The Gates of Old City Jerusalem
Old City Jerusalem, Israel
The Gates of Old City Jerusalem Reviews
The Gates of Old City Jerusalem Mar 13, 2014
I thought it might be interesting to write a review for the several gates in the Old City Jerusalem. I find them very charming, impressive and unique from each other. For those who posses special interests in the subject of “gateways” may find this engaging. I myself was enthralled by their uniqueness and charm.
My source for this review: D.R. Berlin
To give you a little word about this subject; during the ancient and medieval times when a city was established it was likely enclosed by a wall with several gates. The wall is primarily to protect the city from enemies. Generally, the gates had multiple guard towers, turrets, and ramparts. The use of gates controlled the going in/out of its citizens and visitors who could enter or leave only in the daytime. An example of this is the Old City Jerusalem.
The ancient city of Jerusalem had three city walls over the millennia. The present wall which surrounds the Old City was built over Crusader ruins by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I, who was aka Suleiman the Great. The gates were constructed over Harmonium, Herodian, and Crusader ruins. Until 1887, each gate was closed before sunset and opened at sunrise. Thankfully, the gates today are open 24/7.
There are eight gates of the Old City Jerusalem namely; Jaffa Gate, New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod's Gate, Lion's Gate, Golden Gate, Dung Gate, and the Zion Gate, all which are open except for the Golden Gate and the Hulda Gate. Each gate has its own rich history and significance. Suleiman the Great had four of these gates – Damascus, Zion, Lion's, and Jaffa Gates – positioned facing to the North, South, East, and West road direction respectively, and these roads also led to major cities.
The Lion’s Gate
Located in the Old City's eastern wall, the gate was built in 1538 and faces the direction of Jericho. The gate derives its name from the two pairs of lions near the top of both sides of the gate. There is a legend that Suleiman placed the figures there because he believed that if he did not construct a wall around Jerusalem he would be eaten by lions! :) The gate is also known as St. Stephen's Gate, as Christian tradition holds the saint was stoned to death at this site. The gate leads immediately to the Muslim Quarter and the Via Dolorosa, the path taken by Jesus to his crucifixion.
The Jaffa Gate
Located as part of the Old City's western wall next to the Citadel and the Tower of David. It was built in 1538. The gate has a narrow, L-shaped passageway, a tactical method employed to slow down the advance of armies. Passage through the gate leads immediately to a square with a mixture of tourist shops, hostels, and local peddlers. From here, David Street continues, and the Church of Sepulcher is accessible through this gate. Jaffa Gate is the most famous gate, where many people enter the old city's quarters and the Tower of David. This gate was named Jaffa because according to tradition the road leading from it goes to the port of Jaffa.
The Damascus Gate
This is the largest, most impressive and busiest of the Old City gates. The gate was built in 1537 at the city's northern periphery and is easily recognized by its distinctive crenellated wall. Outside on both sides of the gate, there are a pair of towers, each with floor opening between the supporting beam of the defensive wall through which stones could be dropped on attackers at the base of the wall. Rows of steps lead from the Sultan Suleiman Street down to a plaza in front of the gate's entrance where vendor's set up their carts. Like the Jaffa Gate, the Damascus Gate is also L-shaped, leading directly to the Khan el-Zeit market and the Old City's Muslim Quarter. The old road to Damascus traveled through Nablus, known in Hebrew as Shechem, is pointing from this direction.
The Zion Gate
The Zion Gate is facing South on Mt. Zion towards Hebron from where it gets its name and it is the southern-most gate of all the Old City gates. Built in 1540 also as an L-shaped gate but small cars are miraculously able to pass through the gate only in one direction – exiting the city. Entering the gate to the Old City, you are at en-Nebi Daoud (Prophet David) Square which accesses the Armenian Quarter in front and the Jewish Quarter to the right. Upon leaving the Old City through the gate, one faces Mt. Zion and is only about a hundred yards from the traditional sites of both King David's Tomb and the Coenaculum – the room of the Last Supper. Because David is also revered as an Islamic prophet, the Arabic name for the gate is Bab el-Nebi Daoud (Gate of the Prophet David). Also nearby the gate is the grave of Oskar Schindler, the subject of the 1993 movie Schlindler's List. Visitors to the outside of the gate will notice stark reminders of Israel's 1948 War of Independence – the many bullet holes from the heavy fighting that are still clearly visible in the stones surrounding the gate.
The Golden Gate
The name "Golden Gate" probably owes its origin to Christianity as its tradition holds this was the gate through which Jesus entered Jerusalem. The Golden Gate is actually divided into two gates. The northern or right-hand gate as seen from outside the Old City walls, is known as the Door of Repentance and the southern gate is the Door of Mercy. Jewish tradition holds that the Messiah will enter Jerusalem through the Golden Gate on the Resurrection Day and Suleiman had the gate sealed off, to prevent the Messiah from entering through the gate. The Messiah also by tradition is both a descendent from the House of David and a descendent of Aaron who is a priest. As such, he is prohibited from going near or through a cemetery. Suleiman then placed a Muslim cemetery in front of the Golden Gate. What Suleiman didn't understand was that this prohibition only applies to a cemetery where Jews are primarily buried.
Facing north and located near the wall's northeast corner is the Herod’s Gate, the gate lies east of the Damascus Gate and across Sultan Suleiman Street from the Rockefeller Museum. The gate originally was a small, wicket type, but in 1875 a newer gate was built to handle the increase in the pedestrian traffic in both the surrounding neighborhood and in and out of the Muslim Quarter. This gate was originally called the Flower Gate, based on the large stone rosette on the outside wall just below the ramparts. The name, Herod's Gate started sometime in the 16th century from the misidentification by pilgrims of a structure thought to be the palace of Herod Antipas, to whom Jesus was sent by Pontius Pilate on the night before his crucifixion.
The Dung Gate
The Dung Gate has history back to the second century and is the gate closest to the Temple Mount and to the Western Wailing Wall. This gate is also a main passage for vehicles. No one really knows why this gate was named the Dung Gate. Some believe that the whole old city's trash was cleared out of this gate and this is the source for the gate name.
The New Gate
As its name implies, is the newest of the Old City gates, built in 1887 to permit entrance to the Christian Quarter from the northwest.
SOURCE: D.R. Berlin
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