Gates and Walls of Jerusalem

This itinerary looks at the construction, historical significance, and  events revolving around the seven famous gates in the wall of Jerusalem’s Old City.

As living example of Arab Islamic architecture, the wall built by the Ottomans under Sultan Suleiman Al-Qanouni in 1542, stretches for twelve miles and rises to an average height of forty feet, and a width of about seven feet. The wall contains many towers and eleven gates over all, seven of which are presently open. It is those that we explore with narrative on their environs.

  • Damascus Gate: The most massive and ornate of all of Jerusalem’s gates. The road running off it leads to Shechem (Nablus) and then to Damascus. It is also the only one to have been excavated.
  • Golden Gate: The Mercy (Golden) Gate (Bab el Rahmeh) appears in the legends of all three religions. According to Christian tradition, Jesus made his last entry to Jerusalem through the Mercy Gate. The Muslims refer to it as the Gate of Mercy and believe it to be the gate referred to in the Koran, through which the just will pass on the Day of Judgment. This gate has been sealed since the 1600’s and an early Jewish tradition holds that the Messiah will pass through it to enter Jerusalem.
  • Herod’s Gate: The first name was given to the gate by pilgrims, who erroneously believed that it led to Herod’s palace. It is also known in Arabic as the Flower Gate
  • Lion’s Gate: Legend has it that the lions engraved on both sides of the gate were placed there by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, because he had dreamed that he would be devoured by lions unless he built a wall around the Holy City for the defence of the citizens. This marks the beginning of the Via Dolorosa and is on the eastern side of the Old City.
  • Zion Gate: (St. Stephen’s Gate), the western gate of the Old City, named after Mount Zion. In Arabic it is known as “the Prophet David’s Gate”, because one passes through King David’s tomb on Mount Zion. This gate connects the Armenian Quarter with Mount Zion, which lies outside the walls and serves as a border between it and the Jewish Quarter.
  • Jaffa Gate: This gate is the principal entrance to the Old City. Its name in Arabic is Bab-el-Khalil, the gate of Hebron, as the main road to Hebron started here. It was also called Jaffa Gate because the road to Jaffa and the coast also started from it.
  • Dung Gate: The Dung Gate is mentioned in the book of Nehemiah as a dispatch point for the city’s refuse. It would appear that it was through this gate that the refuse was removed from the city.
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