Church of Mary Magdalene, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

Mount of Olives Walking Tour

Our Self-Guided Walking Tour on The Mount of Olives is full of remarkable Christian and Jewish landmarks, that blend beautifully with the iconic view of the old city of Jerusalem in the background.

Walk Metrics
Walk Description
Distance3 Km
Duration3-5 Hours
/ Start PointMount Olives
/ Start PointDung Gate

Main landmarks on this tour:

MOUNT OLIVES GROUP GUIDED TOURS
Guided Tour

Our Mount of Olives Tour runs five days a week, and is the best way to explore and discover the treasures that lie in this special area which is of legendary importance to Christians and Jews alike.

Price from:
120 NIS

Details & Booking

WALKING TOUR MAP

Mount of olives self guided walk map
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Navigate with GPS

LOGISTICS

The tour is not circular. It starts at the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives and ends at the Dung Gate near the Western Wall.
By Car: Since parking space is minimal, we recommend parking the car at the Zion Gate parking lot (Ten minutes walk from the endpoint of the tour) and take a taxi to the starting point.
By Bus: Take the bus to the Dung Gate and from there take a taxi to the starting point.

Be Aware: The walk is short, but involves steep downhill and uphill streets!

When to Go? Each church has specific opening times (Times are listed below for each site). Plan your schedule according to what is important for you to visit. Our Recommendation: Take the tour on Tuesday or Thursday and start walking at 08:00.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives by Edward Lear
Edward Lear, 1850

OVERVIEW:
The Mount of Olives rises to an altitude of 810 meters, overlooking Jerusalem from the east. The Old City of Jerusalem is just one kilometer from us at an altitude of 750 meters, making the panorama from the Mount of Olives so perfect. Holy traditions adhered to the mountain Since ancient times. According to the Jewish tradition, in Eschatology (End of days), the first dead will be resurrected at the Mount of olives. According to Christian tradition, from the summit of the mountain, Jesus ascended to heaven, and on its slopes, several other important events occurred. That’s why we can find tens of thousands of old Jewish graves, and numerous important churches scattered on its western slope facing Jerusalem. This interfaith combination makes the Mount of Olives a complex and fascinating place. During this tour, we will visit six interesting churches, several graves of significant Jewish figures, and 2,000 years old monuments. Throughout the tour, we will enjoy the iconic views of the city of Jerusalem.

MOUNT OF OLIVES SELF-GUIDED TOUR

Our walking tour is divided into four sections:

  • The Ridge of the Mountain: We will visit two lesser-known churches and enjoy the best view of Jerusalem.
  • The Jewish Cemetery: We will learn about key figures from the early days of Zionism that are buried here.
  • The Slope of the Mountain: We will go down from the ridge to the Kidron Valley and visit on the way beautiful churches with interesting historical stories.
  • The Kidron Valley: We will walk through the oldest section of the Jewish cemetery and visit 2000 years old monuments.

THE RIDGE OF THE MOUNTAIN

Chapel of the Ascension - Mount of OlivesChapel of the Ascension:
Admission: 5 NIS.
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00-17:00
Location: Rub’a el-Adawiya street.

Enter through a small gate at the base of the minaret into a courtyard surrounded by a wall. In the center of the courtyard stands a small chapel with a dome roof. According to the Catholic tradition, this is where Jesus ascended to heaven after being resurrected. Luke 24:50-51 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Christian believers come here to touch the sacred stone, stamped with Jesus’ foot, and pray.

What is a catholic chapel doing in the middle of a mosque courtyard?
The first Christian structure to commemorate the ascension of Jesus was built here as early as the fourth century. In those days, there was an open arched building in the center of the courtyard, with no ceiling and no walls. To protect the important place, the Crusaders surrounded it with guard towers and an octagonal wall that survives to this day. But the Crusader control of the place did not last long. In 1187, Jerusalem was conquered by Saladin’s army. The Muslims turned the place into a mosque (As they did with many other Jewish and Christian sites)
Pater Noster Church, Mount of Olives JerusalemPater Noster Church:
Admission: 10 NIS.
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 08:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00
Location: AlShaykh street.
Direction: From the Chapel of Ascension, walk south and take the first left turn. The church will be on your right.  (Total distance 150 m).

Enter the compound. You will notice that 143 ceramic boards cover the walls. The Pater Noster prayer is written on each one of them in a different language. Try to locate the board with your native language. In the center of the courtyard is a crypt cave. Inside the rock-hewn cave, you can see the remains of an ancient church built here in the fourth century. According to the Christian tradition is this cave, Jesus taught his apostles the secret of the “end of days”. Luke 11 2-4: And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. Over the years, other churches were built here, but the Muslims destroyed all of them. In the 19th century, the new complex we stand in now was built and dedicated to the Pater Noster prayer.

