The Gates of Jerusalem

The Entry Points in the Walls of Suleiman the Magnificent

Since Nehemiah’s reconstruction of Jerusalem’s city walls, the gates to this holy place have had a special significance for Jerusalem’s citizens and its many visitors.

The ramparts that still circle Jerusalem are the work of Suleiman the Magnificent who rebuilt them, in the 16th century, after a dream in which the Prophet Muhammad ordered him to strengthen the defences of the city.

Today seven of eight gates in Suleiman’s walls allow Jerusalemites entry to the city and its sacred and historic places:

Golden Gate Jerusalem

The Golden Gate, Mercy Gate or Eastern Gate, is of special significance to the three great monotheistic faiths. Although now blocked it is, according to Jewish legend, the gate that the Messiah will enter the holy city.

Christians believe that Jesus made his final entry into Jerusalem by this gate and Muslims believe that it is the gate mentioned in the Koran through which the just will pass on the day of judgement.

Herod’s Gate Jerusalem

Pilgrims who wrongly thought this gate led to Herod’s palace gave it his name. It’s also sometimes known as Flower Gate because of the floral engraving above the gate.

Lion’s Gate Jerusalem

Lion’s Gate, built by Suleiman the Magnificent, was given this name because of the pair of lions engraved on either side of the gate. It’s also known as St Stephen’s Gate.

It allows entry into Jerusalem from the east, next to Temple Mount, close to the Via Dolorosa. It was this gate that Israeli paratroopers burst through to take parts of the Jordanian controlled Old City during the Six Day War (1967).

Zion Gate Jerusalem

The Zion Gate, named after Mount Zion, is an entry point in the western side of the city and leads to the Jewish and Armenian quarters.

Damascus Gate Jerusalem

The Damascus Gate, the northern entry point to the city is the most impressive of the gates. Built by Suleiman the Magnificent and so named because the road to Damascus began at this point.

Archaeological excavations in the foundations have revealed the existence of a Crusader gate and an almost intact Roman gate underneath.

Jaffa Gate Jerusalem

The Jaffa Gate was the nearest entry point into the Jerusalem for pilgrims who had disembarked at the Mediterranean port of Jaffa and leads into the Jewish and Christian quarters of the city. It was the gate used by General Allenby to enter Jerusalem in 1917 after his defeat of the Turks.

Dung Gate Jerusalem

A Dung Gate was mentioned by Nehemiah in the Old Testament. Today’s entrance also called the Dung Gate leads to the Western Wall, the holiest of Jewish sites. The gate was named because the city’s rubbish was carried out this way, in order to allow the prevailing wind to carry the smell away.

New Gate Jerusalem

The New Gate opened in 1889, is the latest of Jerusalem’s gates to be built. It was closed during the Jordanian occupation of the Old City and reopened after the end of the Six Day War.

Some of the other gates, which no longer exist, had names which may have had a spiritual connection rather than a literal one, are mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah:

Fish Gate
Old Gate
Sheep Gate
Water Gate
Valley Gate
Fountain Gate

The historical detail of Jerusalem’s walls and gates in this short article is necessarily brief. However a student, who wishes to pursue the subject, will find a range of ancient and contemporary historical and archaeological research, which gives a remarkable insight into the history of this holy city.

Note:

Some of the gates have multiple names only some of which are used in this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *