Deciphering Zechariah 14:5

An indepth analysis of Zechariah 14:5

Posts Tagged ‘Hill of Evil Counsel

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: The Namings of Azal River and Mount Azal

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If you’re not up to speed yet on where Azal in Zechariah 14:5 is located, see Azal: A Longtime Mystery Rediscovered.

Straight from the horse’s mouth is a figure of speech that is used to indicate receipt of information directly from the best authority.

The following letter reveals that Wadi Yasul, the valley due south of the City of David that is formed by the northern slope of Jabel Mukaber and the southern slope of the hill of Abu Tor, was named Azal Valley in 1955 based on the likelihood that the identity of Azal mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 was preserved in the Arabic name and location of Wadi Yasul; and Jabel Mukaber was named Mount Azal in 1990.

It was authored by Yehuda Ziv, a member of the Israel government authority responsible for naming geographic locations in Israel, i.e., the Government Names Committee. Ziv “heads the Government Names Committee’s subcommittee for community names, and is considered one of the leading experts in Israel in the field”. So it is straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The letter was written to the editor of Haaretz in response to one of their articles in which Jabal Mukaber was mistakenly identified as the Hill of Evil Counsel. Ziv clarifies that Jabal Mukaber is actually the Hill of Evil Council, and the hill of Abu Tor is the Hill of Evil Counsel.

The original letter in Hebrew is found here. Below is my translation with my bracketed [ ] clarifications. The translation is by no means perfect, but the salient points are clear enough. Any comments to improve its accuracy will be greatly appreciated.

Opinions: Letters to the Editor

“The Evil Council” in Mount Azal

Yehuda Ziv, Government Names Committee


In response to the “Secrets of the Palace” By Noam Dvir (Haaretz, Gallery, 24.4).

The book of Zechariah provides a description of a great commotion which dominated the south of Jerusalem at the time: “and the Mount of Olives will be split from its eastward half, even a very great valley westward. And the northward half and southward half of the mountain will be removed. And the valley of mountains will be blocked up for they will be joined together unto Azal.” ([Zechariah] XIV, 4-5) .

It is customary to identify the place referred to [i.e., Azal] as Mount Azal, following its [i.e., Azal’s] probable preservation in the [Arabic] name of Wadi Yasul [Yasul Valley], [where] the level of Talpiot [neighborhood] drops to the Kidron Valley.

The Government Names Committee, therefore, decided on the name Azal River [for Wadi Yasul] (April 1955). Later (May 1990), Jabal Mukaber that looks upon Azal River from the south and Armon Hanatsiv sits atop, received the name Mount Azal.

The council of elders which decided to offer Jesus to Pontius Pilate, governor of Judah, that he would take him to be crucified, met according to Christian tradition at the residence of the high priest, Ananias. The hill of Abu-Tor designates this place. Hence, they call this hill, Hill of Evil Counsel.

The decision to house the UN headquarters in Armon Hanatsiv “stirred up” Jerusalem, and they (which disliked the days of the British Mandate government) began to call the name of the mountain Hill of the Evil Council, following the UN Security Council’s name.

Mount Azal also was awarded this “enhancement” in Jerusalem jargon. Most of the streets of the neighborhoods near Armon Hanatziv bear the names of executed immigrants [who were members of Etzel, i.e. Irgun]; and consequently, it is popular to call its name also Mount Etzel.


Ziv’s claim that Wadi Yasul was named Azal Valley (Nahal Azal) in 1955 is substantiated by a progress report on Israel’s standardization of geographic names submitted by the Israel government to the UN Economics and Social Council, which states:

… in March 1951, it was decided to appoint a government names committee for the whole country, whose decisions should be binding on all State and public institutions. In 1953 the Committee published the Gazeteer (sic) for the second sheet of the 1:250,000 map of Israel, and in 1955, it completed the fixing of names for all the geographical objects shown on the 1:250,000 map.
UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographic Names, E/CONF.53/L.25, 3 August 1967

The last paragraph in Ziv’s letter reveals why Google Maps until April 2014 mistakenly labeled Azal River, Etsel River (Nahal Etsel). Mount Azal’s name was derived from its proximity to Azal River/Valley, which name was preserved for centuries as Wadi Yasul in Arabic. In like manner, Wadi Yasul was nicknamed Etsel River due to its proximity to the nicknamed Mount Etzel, possibly even before receiving its official Hebrew name. So Google simply received the wrong (i.e., unofficial) information. The screenshot below captured Nahal Etsel in Google Maps in 2009 (see red ellipse). Once notified of the error, Google corrected it with the official name, Nahal Azal (see below below).

Nahal Etsel

©2014 Google – Map data ©2014 Mapa GISrael

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