As the Mountains Surround Jerusalem: A Biblical and Modern Look
BY KAYLA MUCHNIK
Ascending the Jerusalem Mountains Today
Every year, Jews throughout Israel go up the mountains to Jerusalem, to celebrate the victory of the Six Day War in 1967. It brought the reunification of the city and the reestablishment of Israeli control over the Old City of Jerusalem.
This celebration is called Jerusalem Day or “Yom Yerushalyim”, and we just celebrated it on May 28-29 this year.
Our Heavenly Father delights in His people, His nation of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem. In Psalm 125, we see that God compares the way the mountains surround Jerusalem just like He surrounds His people:
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.
The scepter of the wicked will not remain
over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
their hands to do evil.
Lord, do good to those who are good,
to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways
the Lord will banish with the evildoers.
Peace be on Israel.
How does God Compare to the Mountains of Jerusalem?
As we read this Psalm, we see a mighty picture of God’s steadfast and unmovable love. It is specifically His love for the Jewish people, for Jerusalem, and Israel.
The mountain region that surrounds the city of Jerusalem has never been moved. And this is what the Psalmist is explaining – what our God’s love towards Israel is like. God is unmovable and unshakeable in His covenant, love, and faithfulness towards the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem! Isaiah reiterates this:
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)
The Mountains that Surround Jerusalem
The mountain range that surrounds Jerusalem is known as the Judaean Mountains or Judean Hills.
Some of the mountaintops that are in or around the Old City of Jerusalem are Mount Zion, Mount of Olives, the Temple Mount, Mount Scopus, Mount Herzl, Mount of Rest, Mount Hotzvim, and Har Nof.
In the book of Zechariah, God declares that the city of Jerusalem with be “a city of truth” and Mount Zion will be His “Holy Mountain.” Therefore, I believe God is saying that His holiness and truth will surround His people Israel and the city of Jerusalem.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.’ This is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain. (Zechariah 8:2-3)
At the end of the book, Zechariah explains that the Messiah will return to Israel and place His feet on the Mount of Olives. Therefore, the Mount of Olives will not be removed or split until the day of our Savior’s return. This means that God will continue to surround and be with His people until He returns to dwell among them.
On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (Zechariah 14:4)
Location, Location, Location!
The city of Jerusalem was and is strategically located in central Israel. This made the city easily accessible to Jews from all over the nation as well as foreigners, to come to Jerusalem to worship God in the Temple.
Still to this day, the Jewish people from Israel and abroad come to Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall, place also called the Kotel. But also non-Jews ascend to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel.
Back in the day, Jerusalem was a fortified city in the midst of the mountain range of the Judaean Hills. Thus, it was not accessible by water or ship. And it was not an easy climb. This was a great advantage because it made it more difficult to conquer the city.
At the same time, because Jerusalem was in the mountains, it meant the residents could see their enemies in the valleys. It gave them a vantage point of reacting much faster as their enemies were approaching their fortified city.
Life in the Mountains
There is yet another benefit to the mountainous setting of Jerusalem. Namely, it provides a cooler climate and higher precipitation – instead of the typical dry and extremely hot temperatures in the surrounding desert.
The summer days here in Jerusalem may get hot, but we can always count on the refreshing cool nights. And during the rainy winter season, Jerusalem doesn’t have to worry much about flooding (like Tel Aviv, for example) because of its elevation.
To top it off, Jerusalem is also positioned right next to natural springs. Even though a lot of the Israeli land is a desert, and Jerusalem is in the mountains, the city has always had a miraculous supply of water. That is thanks to natural springs that surround and flow to the city.
The People and God’s Faithfulness
As we look back throughout history, we can see that Jerusalem has endured many wars, destruction, and rebuilding. And yet, God has been faithful to the Jewish people and to the city of Jerusalem – He has rebuilt them over and over again.
Today, Jerusalem is thriving, with young and old crowding the streets just like the word of God foretold in Zechariah:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing here. (Zechariah 8:4)
As I sit on a park bench in the center of Jerusalem, I see this passage come to life! There are many elderly people walking down the street with a cane in hand, and many young boys and girls are playing together nearby.
What a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people, that He will sustain the old and bring new life to the land. These streets that were once barren, abandoned, and desolate are now full of life, people, and abundance.
Diversity of People and Culture
What is most striking is that it is not just the young and the old in the streets of Jerusalem. You will also quickly notice an incredible diversity that makes up this rich and vibrant city. Jews and Arabs live and work side by side, which is not something you’d see on the news.
In the streets of Jerusalem, you will not only hear Hebrew, Arabic, and English, but also many languages from around the world.
One of the reasons for that is the fact that incredible numbers of Jews make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel) from the four corners of the earth. Add to that the large number of tourists that visit the Holy city of Jerusalem every year.
God has allowed me to live in the heart of the city of Jerusalem for the last three years. It has truly been an honor to pray over this city and discover more of God’s heart for the people of Jerusalem.
As I would look out my window, I could see ultra-orthodox Jews dressed in black and white, and Muslim women clothed in hijabs (head coverings). I’d see secular Jews and Arabs, tourists carrying cameras and people of many nationalities in their culture’s traditional clothing.
Jerusalem in the Mountains – a City Like No Other
Those of you who have lived in Jerusalem for any amount of time know that this city is also a fiery furnace and not for the faint in heart. The city is incredibly charged spiritually, because it is the very city that our Savior, Jesus the Messiah chose for His ministry.
Here, He preached the gospel, healed the sick, He was honored but also betrayed. He gave up His life in Jerusalem, here He rose from the grave, and poured out His Holy Spirit! So, can you imagine the spiritual warfare that goes on in this city?
But over the millennia, just like the mountains that surround Jerusalem have not been moved, neither has God’s love for this city. I hope you can see more of the steadfast heart of our God for the people of Israel.
God’s love surrounds His people no matter where they are in the world. He searches the four corners of the earth to bring His people back to the land of Israel, and to His city of Jerusalem!
This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.’ (Zechariah 8:7-8)
As we began with a Psalm, let’s end with another one about God’s love for His people and for the city of Jerusalem!
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
4 That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the Lord—
to praise the name of the Lord
according to the statute given to Israel.
5 There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
8 For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.
Let us pray for the peace of God’s beloved city, and for our God to continue to surround His people like the mountains surround Jerusalem!