This Passover try taking a magical trail between nature sites hidden in an urban landscape - “The Jerusalem Trail” and the “Emek Tzurim” National Park. It is especially fitting for these spring days when Jerusalem is green and blooming with an abundance of beautiful spots.
Our trip begins on Mount Scopus, in the parking lot of the Mormon University, next to the Hebrew University. From here look westward and view the Temple Mount, the place where, according to the Bible, the two holy temples stood.
The holy temple served as a meeting place between man and his God, and as a place that unified the varying tribes of Israel. The temple was built on Mount Moriah - the same mountain where Abraham bound his son Isaac to bring him as a sacrifice. There he heard a voice cry out “Lay not thine hand upon the lad”- and discovered that God does not desire human sacrifices and wants not death but rather life.
Emek Tzurim National Park
Continue down the descending path from the lookout towards the Emek Tzurim national park, which is marked in blue. The steps will lead you directly to the Temple Mount Archaeological project, which is located in a large tent in the center of the national park.
Here you can experience archaeology for the whole family, while you sift through the remaining dirt of the Temple Mount, which was taken from the mount three years ago, during excavations conducted by the Muslim Waqf on the mount. During these activities you will explore exciting remains from all the eras, and receive explanations about the artifacts from the staff.
After the visit at the project at Emek Tzurim, continue on the marked Jerusalem trail, going south, on the upper edges of Nahal Kidron. The Kidron serves as the western natural border of ancient Jerusalem and as an abandoned area on its margins. When King Solomon wanted to restrain Shimi Ben Gera, he forbade him to leave the city limits of Jerusalem, and said to him: “For on the day you go out and cross over the Kidron brook you will know for certain that you shall surely die”.
This was also the site where they brought out the idols and statues that were removed from the Temple and cast them into Nahal Kidron.
Pass near the Paratrooper’s memorial, and reach the foot of the Mount of Olives. The mountain is mentioned in the book of the prophet Zechariah as the place where the divine presence will be revealed when he returns to Jerusalem and the Temple.
Follow the blue marking and carefully cross the street and go down the stone path toward the impressive tombstones, etched in Jerusalem stone, known as “Absalom’s Monument” and “Zechariah’s grave”. In reality these are Hellenistic tombstones, but Jerusalem legend has ascribed them to these biblical personalities.
Absalom, the handsome son of King David, who desired the kingdom while his father was still alive, succeeded in capturing the heart of the nation and began a wide scale rebellion against his father. David escaped with his followers to the slopes of the Mount of Olives and through Nahal Kidron to the desert.
At the end of the rebellion there was a large battle, where David and his followers won and Absalom was killed, and yet David’s screams reverberated: “My son Absalom! Absalom my son. If only I had died instead of you”. Since the Bible tells us, that while Absalom was still alive he erected a memorial monument for himself, since he had no sons, Jerusalem legend has identified this monument with the cone on top as his and named it “Absalom’s monument”.
Next to it is etched an additional impressive tombstone, with a pyramid top, known as “Zechariah’s Tomb”. Legend tells us that this prophet Zechariah is not the author of the book of Zechariah who prophesized during the First Temple, rather it is the prophet Zechariah Ben Yehoyada the priest, who prophesized during the latter part of the First Temple and called on the nation to stop their idol worship lest they incur divine wrath. The nation, who did not like his sermons and his angry prophecies, stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Temple.
You can end the tour here, near the information center of the Mount of Olives, or you can continue down the trail, where on the left is the Mount of Olives ancient Jewish cemetery, towards the Shiloach pools, and towards the City of David.
- It is a family tour.
- The tour route is not a closed loop.
- The tour lasts around three hours.
- Directions from the entrance to Jerusalem:
At the junction at the city entrance turn left onto Begin Road North towards Ramot and Maale Adumim. Turn right towards Har Chotzvim, and go up Golda Meir Boulevard, until the ascent to Bar Ilan junction, where there is a large sign on the left to Mount Scopus.
Turn left and continue for three traffic lights on Eshkol Boulevard until the entrance to the tunnel from the left lane. Enter the tunnel and continue straight for an additional two traffic lights on Hebrew University Boulevard (on the left will be the Hebrew University).
Go straight on that road, driving in the right lane (there is a large sign- Mount of Olives). Do not enter the tunnel in the direction of Maale Adumim. At the upper end, on the right side is the Mormon parking lot - Beit Orot, where you park the car. Follow the tourist signs (brown signs) to Emek Tzurim.
Shimi Biton organizes tourist seminars at Midreshet Amiad
Reproduced with permission: Ynetnews