Mount Zion and King David’s Tomb

| May 12, 2012 | 1 Comment
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Mount Zion Today

(Photo: Deror Avi,  CC BY-SA 3.0)
Mt. Zion Today

Mount Zion History

For thousands of years, Jews have marked Mount Zion as the burial place of King David, the beloved king who wrote Psalms (Tehillim in Hebrew), the prayers which have helped Jews cope throughout over 2,000 years of exile. On your travels in Israel you will notice, especially in Jerusalem, that many Jews carry and read from Tehillim while riding on a bus, sitting in a park, and of course at all the Jewish Holy places like the Western Wall (Kotel HaMa’aravi). 

Mount Zion Under Unified Jerusalem

Mount Zion remained in Israel’s hands after the 1948 War of Independence, when all the surrounding Arab countries attacked the fledgling Jewish state. Before the 1967 war that liberated the Old City and unified Jerusalem, King David’s Tomb on Mt. Zion was the only holy place of prayer for Jews close to the Kotel. People would pray as they gazed at the site of the Temple Mount. Around the area was barbed wire with Jordanian soldiers nearby. Telescopes were placed on the roof of the building housing King David’s Tomb on Mt. Zion for viewing of Jerusalem’s Old City. Only after the June 1967 War could Jews once again go to the Kotel.

(Photo: Josephine Levin®)  View from Mount Zion 1965

(Photo: Josephine Levin®) 
View from Mount Zion 1965

Viewing the Kotel from afar is a totally different experience than what can be felt today walking around a free and unified Jerusalem. Go up to the roof and try to imagine how it would feel if this was the closest place to the Kotel.

If you walk into the Old City by way of the Armenian Quarter, you will come to Zion Gate. Passing through here will take you to MountZion. There is a plaque on the wall commemorating the Palmach Jewish fighting forces and bullet holes in the gate testify to the battle that occurred here.

King David’s Tomb

The area of King David’s Tomb is a very special and holy place. Besides being the Jewish king’s traditional burial site, this area is claimed as the Room of the Last Supper. Here you will find the Chamber of the Holocaust, the Diaspora Yeshiva, and the Benedictine Dormition Abbey. The latter is a popular pilgrimage and tourist spot built at the beginning of the 1900s. Its large structure was used by the IDF to protect the Israel border prior to the 1967 war.

King David’s tomb is found inside a building that is more than 1,000 years old.  The building itself was built by Crusaders on the ruins of a more ancient building believed to have been a Jewish synagogue. Benjamin of Tudela claims the tomb was miraculously discovered when a church was undergoing repairs.

Today the building housing King David’s tomb is owned by the Diaspora Yeshiva, a site of Jewish Torah learning. There are also several Jewish synagogues in this building. When visiting, it is important to note that this is a holy site and modest dress is requested. Kippahs are provided for men to cover their hair. Men and women are separated by a partition (mechitzah), with men praying on the left side and women on the right.

Many people recite King David’s Tehillim at the burial site. Yeshiva students often sit and study Torah at this location, especially on the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost) when King David died. Many Jews stay up all Shavuot night to study and learn holy books, both here and at other significant Jewish locations, such as the Kotel. It is believed that on the holiday of Shavuot, the heavens open to strengthen their Torah learning.

Tomb of King David and the Room of the Last Supper

(Photo: Josephine Levin®)  Old Jerusalem As Seen from Mount Zion 1965

(Photo: Josephine Levin®) 
Old Jerusalem As Seen from Mount Zion 1965

Above King David’s Tomb is a room that is believed to have been where the Christian Savior sat with his disciples at the Passover Seder, his last supper, before he was arrested and crucified by the Romans.

There has been much dispute over this room. Jews claim that King David was buried here long before the religions of Christianity and Islam existed and that they are the rightful owners. There were also reputed disagreements of ownership between different Christian factions. The Ottoman Turks decided to solve the disputes by turning it into a mosque called Nebi Daoud, which in Arabic means the Prophet David.

Upon entering the room, a Jewish mezuzah can be seen in a recessed place on the right side of the door. This supports the claim that at one time this room was used by Jews. This plain room is graced with columns and blue stained-glass windows with geometric designs and Arabic writing. There are three niches in the eastern wall that face Mecca, a sign used to indicate the direction Muslims should pray.

Near King David’s Tomb is the Chamber of the Holocaust, a small museum in a cellar maintained by the Diaspora Yeshiva and dedicated to the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

Mount Zion: Did You Know?

Oskar Schindler of “Schindler’s List” is buried on Mount Zion in a Christian cemetery. The Jews he saved during the Holocaust wanted to honor him with a burial in Israel.

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Category: Christianity, Historical, Holy Sites, Jerusalem, Judaism, Touring

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