Hidden smack dab in the middle of Jerusalem is a platform carpeted in a changing display of wildflowers (except during the hottest months) and featuring a stunning view of the entire city.
Across the street from the old railway station, soon to become an attraction in its own right, is a retaining wall behind a bus stop. Hoist yourself up it and you'll find a sign in English, Arabic and Hebrew proclaiming the site as Givat HaTanakh – Bible Hill, brought to you by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Jerusalem municipality.
From this point, you'll see a crude staircase leading up the hillside. Climb it. Beneath your feet you'll see an open grassy plateau, bright these days with yellow Jerusalem buttercups and theyear’s first red anemones. Lift your eyes and a 360-degree view of the city awaits, with the whole medley of architectural periods and styles: east to the Old City and, if visibility is good, the Hills of Moab past the Jordan River; north to Mount Scopus; west over downtown Jerusalem and south in the direction of Baka and the German Colony.
Bible Hill is open 24/7, 365 days a year, including Yom Kippur and Christmas, free of charge. Towards the end of a day when the rapidly setting sun demonstrates what they mean by “Jerusalem of gold,” you can pick out the sites you've visited or set tomorrow's itinerary.
Romantics (and the profoundly jet-lagged) should come at dawn when the light is breathtaking in a different way – Homer, our neighbor in ancient times on the other side of the Mediterranean, called it “rosy-fingered.”
The name Bible Hill seems a bit specious; there are ruins but these are probably not biblical unless the ancient Hebrews really did build with concrete and cinderblock. More likely they are the remains of a British observation post on this strategic elevation. Saint Andrew’s Scottish Church, the cornerstone of which was laid by Field Marshall Lord Allenby in 1927, is on the north side of the hill but to get there you have to go back down to the street again.
You can also mount Bible Hill via a staircase from the parking lot opposite the Mount Zion Hotel or along a kind of precipitous goat trail at the busy corner of David Remez Street and the Hebron Road.
There is nothing here to read, nothing to buy and nothing to believe or argue with. Bible Hill is not wheelchair or stroller-friendly but in the very heart of this historical, crowded, contentious and sometimes deranged city it is a great place for quiet contemplation or for kids to explore and make all manner of discoveries – urban and natural – in this patch of the wild and serene, surrounded by a manmade landscape.
May whoever is in charge of these things protect this magical site from the jaws of real estate sharks. Amen.
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