According to a traditional story, during the Ayyubid period after Saladin captured Jerusalem in 1187, the area of Abu Tor was assigned by Al-Aziz Uthman to an officer in Saladin's army. His name was Sheikh Shehab ed Din, but he was called "Sheikh Ahmed et Toreh" (Sheikh Ahmed of the bull) or "Abu Tor" (the man with the bull, or the father of the bull) as he was said to have accompanied Saladin riding on a bull.
The hill on which Abu Tor stands was called "Jebel Deir Abu Tor" (mountain of the monastery of Abu Tor), or the "Hill of Evil Counsel", referring to a legend that it was the site of the house of Caiaphas, where Judas plotted to betray Jesus. A monastery or convent dedicated to St. Mark (whose emblem was an ox) may have once been there.
Late Ottoman period
Abu Tor was developed as a residential quarter in the late 19th century by Muslim and Christian Arabs from Jerusalem. A Jewish neighborhood called Beit Yosef was established in 1888.
Abu Tor was incorporated into the Jerusalem municipal district during the British Mandate period.
From the establishment of Israel in 1948 until 1967, the border between Israel and Jordan ran through Abu Tor. The first four roads beyond Hebron Road were Israeli and the remaining roads were Jordanian. In January 1949, Israel and Jordan, represented by Moshe Dayan and Abdullah el-Tell, held talks on the status of Jerusalem. Dayan presented the partition of Jerusalem as a common interest, and offered an exchange of territories that included the military post in Abu Tor, but his offer was turned down.
Abu Tor is one of the few Jerusalem neighborhoods with a mixed Arab and Jewish population. Due to its mixed population, many journalists, diplomats and United Nations employees choose to live there. While the Jewish section of Abu Tor is predominantly secular, the neighborhood has two synagogues - Har Refaim Synagogue for Ashkenazi Jews on Nachshon Street, and Shalom V'Achva Synagogue for Sephardi Jews.
Abu Tor had a population of 15,500 in 2010.
A large multiplex cinema, the Sherover complex, is located in Abu Tor. The center, just off Hebron Road, houses seven movie theaters, coffee shops and restaurants, an auditorium, a library, classrooms and art galleries. The complex, which began operating in 2015, also screens films on the Sabbath.
^ abMoudjir ed-dyn, 1876, p. 290, orig page 488, cited in Canaan, 1927, p. 286
^Ruth Kark and Shimon Landman (1980). "The establishment of Muslim neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, outside the old city, during the late Ottoman period". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 112: 113-135. doi:10.1179/peq.1922.214.171.124.