The one square kilometer walled Old city of Jerusalem, with star sites like the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is typically on everyones ‘must see’ list. However, there are many other sites outside the Old City in East Jerusalem that possess much historical and/or religious significance and are fascinating to visit as well.
We created our top 15 listing of fascinating sites of interest located outside of the Old City walls on the eastern side of Jerusalem.
The area of Mount Scopus is located along northern half of the long, high Mount of Olives ridge. It enjoys a strategic location overlooking the city, likely the main reason it is called Har Hatsofim, which means the “Mount of Observation.” Historically it was here that the Roman armies of Titus and Vespasian camped in a.d. 70 and observed the city before their final attack. Today it is home of the Hadassah hospital at Mt Scopus. On the eastern end of the campus there are beautiful panoramic vistas of the Judean desert while on the western end overlooks Jerusalem and the Old City.
Commonwealth War Cemetery
Most people don’t realize that a small cemetery lies on Mount Scopus for 2,472 Christian and Jewish soldiers that found for the British army in World War 1. The cemetery is located at the northern end of Mount Scopus.
Mount of Olives (viewpoint)
Aside from its stunning view over Jerusalem the Mount of Olives is significant for many reasons. It is believed that Jesus entered the city from the Judean desert via this mountain. Six churches and one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world are also situated here. Religious Jews specifically identified this site with burial because it is believed that the Messiah will come from this direction and enter the Old city via the closed Hulda Gate, just across the Kidron valley or Valley of Jehosephat.
Chapel (and Mosque) of the Ascension
Situated on the peak of the Mount of Olives is the chapel of the Ascension, which is also a mosque and is controlled by Muslims. Inside the chapel there is a sacred stone that is believed to be marked with the footprint of Jesus as he completed his Ascension to heaven. The original chapel was open to the sky, however, after the Crusaders took over a number of changes occurred. Eventually the Muslims transformed the building into a mosque, and later build an adjacent mosque. A dome was also built over the once open sky chapel.
Tomb of Princess Alice
One of the most famous gravesites on the Mt of Olives is that of Princess Alice of Greece. She was the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II. She was almost fully deaf yet she became fluent in English, French and Greek. She eventually married Prince Andrew, son of King George of Greece, and lived in Greece, devoting her life to helping others. She worked as a nurse during the Balkan War and for a period she stayed in the home of the family of Haim Cohen in northern Greece near the battlefront, developing a close relationship with the family. Later, during the Nazi occupation of Greece, she helped the widow and children of Haim Cohen escape deportation by hiding them on the grounds of the place for 13 months. In 1994, Yad Vashem bestowed of Honor of Righteous Among the Nations on her behalf. Her surviving children Prince Philip and his sister, Princess Sophie, came to Jerusalem to accept the honor.
Church of the Pater Noster
Since the 7th century, the site of Pater Noster, situated along the Palm Sunday road that descends the Mt of Olives, has been associated with the Lord’s Prayer. It is believed that this church lies the spot that Jesus instructed his disciples in the Lord’s Prayer. Visiting the site one can examine the many tiles along the walls of the church, each inscribed with the Lord’s Prayer in 44 languages.
The church is situated on the northern side of the Palm Sunday road a little further down from Pater Noster. Dominus Flevit is a Franciscan church that marks the spot where Jesus wept over his vision of the future destruction of Jerusalem. The small chapel is designed with a fantastic window that overlooks the valley of Kidron directly onto the Hulda Gate, the gate through which it is believed the Messiah will enter Jerusalem.
Church of Saint Mary Magdalene is a Russian Orthodox Church at the base of the Mt. Of Olives. It is recognized for its gold, onion-shaped dome that was built by in 1888 by Czar Alexander III .
Garden of Gethsemane is believed to be the site where Jesus prayed with his disciples after the Last Supper, the evening before his crucifixion. The site contains an enormous grove of ancient olive trees, some believed to be over 2000 years old. It is a beautiful and popular site for groups to enjoy the meditative surroundings and the outdoor areas within the grove can be reserved for group prayer. There is also an ancient cave of Gethsemene, where small groups can pray.
Basilica of the Agony, also known as the Church of All Nations, is located adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemene. The famous church’s gold mosaic façade was built in 1924 and the famous basilica was designed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. It is a Russian Orthodox church built by people from 16 different nations in 1924.
Tomb of the Virgin, is a fascinating underground chamber housing the tombs of Mary and Joseph.
Kidron Valley, is situated at the base of the Mount of Olives between the Mount of Olives and the Old City walls. Two tombs are situated within the valley, Absalom’s Tomb and the Tomb of Zechariah. The trail through the Kidron valley eventually makes it way to the bottom of the City of David.
The ancient City of David is situated in the southeastern site of the Old city, within the neighborhood of Silwan. It is the site of Jerusalem’s ancient water source, the Gihon Spring, also known as the Fountain of the Virgin. Water from this spring was used to anoint King Solomon. After the fall of the Northern Kingdom, King Hezekiah in Jerusalem constructed an aqueduct through which the waters of the Gihon could be hidden inside the city. The tunnel still exists today and is a popular site for visitors. One can walk in the wet tunnels (bring shoes that can get wet) or in the dry tunnel. Either way, be prepared to walk in extremely narrow spaces for about 30 – 40 minutes.
Rockefeller Archaeological Museum is situated in the commercial district of East Jerusalem and houses some of the most extraordinary archaeological discoveries of the Holy Land.
Mount Zion and the Protestant Cemetery
Situated on Mount Zion, are many important sites including the Upper Room/Room of the Last Supper, Church of the Dormition and King Davids Tomb which are quite popular sites. Lesser seen, however is the nearby Protestant Cemetery. It is owned by the Anglican Church Missionary Trust Association Ltd., London and represented by the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and The Middle East. On the lower level of the cemetery there is a Catholic cemetery, where one can visit the gravesite of Oskar Schindler. Oskar Schindler was a Nazi party member, entrepreneur and industrialist credited with saving the lives of over 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust.
Situated off the commercial street of Saladin, the Garden Tomb is the site that many believe may be the actual burial site of Jesus. The idea is that the site is outside the city of walls, and near to a cliff similar in look to a scull that is described in the New Testament. The idea was first brought up by the British officer Charles George Gordon in the 1880s who connected the site to the look of the nearby cliff. The double grave chamber carved into the rock at the site also has an unfinished part, which Gordon related to the New Testament description of Jesus’ grave being an unused one. Many Protestant groups will schedule a communion service at the Garden Tomb.