Mount Zion
Mount Zion is a place name for a site in Jerusalem, the location of which has shifted several times in history. According to the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

's Book of Samuel, it was the site of the Jebusite
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Jebusites were a Canaanite tribe who inhabited and built Jerusalem prior to its conquest by King David; the Books of Kings state that Jerusalem was known as Jebus prior to this event...

 fortress called the "stronghold of Zion" that was conquered by King David, becoming his palace in the City of David. On the eastern hill of two hills extending south of the Old City of Jerusalem, archaeological excavations by Yigal Shiloh uncovered an Iron Age building
Stepped Stone Structure
The Stepped Stone Structure is the name given to the remains at a particular archaeological site on the eastern side of the City of David, the oldest part of Jerusalem. The curved, 60ft high, narrow stone structure is built over a series of terraces...

 identified as the remains of "fortress Zion", thus indicating this to be the original location of Mount Zion.

Sometime during the biblical period after the construction of King Solomon's Temple, Mount Zion was the term used to refer to the Temple Mount
Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as , and in Arabic as the Haram Ash-Sharif , is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years...

, as according to the Book of Isaiah
Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

 (60:14), the Book of Psalms, and the first book of the Maccabees
The Maccabees were a Jewish rebel army who took control of Judea, which had been a client state of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE, reasserting the Jewish religion, expanding the boundaries of the Land of Israel and reducing the influence...

 (c. 2nd century BC). Just before the Roman conquest of Jerusalem after the destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

, its location shifted once again: Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 located the Jebusite town on the lower eastern hill, but used Mount Zion to refer to the higher hill across the valley to the west, seemingly a more suitable site for David's palace. Thus, the western hill extending south of the Old City came to be known as Mount Zion, and this has been the case ever since.

Etymology and orthography

The etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

 of the word Zion
Zion is a place name often used as a synonym for Jerusalem. The word is first found in Samuel II, 5:7 dating to c.630-540 BCE...

 (ṣiyyôn) is uncertain.
Mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Samuel (2 Samuel 5:7) as the name of the Jebusite
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Jebusites were a Canaanite tribe who inhabited and built Jerusalem prior to its conquest by King David; the Books of Kings state that Jerusalem was known as Jebus prior to this event...

 fortress conquered by King David, its origin likely predates the Israelite
According to the Bible the Israelites were a Hebrew-speaking people of the Ancient Near East who inhabited the Land of Canaan during the monarchic period .The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל...

s. If Semitic
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

, it may be derived from the Hebrew root 'ṣiyyôn ("castle") or the Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 root ṣiyya ("dry land") or the Arabic šanā ("protect" or "citadel"). It might also be related to the Arabic root ṣahî ("ascend to the top") or ṣuhhay ("tower" or "the top of the mountain"). A non-Semitic relationship to the Hurrian
Hurrian language
Hurrian is a conventional name for the language of the Hurrians , a people who entered northern Mesopotamia around 2300 BC and had mostly vanished by 1000 BC. Hurrian was the language of the Mitanni kingdom in northern Mesopotamia, and was likely spoken at least initially in Hurrian settlements in...

 word šeya ("river" or "brook") has also been suggested.

Sayhun is the word for Zion in Arabic and Syriac
Syriac language
Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. Having first appeared as a script in the 1st century AD after being spoken as an unwritten language for five centuries, Classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from...

. A valley called Wâdi Sahyûn (wadi
Wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.-Variant names:...

 being the Arabic for "valley") seemingly preserves the name and is located approximately one and three-quarter miles from the Old City of Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate.

The name Har Tzion (Mountain Tzion) appears nine times in the NaKh part of the Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

. It is spelled with a Tzadi and not Zayin
Zayin is the seventh letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician , Aramaic , Hebrew , Syriac and Perso-Arabic alphabet...

The commonly used form "Mount Zion" is an adopted mis-transliteration in English based on the Protestant German orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

 use, where z is always pronounced [t͡s] (e.g. "zog" [t͡soːk]), hence Tsion in German literature. A tz would only be used if the preceding vowel is short, and hence use of Zion in 19th century German Biblical criticism
Biblical criticism
Biblical criticism is the scholarly "study and investigation of Biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings." It asks when and where a particular text originated; how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it was produced; what influences were at work...

 works. This orthography was adopted because in German the correct transliteration can only be rendered from the one instance of HaTzion in Kings II 23:17, where the a vowel is followed by a double consonant tz.

Biblical identity

The Tanakh reference to Har Tzion (Mount Tzion) that identifies its location is derived from the Psalm 48 composed by the sons of Korah
Korah or Kórach Some older English translations, as well as the Douay Bible), spell the name Core, and many Eastern European translations have Korak...

, i.e. Levites, as "the northern side of the city of the great king", which Radak interprets as the City of David "from the City of David, which is Zion (1 Kings 8:1-2; 2 Chron. 5:2)". 2 Samuel 5:7 also reads, "David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David," which identifies Mount Tzion as part of the City of David, and not an area outside today's Old City of Jerusalem. Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

 further identifies the location as the source of "joy" mentioned in the Psalm as the Temple Courtyard, the location of atonement offerings in the northern part of the Temple complex
Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as , and in Arabic as the Haram Ash-Sharif , is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years...

