The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Old City of Jerusalem dates back to more than 4,500 years; thus, it is one of the oldest cities in the world, which is still inhabited. The walls around the Old City enclose an area of about 1 square kilometre. The Old City’s walls had been built in the sixteenth century at the behest of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Additionally, over centuries, a Ramparts Walkway had been built, offering a breathtaking view of Jerusalem and its neighbouring. Around the historical walls, there is a “green belt” of flowers’ gardens, green pathways and archaeological parks.
There are eight gates inside the Old Jerusalem City’s walls; only one is sealed, and the other seven are absolutely functional. The four main gates are Damascus Gate, Jaffa Gate, Lion Gate and Zion Gate. The four main gates coincide with the four directions of the compass, and they pointed to the main cities of Israel.
The Eight Gates Of Jerusalem Old City
The eight gates of Jerusalem Old City are Jaffa Gate, New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod’s Gate, Lions’ Gate, Golden Gate, Zion or David’s Gate and Dung Gate.
- On the Jaffa Gate, there is an inscription of Sultan Suleiman, who ordered the construction of the Old City’s walls in 1538. Among the seven gates, the Jaffa Gate is the busiest one, and it faces the west in the direction of the ancient port of Jaffa.
- The New Gate is the newest and highest one; it faces north, and it was built in 1887 as a main entrance to the Christian Quarter.
- The Damascus Gate is the main entrance to the Muslim Quarter; it is featured by a narrow passage, a stone bridge and an amphitheatrical plaza. The Damascus Gate faces the north in the direction of Nablus and Damascus.
- The Gate of Herod faces the north as well, and it is also well-known as the Flower Gate because of the floral decorations engraved on its frontage.
- The portal of Lions’ Gate has a front with heraldic lions on both sides. The Ottomans restored this gate in 1538, and it is also named the St. Stephen’s Gate. This gate faces the east in the direction of Jericho.
- The Golden Gate, or Gate of Mercy, faces the east, and after the Jewish traditions, it would be the gate through which the Messiah would enter Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the Arabs sealed this gate for many centuries to prevent the entry of the Messiah.
- Zion Gate or David’s Gate is on Mount Zion, it faces to the south in the direction of Hebron, and it was erected for the will of Sultan Suleiman in 1540 in an area with old walls that were dating back to the Hasmonean and Herodian periods.
- Dung Gate faces to the south, and it is considered as a back door. It is the entrance that is closer to the Kotel, i.e. Western Wall or Wailing Wall. During the Roman domination, Jerusalem was destroyed and rebuilt, and the Romans built two main roads, one from north to south and the other from east to west, creating four sections that nowadays correspond to the four quarters of the Old City: the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian.
The Four Quarters Of the Old City of Jerusalem
There are four districts in the Old City of Jerusalem: the Jewish, Arab, Christian and Armenian Quarters.
- The Jewish Quarter is in the southeastern area of the walled city, extending from the Zion Gate to the east to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. It dates back further than the eighth century BCE, and in 1948 more than 2000 Jews had been compelled to leave. The Arabs sacked the district during the Battle for Jerusalem, also destroying many ancient synagogues. Until 1967, the year of the Six-Day War, the Jewish Quarter was under the control of Jordan, and it has been almost destroyed. Afterwards, the Jewish Quarter has been rebuilt, and recently archaeological remnants had been discovered and kept on display in museums for visitors.
- The Arab Quarter is the most extensive and populated among the four quarters. It is located on the northeastern edge of the Old City, stretching from the Lions’ Gate in the east close to the Western Wall until the Damascus Gate route in the west. Throughout the British Mandate, Sir Ronald Storrs began a plan to restore the Cotton Market, seriously ignored during the Turks’ domination. The Pro-Jerusalem Society helped to restore vaults, roofing, and walls. Like in the other quarters of the Old City, till 1929, the Arab Quarter was inhabited by a mixed population of Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
- The Christian Quarter is in the northwestern corner of the Old City; it starts from the New Gate close to the Western Wall, and it borders the Jewish and Armenian Quarters. This Quarter includes the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity’s holiest places.
- The Armenian Quarter is the smallest of the four Old City’s quarters. It is a district that is separated from the Christian Quarter, even though Armenians are Christians. Although the Armenian Quarter is small, its population and the Patriarchate live independently, and they constitute a significant community in the Old City.
Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Four Quarters of the Old City began to be ruled by the Jordanian government. The Jordanian laws imposed the Armenians and Christians to study the Qur’an” in private Christian schools and limited every e progress of the Christian church.
During the 1967 war, it happened a miracle of two unexploded bombs, which were discovered inside the Armenian monastery. Nowadays, more than 3,000 Armenians live in Jerusalem; among them, 500 live in the Armenian Quarter. The Patriarchate holds the land of the Armenian Quarter and properties in West Jerusalem.
