View the Old City atop the Mount of Olives, see the Tel Aviv skyline from the Azrieli Observatory and view the vast Judean Desert from Masada’s peak.
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives, named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes, is a mountain ridge that has served as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years. Believed to be the site for the resurrection of the dead when the Messiah returns, today the Mount is a pilgrimage site for Catholics, Jews, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. Some landmarks on the Mount include Garden of Gethsemane, Tomb of the Virgin Mary, Beit Orot, Tombs of Absalom, Chapel of the Ascension, Brigham Young University, and Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene.
Jesus is said to have spent time on the Mount including his ascension into Heaven. During the days of the Second Temple, the start of each new month was celebrated on the Mount. After the Temple’s destruction, Jews celebrated Sukkot on the Mount to view the Temple site. After 1948, Jews and Israelis were barred from the Mount and thousands of graves were desecrated; following the Six Day War, the cemetery was restored.
Azrieli Center contains three modern buildings, including an observation deck and one of Israel’s largest malls. Azrieli Center Circular Tower, completed in 1999, features an indoor observation deck, high end restaurant and over 4,000 windows. In 2003, the tower held its first annual run-up competition. Participants ran up the 1,144 stairs to the tower’s roof and the winner had the chance to compete in to Empire State Building run up. Azrieli Center Triangular Tower, also completed in 1999, is largely occupied by Israel’s biggest telecommunications company. Construction of the third building, Azrieli Center Square Tower, was completed in 2006. The lower floors house Africa Israel’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. Azrieli Center Mall is one of Israel’s largest with a small amusement park and pedestrian bridges. A fourth building, Azrieli Sarona Tower is planned to be the tallest skyscraper in Israel once completed.
Masada is an ancient stone site atop a desert plateau with a view of the Dead Sea which can be reached by snake path or cableway. This National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site is a well-preserved piece of the ancient kingdom of Israel with many of its buildings and artifacts restored. Masada is one of the most popular Israeli tourist attractions featuring light shows on summer nights. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) holds swearing in ceremonies at the top of the mountain and many young Jews take birthright excursions to the top at sunrise.
Built as a palace by King Herod in the first century BCE, Masada became a fortress against the Romans, the siege of which led to the mass suicide of Jewish rebels. Masada’s last occupation was by Byzantine monks who built the Monastery of Marda. Its remoteness left Masada untouched for two millennia until the site was extensively excavated in the 1960s.