Old City of Jerusalem – Walls and Gates

Jerusalem’s Old City is one of the most complex, contested and beautiful locations in the world. It is also a center for the three major monotheistic religions. So, take a few hours to stroll around its quarters, walk through its labyrynths of streets and alleys and meed the history of this amazing place.

Gates of the Old Jerusalem:

The walls of Jerusalem’s Old City were built during the Ottoman Empire in Palestine in 1542 A. D. under the direct supervision of Sultan Suleiman. The walls stretch for around 4.5 km and rise to a height from 5 to 15 meters and contain 43 surveillance towers and 8 gates. However, only 7 gates are presently open. The impression of strength of the walls is an illusion – the city is not a fortress and its walls are not a barrier but a veil.

NOTE: It is possible to walk around most of the Old City on the top of the rampart. Not only it is the best way to appreciate its negligible defensive value, but it provides a unique perspective on the life of the city. The access points (open from 10 am till 4 pm, Fridays till 3 pm) are at Damascus Gate, Jaffa Gate and the Citadel; descent only is permitted at St. Steven’s Gate, Her0d’s Gate, New Gate, Sion Gate, and just west of Dung Gate.

Gates of Jerusalem (Visit Palestine Book available at the VIC)

Damascus Gate (Bab el-Amud)

This is the most elaborate of the city gates, and is the finest example of Ottoman architecture in the region. The gate’s defenses include stilts made for firing at attacks. The first gate on this site was founded by Herod Agrippa I (41-4 A. D.) Rebuilt by Hadrian in 135 A. D. as the free standing monumental entrance. The gate leads to the Muslim Quarter and colorful Arabic market “suk”.

Jaffa Gate (Bab el-Khalil)

The Jaffa Gate is the only one of the Old City gates positioned at a right angle to the wall. This could have been done as a defensive measure to slow down oncoming attackers, or to orient it in the direction of Jaffa Road from which pilgrims arrived at the end of their journey from the port of Jaffa.

The Citadel (Tower of David) located near the Jaffa Gate was built to strengthen a strategically weak point in the Old City’s defenses. The citadel that stands today was constructed during the 2nd century BCE and subsequently destroyed and rebuilt by, in succession, the Christian and Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem. It contains important archaeological finds dating back 2,700 years, and is a popular venue for benefit events, craft shows, concerts, and sound-and-light performances.

New Gate (Bab el-Jadid)

The New Gate is the only one gate which is not a part of the walls built by Suleiman. The gate was opened in 1887 in order to enable an easy access from the Monasteries outside the city walls in the Christian Quarter.

Lion’s Gate (Bab el-Asbat)

Enter the gate to begin the Via Dolorosa (way of the cross). The gate’s crest has four figures of lions. Some believe that the lions were placed there. An earlier gate on roughly the same spot was called St. Stephen’s Gate, and that was the name that remained among Christian communities.

Sion Gate (Bab el-Nabi Daud)

Sion Gate owes its name to the fact that it is the exit to Mount Sion. In  Arabic it is known as Bab Nabi Daud, ‘The Gate of the Prophet David’, because his tomb is located, according to the legend on the Mount Sion. Its pockmarked outer face bears mute testimony to the fierce fighting in 1948 for the Jewish Quarter.

Herod’s (Flowers) Gate (Bab el-Zahra)

The Herod’s Gate is known as the ‘Gate of Flowers’ due to the florial designs engraved on its facade. The gate connects the Armenian Quarter with Mount Sion, which lies outside the walls and serves as a border between it. Just beside the west facade of the first tower going towards Damascus Gate the channel of the aqueduct is marked by a series of irregular covering slabs.

Dung Gate (Bab el-Magharbeh)

the gates unusual name  derives from the belief that in the days of the first and second temple it was used to dispose of waste. The official name of the gate is Bab el-Magharbeh, ‘The Gate of the Moors’, because immigrants from North Africa lived in that part of the city in the 16C A.D. The small Ottoman arch above the modern lintel shows that the oryginal gate was much smaller.

Golden Gate (Bab el-Rahma)

This Gate has been sealed since the 1600’s as legend states that the Messiah will pass trough this gate.

Visitor Information Center – Bethlehem wishes you a great time in the Old Jerusalem. If you wish to visit Bethlehem from Jerusalem follow the directions : here


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