Mount Zion is mentioned in several places in the Bible including the Book of Samuel which states that this is the mountain upon which King David chose to build his palace. For these reasons Jews, Muslims and Christians all attribute great religious and spiritual significance to Mt. Zion.
Zion Gate is the entrance from Mount Zion to the Old City of Jerusalem. The gate and surrounding walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were built by the Ottoman Empire during the mid-16th century.
Around the gate many bullet holes can be seen and serve as a reminder of the vicious battles fought in the 1948 War between the Palmach, a pre-Israeli Jewish fighting force, and the Jordanian Army.
The “L” shaped corridor of the gate was designed to hinder the entrance of enemies into the city by creating a bottleneck. Barrels of boiling tar would be poured upon those who tried to enter through Zion Gate by force.
On the way to King David’s Tomb
The site of King David’s Tomb is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. The Tomb and an adjacent Synagogue are located on the first floor, the Last Supper Room is located directly above on second floor and a Muslim Muezzin tower is located on the third floor.
Mount Zion and King David’s Tomb are particularly important to Jews since Jews were not permitted to enter the old city and the Western Wall during the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem between the years 1948 and 1967. Mount Zion thus became the closest site to the Temple Mount which was still accessible to Jews.
The site of David’s Tomb is a sacred to all 3 monotheistic religions. According to Judaism, King David belonged to the Tribe of Judah, liberated Jerusalem from the Jebusites and was a great Jewish warrior and poet. According to Christian tradition, Jesus is the direct descendant of King David and the messiah promised to come from King David lineage. According to Muslim tradition, King David was the great prophet ‘Dawud’.
Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem
This German Benedictine abbey was erected on the site where according to tradition the Virgin Mary had died. Her burial place is said to be on the Mount of Olives in the Church of the Sepulchre of Saint Mary.
Inside the Church of the Dormition is an apse commemorating Jesus, Mary and some of the prophets. At the center of the hall is a mosaic depicting 3 rings symbolizing the ‘Holy Trinity’ and in the crypt on the lower floor a life-sized statue of Mary lies at the center. The statue is made of ivory and cherry tree wood can be found.
This site lay in ruins from the 7th to the end of the 12th Century, and was rebuilt by the Crusaders at the turn of the century. The monastery was destroyed once more during the fall of the Crusaders Kingdom and was left out of the Jerusalem city walls built by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th Century. The site was thus neglected and used as burial grounds.
During his visit to the Holy land in 1898 AD, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II received the land as a gift from the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid. German reconstruction of the monastery began in 1901 and included a large church, a bell tower and other structures needed for the everyday work of monastery. The construction was completed in 1910 and the compound was named "Dormitio Beatae Mariae Virginis" which means "Holy sleep of Virgin Mary" - “Dormition” in short.
King David’s Tomb
The Tomb of King David is a large sarcophagus, or cenotaph, covered by a thick red or blue velvet drape. The wall behind it is blackened from the traditional Jewish memorial candles that have been lit by pilgrims over the years.
There is a dispute regarding whether or not this is the actual burial site of King David. According to many biblical scholars and archeological evidence this is, in all probability, not the actual burial place of King David which the bible claims was in the adjacent ancient City of David. Notwithstanding, Mount Zion became venerated as the site of King David’s Tomb during the Crusader rule in the 12th century.
During the Byzantine period a church commemorating King David stood here but it was believed that his tomb lay in Bethlehem. An ancient synagogue was also discovered and once stood on this spot. However, it was only during the Crusader period that Mount Zion became the perceived site of his burial. Because of dispute between the Jewish and Franciscan communities, the control over the site was given to the Muslim community by the Mamluk ruler in the mid–15th century. Mount Zion remained under Muslim control until 1948.
The Last Supper Room
The Last Supper Room is traditionally regarded by Christians as the ‘Cenacle’ where Jesus and his disciples ate the traditional Passover meal on the night of his arrest.
The room has been identified as the Cenacle site already in the 4th century. It is a large empty hall reconstructed by Crusaders in the 12th century. Archeological evidence dating back to the 2nd century suggests that this may well be the site of the Last Supper.
Some believe that the synagogue underneath the room is the site where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
According to the Gospel of Mark, the last supper was conducted in an ‘Upper Room’ which was used for lodging and dining of travelers: “And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said unto Him, “Where wilt Thou have us go and prepare, that Thou mayest eat the Passover?”…”And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared; there make ready for us” (Mark 14:12-15)
The Roof - Lookout
The third floor of the complex is a roof with a Muezzin tower on top. In 1920, the British Mandate in the Holy Land compelled the Muslim family who controlled the site since the mid-16th century, to open the site to non-Muslim visitors. To circumvent this decree, the family created a fake tomb of King David to which they directed the Christians and Jews who made the pilgrimage.
The roof over King David’s Tomb and the Last Supper Room offers a wonderful view of Jerusalem. Many of the biblical sites of Jerusalem can be seen from there such as The Mount of Olives.
Mount Zion has had great religious, political and archeological importance for over 2000 years. Jews, Christians and Muslims all cherish Mount Zion and share its history and faith. Thus, in many ways, Mount Zion serves as a micro cosmos of Jerusalem.