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Ancient, sacred places are thought to bring man closer to God and often hold great emotional significance for followers and scholars alike.

What Is Zion?

Zion is a sacred hill situated in ancient Jerusalem. A Jebusite fortress was located on the hill when King David captured the city in the 10th century BC and the city became known as the City of David. The Jewish people believe Zion is their holiest place, where they are linked closely to God. In Jerusalem’s Old City wall, there are eight gates and one of them is known as Zion’s gate.

Where Is It Situated?

According to Josephus, a Jewish historian in the 1st century AD, the location of Zion was the western hill, rather than eastern, in Jerusalem. Only in the early 20th century did scholars correct his misidentification and cite the eastern hill as the actual site.

Etymology and Significance

Though the exact root of the name has eluded scholars, it is thought to refer to the fortress King David conquered in pre-Israelite times, according to the Book of Samuel in the Bible. Sources cite, however, Zion being used to refer to the city more often than the hill. The name Mount Zion also purportedly referred to the city. Depending on the time period in Jewish history, the city had three different locations. Firstly, the location was said to be on the eastern hill of Jerusalem, in the lower region. Next, it was alleged to move to the upper region of the eastern hill, where the first temple was constructed. The third location was on the western hill, which is referred to as Mount Zion in modern times.

Scholars have found the name Zion was not used in ordinary writing and was instead used in correlation with religious prophecy and in a poetic context. The name seems to hold a great deal of emotional and spiritual significance when compared to the name Jerusalem. The God of Israel, Yahweh, ruled from Mount Zion, dwelt there and appointed his King there, according to the Bible. The term Daughter of Zion referred to two contradictory concepts in the Old Testament. It personified the city itself, as a woman, and referred to either the city’s salvation or its destruction. Ultimately, the term Zion came to mean the homeland for the Jewish people, according to sources.

Modern Use

The term Zion has both positive and negative connotations in modern religion and culture.


The term Zionism was coined by Nathan Birnbaum in 1890. In 1896, a movement emerged, via the founder, Theodor Herzl. The goal of the movement was understood to be the Jewish people returning to their homeland. The name stems from the hill, Zion, and can be viewed as the Jewish people’s continued attachment to Jerusalem. Herzl believed foremost in assimilation, but due to the reality of Anti-Semitism, realized that Jews may only be able to live freely in their own, singular territory.


In Kabballah, Zion has another meaning. It refers to a person entering Zion when they achieve an enlightened state, free of their ego-driven earthly existence.


In Rastafarianism, Zion is located in Ethiopia, Africa. With the effects of slavery and other ills from Western society, Rasta seek to return to their homeland in Africa. They believe in the harmony of man and God.

Elders of Zion

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a text, published in 1903 in Russia, which purports to be a plan for world domination by the Jewish people. The text was said to be the minutes of a meeting held in the 19th century, where leaders of the Jewish community debated their intention to control gentiles through the media, economy and by the deterioration of their moral values. In the Second World War, the Nazis used the document to add to the invalidation and subversion of the Jewish community. The protocols, however, are a forgery and would be viewed today as a conspiracy theory.

With the belief systems of the world changing day by day, it is not difficult to understand why conflict arises on a small and global scale, especially over things sacred to certain groups. If we could only truly live in someone else’s shoes for a day, would it not bring people closer together and enhance our understanding of different cultures and belief systems?

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