Friday, February 8, 2013

Enter into His Gates....

I was fascinated by the many gates into the walled city of Old Jerusalem.  The walls 
that we see currently were built in the early 16th century by the Turkish Sultan, 
Suleiman the Magnificent.  They are integrated with previous walls from 
different periods.    Today, there are eight gates - seven open and one sealed.  
Our guide, Rivkah showed us an old mosaic map of Jerusalem from the 6th century.  


This is the current map of the gates around the walled city, 
along with the divisions of the quarters.     

The first gate is closed and is the most famous.  The Golden Gate (aka The Gate of Mercy or The Gate of Eternal Life or The Eastern Gate) was sealed in 1541.  It faces the Mount of Olives and constructed in the post Byzantine period.   We understand that Jesus rode through the original gate on a donkey, while people waved palm fronds and shouted, "Hosanna" - the first Palm Sunday.  According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will come into Jerusalem through this eastern gate.  The Muslims wanted to prevent this from happening, so they walled up the gate from the inside, thinking that bricks might stop the Messiah from entering.  Later a Muslim cemetery was added in right in front of the gate as a second reinforcement.  The Muslims believed that any Jew walking through the cemetery would become unclean; therefore the Messiah could not pass through.   The Golden Gate's name came from the reference to the Beautiful Gate on the Temple Mount mentioned in scripture.  (Acts 3:2-11) The Golden Gate leads directly to the Temple Mount.  
The Dung Gate is found in the south wall and is now the gate closest in proximity to the Temple Mount.  Its name comes from the garbage which was hauled out of the city through this gate.  Its Hebrew name is Sha'ar Ashpot.  :)  In Arabic, the gate is called Bab el Mugrabi, meaning the gate of the North Africans.  During the Turkish times, there was a neighborhood right inside the gate inhabited by North Africans, so the name stuck.  
Today, inside the Dung gate is the security checkpoint - separate for men and for women - to go to the Western (wailing) Wall plaza and to the Temple Mount.  
The Zion Gate leads into the Armenian and the Jewish Quarters of the Old City. In Arabic, it is called the Gate of the Prophet David.  The tomb of King David on adjacent Mount Zion, is only a few steps away.  This gate was also the one used in the Six-Day War by the Israeli Defense Forces in 1967 to enter and capture the Old City.  The marks left by weapon fire can still be seen on the surrounding stones. 
The Lions Gate, also known as St. Stephen's gate, is on the eastern side of the Old City.  Tradition has it that Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned in the Kidron Valley below.  In Arabic, the gate is called The Gate of the Tribes, for they say the tribes of Israel entered the Old City through this gate.  Today, the gate leads to the Pools of Bethesda, the Via Dolorosa and the markets.  
The animals above flank the Gate, which is representative of the name.  
The Lions, however, are actually leopards, which are the heraldic symbol 
of the Sultan Beybars of the 13th century! :) 
The Jaffa Gate is one of the city's overall busiest ones.  In ancient days, if you were docked at the Mediterranean port of Jaffa and walked east for three+ days along the Jaffa Road, you would eventually reach the Jaffa Gate.  :) In Hebrew, the gate is Sha'ar Yafo.Yafo is the name for Jaffa in the Hebrew Bible - and mentioned in the Book of Jonah. For Jaffa, see earlier blog!Until the end of the 19th century, the gate was locked every night.  Then in 1898, Kaiser Wilhelm the Second, made a pilgrimage to the Holy City accompanied by a huge entourage.  In honor of the great occasion, the Turks made a breach in the wall so the Kaiser wouldn't have to get out of his bronze chariot.  Today, it is the most used gate by buses, cars and pedestrians and leads to the Jewish and Christian quarters as well as the most popular part of the market. 
The Damascus Gate is the busiest gate on weekends as thousands of shoppers enter the famous Arab souks.  The gate faces north and is named after the the grand city from which Jerusalem's rulers first came.  The Arabic name is "Gate of the Pillar."  The Romans built roads throughout the empire laying milestones to measure the distance.  The ZERO point in Judea was a tall pillar standing in the central plaza right inside of the Damascus Gate.  The gate is the largest and most decorated of them all and leads into the Muslim quarter of the city.  
My picture is a bit crooked! :)   This is the 'drive-by' picture of Herod's Gate, also called Flowers Gate.  The gate is named after Herod the Great.  In the Crusaders' period, a church was built near the gate over the spot where Herod's house stood during the crucifixion of Jesus.  Today, a Muslim mosque sits on the original spot and the gate leads into the Muslim section of the city.  
The New Gate is the only Old City entrance that was not part of the original design of the 16th century walls.  It was created in the later part of the Ottoman Empire in 1889 to allow Christian pilgrims direct access to the Christian Quarter and to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  

The walls and gates of Jerusalem were impressive to see and experience.  The length of the walls is 4018 meters or 2.5 miles long.  The average height is 12 meters or 39.5 feet and the average thickness of the wall is 2.5 meters or 8.2 feet.  The walls contain 34 watchtowers as well as the eight gates.  In 1981, the Jerusalem walls were added (along with the Old City of Jerusalem) to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.  The walls of Jerusalem were built originally for protection, but today serve as a wonderful reminder of history.  

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