Jews have sought since antiquity to be buried on the Mount of Olives, where according to the Bible (Zech. 14:4) the resurrection will begin when the Messiah comes. Eventually, the cemetery grew to cover the entire western and much of the southern slopes.
The earliest tombs are located at the foot of the mountain in the Kidron Valley. One is attributed to David’s rebellious son Absalom, another to the First Temple priest Zechariah; a third bears an inscription mentioning the sons of Hezir, a priestly family that lived 2,000 years ago.
Jewish burial here continued throughout the centuries, interrupted only between 1948 and 1967 when Jerusalem was divided. Among the many legends surrounding this sacred mountain, it is said that in the End of Days people will tunnel underground from all over the world to rise up here.
The renowned individuals interred here include the medieval sage Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura; Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew; S.Y. Agnon, Israel’s Nobel laureate in literature; and prime minister Menachem Begin and his wife Aliza. At the Mount of Olives Information Center near Absalom’s Tomb, visitors can obtain information on the location of specific tombstones.