Live always at the edge of poetic possibilty, even in the face of severe prose. - Walter Bruggemann

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gates of the Old City

The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by an ancient city wall. During Biblical times the city was fortified with a strong wall as well. Today the wall that surrounds the Old City was built during the 16th Century Ottoman Empire by Suleiman the Magnificent, one of the greatest of Turkish Sultans. It dates around 1538 CE.
This city wall has seen religious and political battles and has changed hands many times over the hundreds of years. And yet, it still stand as witness to the strength of its people and as a home to the pilgrims who walk within.

Today the wall surrounding the Old City has eight notable gates where people enter and exit the Old City. New Gate
New Gate was built in 1887 for a visit of the German Emperor Wilhelm II. It provides access to the Christian Quarter of the Old City. In 1948 Jordan captured East Jerusalem and the gate was sealed. It was reopened after the 1967 war when Israel captured the city.

Damascus Gate
Heading northeast from New Gate you come upon Damascus Gate. It is known by Arabs as the "Gate of the Column" because of tall pillars which stood during the Roman and Byzantine period. It was built around 1537 by the Ottoman Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent and today is one of the busiest and grandest gates into the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

Zion Gate
This gate was built in 1540 for Suleiman and leads to the Armenian and Jewish Quarters of the Old City. It provides access to Mount Zion just outside of the Old City. The pock marks in the wall are where bullets were shot during the Arab-Israeli battle in the War of Independence of 1948. It's being preserved today which is why it is guarded by scaffolding.St. Stephen's Gate or Lion's Gate
It is believed that the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen, was stoned just outside of the gate. It is also here that the Via Dolorosa begins, the way of the cross, that commemorate the final journey of Jesus to the cross. Each year thousands of pilgrims walk the Via Dolorosa offering prayers and recounting Jesus' final days. The gate is adorned with four lions placed there by Suleiman in 1538.
Jaffa Gate
Jaffa Gate is the only gate on the western side of the Old City. Its named Jaffa because the road that runs from the Old City leads to the ancient port city of Jaffa. Part of the city wall was torn down in 1898 and the crusader moat was filled for the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II. It is also where the English General Allenby made his entrance in 1917.
Golden Gate
The Golden Gate was built approximately 640 CE and is one of the original Herodian city gates. In Jewish tradition the Messiah will enter Jerusalem through this gate, which is why it is said to the the reason why the Muslims sealed the gate in the 7th century.
Herod's Gate
It was the Northern wall that the Crusader army breached in 1099 to capture Jerusalem from the Muslims. This is one of the smaller gates of the Old City but none the less used by merchants selling fresh fruit.
Dung Gate
The naming of this gate goes back to Omar's conquest of Jerusalem in 638 CE when trash was cleared out of the street through this gate. Today this is the city gate that one enters when wanting to visit the Kotel (wailing wall).
I'm sure there is plenty more history about these gates as they have seen conquers and the conquered, religious and secular, the rich and the poor. The Old City is one of my favorite places to be because it is still as passionate today as it was in Herod's time or Suleiman the Magnificent.

1 comment:

Dina said...

A gated community? LOL
I love your concluding paragraph. Here here!