MOUNT OF OLIVES VIEWPOINT

View of Jerusalem from mount Olives

Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: 24/7.
Location: Rehavam Overlook.
Direction: Get back to the main street (Rub’a el-Adawiy) and walk south until the lookout balcony. (Distance 400 m).

MOUNT OLIVES GROUP GUIDED TOURS
Guided Tour

Our Mount of Olives Tour runs five days a week, and is the best way to explore and discover the treasures that lie in this special area which is of legendary importance to Christians and Jews alike.

Price from:
120 NIS

Details & Booking

The Rechavam overlook is named after Rehavam Zeevi. Zeevi was a distinguished General in the IDF and an Israeli politician who was murdered in October 2001 by a Palestinian terrorist in the nearby Hyatt Hotel. From the Balcony, there is a stunning panoramic view of the Old City of Jerusalem and its vicinity. A “Must” for any visitor to Jerusalem.

What can we see?
The Temple Mount yard lays on the palm of our hand, in the southern part is the gray dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and in its center is the golden “Dome of the  Rock”. Behind it, the narrow alleys of the Old City, with a few prominent domes and towers dominating above the small houses. Just behind the Dome of the Rock is a tall white turret. It is the tower of the Church of the Redeemer built in the late 19th century in honor of German Emperor Wilhelm II. To the right, notice two gray domes built one after another, marking the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the most important church in the Christian world. Another important building to identify from here is the “Horevah” synagogue, which stands out with its large white dome, located in the heart of the Jewish Quarter (You can visit all these landmarks in our Jewish and Christian Quarters Walking tours). Further west, Behind the Old city, you can see large areas of modern Jerusalem. To the north, Mount coupons, the Hebrew University, and the Augusta Victoria Church (Recommended visit). To the south, you can spot the dome-shaped mountain of the Herodion national park (Another recommended visit).

MOUNT OF OLIVES JEWISH CEMETRY

Jewish Cemetrery Mount of Olives
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: Monday-Thursday –  All day. Friday – morning hours. Saturday – closed.
Location: Mount of olives western slope facing the temple mount.
Direction: Large area under the Rehavam Lookout.

THE MOST IMPORTANT JEWISH CEMETERY IN THE WORLD
In the early days of Jerusalem, residents of the city buried their dead outside the city walls. The closest and most convenient place was the Mount of Olives. Of the ancient tombs, only the remains of a few magnificent burial systems remain, such as Avshalom tomb and the Zechariah tomb, which we will visit at the end of the tour. The huge cemetery we see in front of us began to develop only in the Middle Ages.

Jewish Cemetry - Mount of Olives 1920
The Cemetry in the 1920s

At that time, Jewish traditions regarding the holiness of the mountain strengthened. The source of the tradition dates back to the days of the prophets. For example, Prophet Ezekiel describes the divine leaving  Jerusalem to the mountain east of the city. Ezekiel 11:23  And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city..  The belief is that those buried in the Mount of Olives would be the first to ascend to the future rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount. This belief leads many Jews to ask in their will to be buried in the Mount of Olives. Over the past centuries, about 70,000 Jews have been buried in the Mount of Olives, making it one of the largest and most sought-after Jewish cemeteries in the world.

Broken tombstones in the jewish cemetry on the mount of olivesWhat happened here during 1948-1967?

In 1948 the Jordanian army occupied East Jerusalem, including the Mount of Olives. The residents of the area and the Jordanian soldiers did not respect the Jewish cemetery and systematically damaged it. Many gravestones had been displaced, countless graves had been sabotaged, and bones removed from the graves were scattered around. The Jordanian army used tombstones to pave tent surfaces, build toilets, and used it as a raw material for paving roads in the area! On May 19, 1967, the city was liberated by the IDF, and the power of the destruction was exposed. Scattered bones were found on the mountain, broken headstones, and exposed graves. The Israeli authorities (Hevra kadishah) gradually restored the cemetery. Even today, especially in the peripheral areas of the compound, you can still find shattered tombstones. They serve as a reminder of what happens when Muslim forces take control over Jewish heritage sites.

NOTABLE JEWISH FIGURES BURIED IN THE MOUNT OF OLIVES

Many Jewish figures connected with the history of the land of Israel are buried in the Mount of olives. You have a chance to pay tribute to there remarkable actions and learn interesting stories about the early days of Zionism in Eretz Yisrael.

  • Numbers below correspond to the number on the Map.
  • Click a number on the map to navigate to the grave.
  1. Menachem Begin: Commander of the Etzel, an Israeli politician, founder of the Likud party, and the sixth Prime Minister of Israel.
  2. Eliezer Ben Yehuda: A Hebrew lexicographer and newspaper editor. He was the driving force behind the revival of the Hebrew language in the modern era.
  3. Shay Agnon: A Nobel Prize laureate writer and was one of the central figures of modern Hebrew fiction.
  4. Boris Shatz: A Jewish artist and sculptor who settled in Israel. Schatz, who became known as the “father of Israeli art,” founded the Bezalel School in Jerusalem.
  5. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook: the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine. He synthesized Torah study and adherence to its Mitzvot with the revival of Jewish nationalism.
  6. David Yellin: An educator, a researcher of the Hebrew language and literature, a politician, and one of the leaders of the Yishuv. He founded the first Hebrew College for Teachers, and was one of the founders of the Hebrew Language Committee and the Israel Teachers Union.
  7. Yoel Moshe Salomon: A journalist, editor, and publishers. One of the first jews to live outside the Jerusalem old city walls. In 1878 he was one of the founders and early residents of the Moshava Petah Tikva, the first modern Jewish agricultural settlement in the land of Israel.
  8. Israel Bak: A Jewish pioneer. Owned a print shop in Safed and renewed the tradition of printing Hebrew works. In 1834 he established the first Jewish farm in the Land of Israel near the summit of Mount Meron.
  9. Henrietta Szold: A U.S. Jewish Zionist leader and founder of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. In 1942, she co-founded Ihud, a political party in Mandatory Palestine dedicated to a binational solution.
  10. Pinhas Ruttenberg: A pioneer, Engineer, and Haganah commander. He Built in 1921 the first power station in Tel-Aviv, and in 1932, the first hydro-power electric plant on the Yarmuc River.

THE CHURCHES ON THE SLOPE

Churches on the mount of olives walking tour


Dominus Flevit Church, Mount of OlivesDominus Flevit Church:
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 08:00-11:45 & 14:30-17:00
Location: North of the cemetery.
Direction: Walk on the narrow and steep road that goes down from the lookout balcony and after about 100 meters fork right towards the church (Distance 250 m).

At the end of the road, you reach an observation deck overlooking the Dome of the Rock, the Old City, and the Catholic Church of Maria Magdalena with its golden domes. Behind the balcony stands the beautiful church shaped like a teardrop (Standing upside-down), symbolizing the cry of Jesus on Jerusalem. Luke 19:41-44 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it(Dominus Flevit translates from Latin as “The Lord Wept”). The building was designed and constructed between 1953 and 1955 by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. Also, pay attention to the beautiful mosaic floor, remnants from the 5th-century Byzantine church that stood here in the past.

Church of Mary Magdalene on the mount of oilvesChurch of Mary Magdalene:
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays only! 10:00-12:00
Location: North of the cemetery.
Direction: Walk back to the road. Turn right and walk about 250 meters until the entrance to the church on your right. (Distance 350 m).

Important Note: Pay attention to the very limited opening hours. If you want to visit this church, plan your schedule carefully!

This 19th century, Russian orthodox church with its seven distinctive golden onion-shaped domes is one of Jerusalem’s most famous sights and justly so. The walls of the main hall are covered with colorful paintings describing major events in the life of Mary Magdalene. All the paintings were painted by  Alexander Ivanov, a great 19th-century Russian painter, who was specially commissioned to decorate the church.

The Story of the Church
The Russian Czar Alexander III and his brother, Duke Sergei, wanted to establish a church in Jerusalem to commemorate the image of Miriam Magdalene and their mother named after her. The Duke and his wife, Elizabeth (Grandaughter of Queen Victoria), were also present at the inauguration ceremony in 1886. Elizabeth asked in her will to be buried here, in the Land of Israel. She was assassinated in 1918 by the bolsheviks. Her body was smuggled through China to Jerusalem and buried in this church. Another famous lady that is buried here is Princess Alice (the mother of Prince Philip). She was Elizabeth’s niece and asked in her will to be buried next to her beloved aunt in Jerusalem. She died in England in 1969, and in 1988 her remains were buried at the church.
Church of all Natiotions, JerusalemChurch of All Nations & Gethsemane Garden:
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: Daily, 08:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00.
Location: At the foot of the Mount of Olives.
Direction: 150 m down the road from the Church of Mary Magdalene. The entrance will be on your left.

The church and the adjacent garden are located at an important historical spot. It is believed that exactly here, Jesus underwent the agony in the garden and was arrested after the Last Supper. The peaceful garden contains 12 ancient olives trees. A recent study showed they are the oldest olive trees known to science!. The name “Gethsemane” translates from Aramic to “Oil Press”. This garden, together with additional olive grooves, gave the mountain its name. The Church of All Nations was constructed near the garden during 1919-1924 on top of an earlier 4th-century Byzantine basilica, destroyed by an earthquake in 746. Many countries donated the funds for the project; thus it’s name.  The magnificent interior of the church has no lamps, and it is illuminated by the sunlight that penetrates through purple stained glass windows, built in the form of crosses. The purple color symbolizes the sadness of the events that took place here in the last days of Christ. The church hall is facing the “Rock of Agony”. According to Christian tradition, this is the rock on which Jesus stood and prayed in agony the night before he was crucified. (Luke 22:41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed). The rock is surrounded by a metal grille shaped like a wreath of thorns. It symbolizes the crown of thorns placed by the Romans on the head of Jesus before His crucifixion. After the visit to the church, you can also visit the Tomb of the Virgin Mary across the road.

KIDRON VALLEY AND MONUMENTAL ANCIENT TOMBS

Kidron Valley in 1920
Kidron Valley in 1920

The Kidron Valley separates between the Mount of olives and the temple mount. It marks the beginning of Wadi Kidron that windes through the Judean desert and ends in the Dead Sea. Its location near the outskirts of ancient Jerusalem made it a natural burial location. From here, the huge cemetery that covers today the mount of olives started 2000 years ago. Several impressive monuments from that era are still standing, and we will visit them in the last section of our walking tour.

MOUNT OLIVES GROUP GUIDED TOURS
Guided Tour

Our Mount of Olives Tour runs five days a week, and is the best way to explore and discover the treasures that lie in this special area which is of legendary importance to Christians and Jews alike.

Price from:
120 NIS

Details & Booking

KIDRON VALLEY MAP

Kidron Valley map
Click map for full Quality

The navigation in this section is a bit tricky. Please use the above map, the GPS links, and read the directions carefully.
Absalom Tomb, Kidron Valley, JerusalemAbsalom Tomb (Yad Avshalom):
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: 24/7
Location: Kidron Valley.
Direction: Exit Gethsemane, turn left and walk 300 along Jericho Street until you reach the Mount of Olives information center. (Toilets and refreshments are available at the center). Just before the center, fork right to a pedestrian street and after 200 meters, fork left to a path that leads to the monument.

The Jewish tradition is that the biblical figure Absalom (Son of King David) is buried here. The tradition comes from 2 Samuel 18:18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself,…He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day. When scholars arrived here in the 19th century, they discovered that the tomb dates to the Second Temple period, and could not be connected to the biblical prince. The tombstone is built in a distinctly Hellenistic style, incorporating Egyptian elements, and at the same time, it lacks illustrations of human and animal figures, indicating its Jewish character. Notice that the tombstone is made up of two main parts: the square bottom is entirely hewn in the rock, and inside is the tomb. The upper section was built separately in the shape of a circular cone and acted as the lid of the grave. It is unknown who was buried here. Behind the monument hides another historical site. A nine-room burial cave that was probably built together with Absalom tomb. The cave is called Yehoshafat tomb after Jehosaphat the biblical judge. However, Jehosaphat lived 700 years before the construction of the cave, and it is not clear why it is named after him.

Zkharia Tomb, Kidron Valley, JerusalemZechariahTomb:
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: 24/7
Location: Kidron Valley.
Direction: Walk 50 m further south on the path.

“Zecharia Tomb” is completely carved from the rock and has no openings. Therefore it could not be a grave. The scholars believe that the monument accompanied a nearby grave that did not survive over time. The Jewish tradition connects this tombstone to Zechariah Ben-Yehuda, who was stoned to death by the Israelites after preaching the Lord’s work in the Temple.  2 Chronicles 24:20-21 Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands….they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple. Here, too, the style of the building and the archaeological findings indicate that it is a second-temple period structure. Therefore it could not have been built in memory of Zechariah.

Our tour has ended here. We recomend to continue the walk to the Dung Gate (600 m), where you can take a bus or taxi.

Retrace your steps to the T junction (Just past Absalom Tomb). Turn left and start walking up towards Haofel Street. Keep right at all the junction along the trail. At Haofel Street, turn right and walk until the Dung Gate. On your left is the City of David. Another “Must” tour you should take.

Written by Erez Speiser

I am Erez Speiser. I live in the Galilee region in Israel. By education, I am a mechanical engineer. In 2018 I founded "Israel by Foot" to promote hiking tourism in Israel. Learn more in the About me Video. Do you want me to help you plan your hikes in Israel? Check out here. Or contact me erez@hike-israel.com