Jerusalem's Geography

Jerusalem is a city of mountains and valleys which greatly contributed to its history. There are four mountains that lie in a straight line, going from east to west. Starting in the east, they are the Mount of Olives, the Temple Mount also known as Mount Moriah, Mount Zion, also called the Upper Hill.

Between these four mountains are three valleys. Between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount is the Kidron Valley. Between the Temple Mount and the Upper Hill is the Tyropean Valley. Between the Upper Hill and the New City is the Valley of Hennom.

To the north of the Mount of Olives is Mount Scopus. The Mount of Olives has two peaks. The higher one is to the north and is the site of several Christian churches. This peak is directly across from the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. The lower peak of the Mount of Olive is to the south. On its western slope is the largest and most ancient Jewish cemetery.

West of the Mount of Olives is the Temple Mount. The southern slope is called the Ophel. West of the Temple Mount is the Upper Hill. The southern portion of the Upper Hill is called Mount Zion.

The Old City it roughly shaped like a square. It encompasses Mount Moriah, the Upper Hill, and the Tyropean Valley. The Old City is divided into four quarters. The north-eastern section is the Moslem Quarter. The north-western section is the Christian Quarter. The south-western section is the Armenian Quarter. The south-western section is the Jewish Quarter.

The Old City has a wall that goes around it. It was built in 1538 by the Ottoman (Turkish) Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. The wall has seven gateways in it.

On the northern side from west to east is the New Gate (Bab Al-Jdid), the Damascus Gate (Bab Al-Amud), and Herod's Gate (Bab Al-Zahreh). On the eastern wall is the Lion's Gate (Bab El-Isbat), also called St. Stephen's Gate. On the Eastern Wall is also the Mercy Gate (Bab El-Rahmeh), actually part of the Temple Compound, but it was sealed up centuries ago. To the south are the Dung Gate (Bab El Magarbeh) and Zion Gate (Bab El Nabi Dahoud). On the western Old City wall is the Jaffa Gate (Bab El Khalil).

My Olive Tree - poem by Hanna Issa

A sacred vow embellished on your veil,

Which lends your gentle branches poise and grace;

Emblem of peace, and charm for restless souls,

Reposeful - soothing is your kind embrace.

Even your respiration smells of oil,

The olive oil that feeds the Sacred flame;

Your light in temple lanterns pure, divine,

Endures - Thine consecration to proclaim.

Thou noble spirit of the ancient heights,

The breath of Jesus in your shade transpires;

Apollo of the ages, firm and stout,

Your vespers Allah from His throne inspires.

High on that lovely Hill top that commands,

The sun-rise and the sun-set far beyond;

The crest of joy, the fusion of delight,

To thee my heart for ever shall respond.

Ramallah - «Hill of God» thy name was given,

Your crown, the Tireh Sector shall adorn;

My olive tree, a jewel on your brow,

Fed by the angels, was an angel born.

So huge, by right the Roman tree T?s called,

As old as time, by Roman fingers pruned,

My tree still stands unravished, undefiled,

Immune to age, so olive trees are tuned.

My child Ghassan, so lively and enthused,

Your undulating branches scan with zeal;

On field excursions he will surely mark,

A nest some bird attempted to conceal.

To speak of birds and nests and olive trees,

Ghassan?s adventures with me on the trail,

Imbues the soul with perfect loveliness,

Upright, my tree and child may never fail.



Hanna Issa Khalaf (1905-1963) was born in Ramallah and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1936 with BA degrees in art and law. In addition to being an activist in the Palestinian resistance movement, he was a member of Jordan?s Parliament as well as Minister of Justice. This fascinating poem, ?My Olive Tree,? was written as he hiked in mountain olive groves in Ramallah with his youngest son, Ghassan. The poem was submitted by his grandson, Fares N. Azar.