. This further identifies Har Tzion as a spiritual height of the Land of Israel
Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

 that offered elevation of the soul to the People of Israel, and therefore synonymous with Mount Moriah. The location of the City of David in a valley is symbolic of the Egyptian Exile told in parsha Shemot
Shemot (parsha)
Shemot, Shemoth, or Shemos is the thirteenth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the first in the book of Exodus...

, with a homiletic reference in the 23 Psalm's "in the valley overshadowed by death" that characterizes exile from Light, another allusion to the Temple. Har Tzion in rabbinic literature is therefore identified as a metaphor for the journey by David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 and Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

 from the darkness of exile to the enlightened pinnacle of the Temple's building.

The topographic
Topography is the study of Earth's surface shape and features or those ofplanets, moons, and asteroids...

 elevation sought in the literature of Biblical criticism
Biblical criticism
Biblical criticism is the scholarly "study and investigation of Biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings." It asks when and where a particular text originated; how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it was produced; what influences were at work...

 is based on the literal interpretation and Biblical archaeology
Biblical archaeology
For the movement associated with William F. Albright and also known as biblical archaeology, see Biblical archaeology school. For the interpretation of biblical archaeology in relation to biblical historicity, see The Bible and history....

 as its predecessor in Europe. This literature finds the above interpretation problematic for two reasons. First, the literal reading of the Temple construction narrative suggests that it was built somewhat outside the City, at the time, the City of David; however, most of the passages we have suggest that Tzion or Mount Tzion is in the city or is part thereof. Second, the narrative in 2 Chronicles 5 of the inauguration of the Temple says that the ark was carried out from Mount Zion to the Temple Mount, strongly implying that the two are not the same.

The hill currently called Mount Zion (see below) was identified as such in the Middle Ages. This identification has been disputed by several scholars. No other concrete identifications have been proposed, but many archaeologists in Israel believe that it must refer to a hill in or closer to the actual City of David.

Some Biblical commentators have also proposed that, since the City of David lies in a valley, the term refers to the City of David as a metaphorical mountain rather than a geographic one.

Modern Identification

Later the name became associated with a hill just outside the walls of the Old City, at the southern end of that elevation. The identification dates from the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

As mentioned, other biblical archaeologists dispute this identification.


Between 1948 and 1967, when the Old City was under Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

ian rule, Israelis were forbidden access to the Jewish holy places. Mount Zion was a designated no-man's land between Israel and Jordan. Mount Zion was the closest accessible site to the ancient Jewish Temple
Jewish temple
Jewish temple:*Jewish temple or The Jewish Temple, may refer to the original two ancient Jewish Temples in Jerusalem.**The First Temple was destroyed by the ancient Babylonians in 586 BCE.**The Second Temple was destroyed by Rome in 70 CE....

. Until East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

, Israelis would climb to the rooftop of David's Tomb
David's Tomb
King David's Tomb is the name given to a Jewish religious site on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, near the Hagia Maria Sion Abbey; the site has traditionally been viewed as the burial place of King David, the second king of Israel...

 to pray. The winding road leading up to Mount Zion is known as Pope's Way (Derekh Ha'apifyor). It was paved in honor of the historic visit to Jerusalem of Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI
Paul VI , born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 21 June 1963 until his death on 6 August 1978. Succeeding Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Second Vatican Council, he decided to continue it...

 in 1964.


According to local legend, the two engineers who planned the restoration of the Old City walls in 1538 mistakenly left Mt. Zion and King David’s tomb outside the walls. The Turkish sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman I was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566. He is known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent and in the East, as "The Lawgiver" , for his complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system...

, was so enraged that he had the two put to death.


Important sites on Mount Zion (as currently defined) are Dormition Abbey, King David's Tomb and the Room of the Last Supper. Most historians and archeologists today do not regard "David's Tomb" there to be the actual burial place of King David. The Chamber of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 (Martef HaShoah), the precursor of Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament....

, is also located on Mount Zion. Another place of interest is the Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 cemetery where Oskar Schindler
Oskar Schindler
Oskar Schindler was an ethnic German industrialist born in Moravia. He is credited with saving over 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic respectively.He is the subject of the...

, a Righteous Gentile
Righteous gentile
Righteous gentile may refer to:* Ger toshav, "stranger-foreigner", Aramaic and Hebrew term for a resident alien in a Jewish state.* Righteous among the Nations, an honorific bestowed by the State of Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis...

 who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews in the Holocaust, is buried. Notable burials in the Protestant cemetery on Mt. Zion include the architect Conrad Schick
Conrad Schick
Conrad Schick was a German architect, archaeologist and Protestant missionary who settled in Jerusalem in the mid-nineteenth century.-Biography:...

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