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ZION (Mount Zion; also Sion, Mountain of Zion; (Heb. הַר צִיּוֹן ,צִיּוֹן), hill and fortress in Jerusalem. The origin of the name is uncertain. Suggestions have included a rock, stronghold (צָיוֹן), a dry place (צִיּוֹן), or running water (Hurrian: ṣeya). The name Zion was first used for the Jebusite fortress ("the stronghold of Zion"), on the southeast of Jerusalem, below the Ophel and the Temple Mount. On its capture by David it was renamed "City of David" (II Sam. 5:7; I Kings 8:1), and the name later included also the Ophel (Micah 4:8; Isa. 32:14). In poetry Zion was used by way of synecdoche for the whole of Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3; 33:14; Joel 3:5), and "daughter (or virgin) of Zion" referred to the city and its inhabitants (Isa. 1:8; 30:16; Songs 1:5). Zion often referred by way of metonymy to Judea (Isa. 10:24; 51:11) or the people of Judea (ibid. 51:16; 59:20). Sometimes Zion referred simply to the Temple Mount (Joel 4:17, 21; Ps. 20:3) and it was this use that became the regular one by the Maccabean period, when the Temple Mount was called "Mountain of Zion" (ὄρος Σιων; I Macc. 7:32–33), as opposed to the lower city, the upper city, and Acra (on the southwestern hill of ancient Jerusalem). By Josephus' time "the stronghold" (of Zion; τὸ φρούριον) was identified with the upper city and the upper agora (Wars, 5:137; cf. Ant., 7:62), which included the sites identified at present with Mt. Zion, as well as David's Tower. By the first century C.E. the whole of that elevation, called Mt. Zion, was surrounded by a wall, part of which (in the southwest section) lay under the present city wall and part (its northern line) ran along the present King David Street, while the eastern wall ran through the present Jewish quarter. The fact that the Acra was situated at the northeast corner, and the royal palaces were there, probably encouraged the belief that Zion was to be identified with this area.

In the first century C.E. a small church was built on the southern end of the hill, and it was identified with the Coenaculum ("Room of the Last Supper"). In 1342 the Franciscans rebuilt it and this is substantially the building surviving to this day. The Franciscans were expelled by the Muslims in 1551 and were permitted to return and build a monastery near there only in 1936. This is the Church of the Dormition of Mary.

The Traveler from Bordeaux (333) cites that a single synagogue, one of the seven synagogues of ancient times, was left on Mr. Zion. This is confirmed by archaeological excavations performed at the northern wall of David's Tomb, where evidence for the existence of a late Roman synagogue was found, which seems to have been repaired during the reign of Julian the Apostate (361–3). The synagogue was associated with David as early as the fourth century, and by the tenth century his grave was located there, probably because of the biblical dictum that he was buried "in the city of David" (I Kings 2:10). It is believed by some that Saladin fortified the Coenaculum and David's Tomb by a wall in the 12th century, but the present city wall runs behind them. In 1524 the site was turned into a mosque of "the Prophet David." After 1948, when Mount Zion was the only section of east Jerusalem to remain in Jewish hands, David's Tomb was once again turned into a synagogue and became the most important pilgrimage center for Jews in Israel (see *Pilgrimage; *Holy Places). The archaeological remains of the Hellenistic Fullers' Quarter just south of the grave have been uncovered. Next to the tomb is "the Holocaust Chamber" dedicated to those who died under the Nazis. The name Zion also lent itself in modern times to organizations connected with Judaism or Jews, e.g., Zionism, Zion Mule Corps, etc.


Z. Vilnay, Jerusalem (1969), index; M. Benvenisti, The Crusaders in the Holy Land (1970), 51, 52, 54, 73; B. Mazar, in: Kadmoniot, 1–2 (1968), 8–10; M. Avi-Yonah, ibid., 19–20; H.Z. Hirschberg, ibid., 57–59.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.