East of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley, is a mountainous ridge that was populated by olive trees before Jerusalem’s fall in 70 AD, aptly named the Mount of Olives. Its western slope faces Jerusalem, while its eastern slope is the edge of the arid Judean Desert that extends to the Dead Sea. The area has been used extensively as a burial ground, the graves of which are still present today. Low on its western slope was a garden called Gethsemane, meaning “oil press” in Aramaic, which was likely the processing site of the olives harvested from the mountainside above. The Mount of Olives is higher in elevation than nearby Jerusalem. Looking across the Kidron Valley, the view from the Mount of Olives was a panorama of the Temple complex and the rest of the city.

The Mount of Olives is mentioned occasionally in the Old Testament, most notably as the site where David escaped to the wilderness away from his son Absalom. Zechariah recorded a vision of the Mount of Olives being split in half, which people fled through to the east. It was also the likely site of pagan worship at various times in Israel’s history, as a “high place” near Jerusalem.