Jerusalem is a city built on hills (seven to be precise) Mount Scopus is the most dominant of these hills, situated in the northeast it looks down on the Old City, across the rest of the city and even over the Jordan border and down towards the Dead Sea. The name Mount Scopus, Har Hatzofim in Hebrew, is derived from the Latin for “Mount of the Watchers” as the Romans used the mountain as a lookout point when trying to suppress the Jewish Great Revolt in 70AD.
History of Mount Scopus
In 1918 the Hebrew University was founded and in 1925 began functioning on Mount Scopus, this followed the recent British liberation of Israel from Turkish rule. At the time eager Zionists were settling in the country and slowly turning it into the nation it would become. In 1931 the Hebrew University Botanical Gardens were established and it became the largest collection of uncultivated plants in the country(there is another University Botanical Gardens in Givat Ram) . Also on the campus is the Nicanor Cave an ancient burial cave and ossuary.
Hadassah Hospital was founded by the Hadassah Woman’s Organization in 1934, and opened in 1939 adjacent to the University on Mount Scopus, the intention being to open a medical school as well.
The Independence War came and went without Mount Scopus leaving Israeli hands, an armistice agreement was made with the Jordanians in 1949 giving Israelis access to the mount but the agreement was broken and the mount blockaded. For a period following this Mount Scopus was demilitarized by the UN, with an Israeli fortified garrison and enclave atop the mount surrounded by Jordanian controlled land. During this time when Mount Scopus was inaccessible the university and hospital were rebuilt in alternative locations in West Jerusalem’s Givat Ram (university) and Ein Kerem (hospital).
Israel took the mount in the Six Day War of 1967 and the rebuilding of the two institutions on the mount began. Jerusalem now had two Hadassah hospitals and two Hebrew University campuses (the original Mount Scopus buildings and the ones in the “temporary” locations that were used between the wars). In the last few years the construction of the Israeli wall separating Israel from Palestine has been constructed including Mount Scopus within the Israeli borders to insure it remains in Israeli hands.
What is on Mount Scopus
As mentioned there is the Hebrew University Campus and Hadassah Hospital in addition to this there are several other establishments. The Mormon Brigham Young University is applauded for its great architecture and known for the stunning views from this point on the mount; the Ausgusta Victoria pilgrims’ hospice, Augusata Victoria Church and a WWI cemetery for British soldiers killed in the Middle East.
The Augusta Victoria complex covers 80 dunams on Mount Scopus, within the complex is a hospice, Christian church and bell tower where you can take an elevator to the top for spectacular views. Within the church there are beautiful mosaics and murals and the entire complex is architecturally interesting.
The iconic mount has been immortalized by songwriter Avigor Hameiri who wrote Me’al Pisgat Har Hatzofim” (from atop Mount Scopus) in which he described the breathtaking views from the mount over Jerusalem and down past the Jordan Rift Valley to the Dead Sea in the east. Mount Scopus is the only place in Jerusalem where you can get panoramic views not only of the Old City but of other parts of Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, Dead Sea and on a clear day even of Bethlehem.