This view encompasses the oldest inhabited part of the city, plus adjacent areas to which, in the course of centuries, it expanded. Across the horizon, to the east, the barren Judean wilderness stands above the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, which lie in the deep, mist-filled geological rift.
By looking with care and referring to the small drawing, we may easily discern three ridges, each referred to, at one time or other, as Zion. In this respect, Zion has been a movable mountain.
Our starting point will be Jerusalem’s most famous landmark, the golden Dome of the Rock, at far left, on the Temple Mount platform. The Temple Mount lies in the southeast corner of the Old City, enclosed by its 16th-century wall. Extending south from the southern wall are two ridges separated by a valley. The eastern ridge, or hill, was the original Mt. Zion (Zion I), which King David captured from the Jebusites in about 1000 B.C. Later, King Solomon expanded the city to the north and built his palace and the Temple to the Lord on what is today known as the Temple Mount. After that, the Temple Mount was referred to as Mt. Zion (Zion II). At the far right of the Temple Mount platform stands the silver dome of the El Aksa mosque. Immediately to its right, outside the southern wall of the Mount, the broken walls of archaeological excavations may be seen enclosed within the right angle of an asphalt road.
Zion I is now covered with houses; its slopes are marked by a grove of trees along the shallow Tyropoeon Valley on the west and by the shadow of the Kidron Valley on the east. The Kidron Valley separates Zion I from Silwan, the village on the steep hill to its east.
Archaeologists have determined, without doubt, that this narrow spur—Zion I—supplied with abundant water from the Gihon spring, is the original location of the city.
West of Zion I, across the Tyropoeon Valley, another ridge extends south of the Old City. Broader and higher than Zion I, this ridge is easily identified by its landmark in the center of the picture—the large, 20th-century Church of the Dormition, with its pointed gray dome. Today, the name Mt. Zion belongs exclusively to this hill (Zion III). It is this Mt. Zion on which our article focuses.
On Zion III, very near to the modern basilica, the author locates archaeological evidence for the Judeo-Christian synagogue that became known as the Church of the Apostles. This church marked the site where the apostles prayed after witnessing Christ’s post-resurrection ascent to heaven on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:1–13). Here also is where Peter is said to have delivered his famous Pentecost sermon (Acts 2), as well as the place of the Last Supper. In time this Judeo-Christian synagogue was erroneously thought to be the tomb of King David. (David’s tomb also moved in the course of time—from Zion I, to Bethlehem and then to this Judeo-Christian synagogue on Zion III.) During a period of Moslem occupation, it was turned into a mosque, and while the Crusaders controlled it, they built a room above it that is still venerated as the cenacle, or “upper room,” where the Last Supper took place.
On the western side of Zion III (outside the picture) is the Hinnom Valley, which curves around south of Zion III (as we see) turning east, going past the Tyropoeon Valley and then connecting with the Kidron Valley, east of Zion I.