The Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives, including the Silwan necropolis, is the most ancient and most important cemetery in Jerusalem. Burial on the Mount of Olives started some 3,000 years ago in the First Temple Period, and continues to this day and includes the tombs of famous figures in Jewish history.
During the First and Second Temple Periods the Jews of Jerusalem were buried in burial caves scattered on the slopes of the Mount, and from the 16th century the cemetery began to take its present shape.
The old Jewish cemetery sprawled over the slopes of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Kidron Valley (Valley of Jehoshaphat), radiating out from the lower, ancient part, which preserved Jewish graves from the Second Temple period; here there had been a tradition of burial uninterrupted for thousands of years. The cemetery was quite close to the Old City, its chief merit being that it lay just across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount: according to Jewish tradition, it is here that the Resurrection of the Dead would begin when the Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives and enter the Temple Mount.