enormous blocks of Jerusalem stone, the face of each ashlar (block) is edged with a margin, the boss is raised about 3/8″ above the surrounding margins. The unmortared blocks are so finely fitted together that a knife blade cannot be inserted between the ashlars. (link)

el aqsa mosque looming over southern steps, old city, Jerusalem
El aqsa mosque looming over Southern Steps

2. The “Golden Gate”:

The Golden Gate, as it is called in Christian literature, is the oldest of the current gates in Jerusalem’s Old City Walls. According to Jewish tradition, the Shekhinah (שכינה) (Divine Presence) used to appear through this gate, and will appear again when the Anointed One (Messiah) comes (Ezekiel 44:1–3) and a new gate replaces the present one; that is why Jews used to pray for mercy at the former gate at this location. Hence the name Sha’ar HaRachamim (שער הרחמים), the Gate of Mercy. In Christian apocryphal texts, the gate was the scene of a meeting between the parents of Mary, so that Joachim and Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate became a standard subject in cycles depicting the Life of the Virgin. It is also said that Jesus passed through this gate on Palm Sunday. In Arabic, it is known as the Gate of Eternal Life. Some equate it with the Beautiful Gate mentioned in Acts 3. (link)

The "Golden Gate," Jerusalem Old City, Blocked wall facing west, toward the Mount of Olives
The “Golden Gate,”  facing west, toward the Mount of Olives

3. Valley of Judgment

By one interpretation, this describes the place where, in the presence of Josaphat, King of Judah, YHVH annihilated the Gentile coalition of Moab, Ammon and Edom. This may have indicated an actual valley euphemistically called by the Jews êmêq Berâkâh (“valley of blessing”), situated in the desert of Teqo’a near Khirbet Berêkût, west of the Khirbet Teqû’a (about eleven miles from Jerusalem). Alternatively, it may refer to an indeterminate valley of judgment, since “Josaphat” means “YHVH judges”. In Joel 3:14 the same valley is called “valley of destruction” (A. V. “valley of decision”). The chapter in question describes how the nations that afflicted Judah and Jerusalem during their Babylonian captivity and return from exile shall receive Divine Judgment. (link)

Modern View of part of Valley of Judgment
Modern view, part of “Valley of Jehoshaphat” (Valley of Judgment)

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Author: Cliff Keller

Cliff Keller is an author and blogger who, with his wife, Marcia, made Aliyah to Israel in 2011.

4 thoughts on “The “End Times,” Ancient Jewish Cemetery and the Mount of Olives”

  1. Fantastically gorgeous picture. Here is hoping for a peaceful,happy and healthy new year for you and Marcia and all your loved ones.
    With love,
    THE Auntie

    Like

  2. What a beautiful picture, that rainbow over the mount of olives. I will invite you to be friends on fb and continue to enjoy your photography Bonnie

    Like

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