After the 1967 war, the Israeli government remunerated the restoration of the damaged churches and holy sites. In 1975, a theological seminary was built in the Armenian Quarter.
Jerusalem Old City’s Quarters’ Historical Places
- The Hurva synagogue was built nearly 400 years ago with beautifully built plaza.
- The Old City Muslim Quarter Market has a unique architectural beauty; the facade has been refined and restored; the shutters, windows, and other appliances have been repaired. Additionally, the roofing of the main street has been renewed employing wood and copper, the alleyways repaved, and modern foundations have been included.
- The Via Dolorosa has new paving, and the stones are arrayed to symbolise the Cross’s Stations. The ancient paving stones are arranged with recent Jerusalem stones, affecting an emotional sense for Christian travellers.
- The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was destroyed in 1833 because of a fire and in 1926 because of an earthquake. It has recently been renovated.
The Old City of Jerusalem is an unusual combination of antique and new elements: a historical cabinet, a hometown for several cultures and religions, and an active business area.
The Walls Of Jerusalem Old City
The walls of Jerusalem are visible in ancient maps of this fabulous city dating back to more than 1500 years ago. The total length of the walls is 4,018 metres, with an average height of 12 metres and a thickness of 2.5 metres. The walls include 34 watchtowers and seven active gates. In 1981, the Old City of Jerusalem and its ancient walls became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Ancient City Of Jerusalem Through The Centuries
The Pre-Israelite Period In Jerusalem
Since ancient times, walls have enclosed Jerusalem with a defensive function. In the Middle Bronze Age, which is known as the era of the Patriarchs, the fortified and small city of Jebus was built on the southeastern hill of Jerusalem. Archaeological remnants of its walls are above the Siloam Tunnel, and every historical report of Jerusalem refers to the city as ‘Jerusalem’. An example of these documents is the Amarna letters dating back to the 14th century BCE. In the 1330s BCE, the chieftain of Abdi-Heba wrote several of the Amarna letters referring to Jerusalem as Urusalim or Urušalim.
Jerusalem’s Israelite Period
Following the Jewish tradition, as displayed in the Tanach, Jerusalem continued to be a Jebusite city until David conquered Jebus. King David renamed Jerusalem the City of David and expanded it. This city was settled on the southeastern hills, outside the actual Old City area.
Solomon, David’s son, built the First Temple on top of the hill above the city, i.e. the Temple Mount, and he enlarged the city walls to preserve the Temple. Throughout the First Temple period, the city walls were extended, including the area of the actual Jewish and Armenian Quarters. The entire city was demolished in 587/86 BCE during the siege of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
Jewish Postexilic Period
Following the Babylonian subjugation, the Persians conquered Babylonia, and Cyrus II of Persia granted the return of the Jews to Judea, allowing them to reconstruct the Temple. The rebuilding of the Temple was finished in 516 BCE or 430 BCE. Then, Artaxerxes I, i.e. Darius II, allowed the reconstruction of the city’s walls and governed Judea.
During the Second Temple period, especially during the Hasmonean period, the city walls were extended and restored, forming the First Wall. Herod the Great added the Second Wall, which is between Jaffa Gate and Temple Mount. Agrippa The First started erecting the Third Wall, which was completed during the First Jewish–Roman War. Nowadays, some archaeological remnants of this wall are found close to the Mandelbaum Gate.
Aelia Capitolina and Byzantine Jerusalem
Beneath Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, there is an ancient Roman period gate. In 70 CE, during the First Jewish–Roman War, the walls were almost destroyed due to the Roman siege. Jerusalem was in ruins for different six decades missing protective walls for at least two centuries.
After 130 years, the pagan Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, was established by Emperor Hadrian and was left without defensive walls for more than two centuries. After that, a new set of walls was erected around the city throughout the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Empress Aelia Eudocia significantly restored the walls during her exile to Jerusalem.
Middle Ages In Jerusalem
In 1033, an earthquake devastated most of the walls built at the behest of Eudocia, and the Fatimids rebuilt them. Nevertheless, the southernmost parts were excluded, such as Mount Zion and its churches, the southeastern hill, i.e. the City of David, and its Jewish neighbourhoods, which was located in the south of the Temple Mount. Before the Crusader offence of 1099, the walls were fortified although uselessly. In 1187, Saladin reconquered the city, and between 1202 and 1212, Saladin’s nephew, Al-Malik al-Mu’azzam ‘Isa, commanded the restoration of the city walls. For the next three centuries, the city endured without protective barriers. The only fortified areas were the Temple Mount/Haram ash-Sharif and the citadel.
Jerusalem’s Ottoman period
In the 16th century, during the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent commanded to rebuild the city walls entirely in the period between 1537 and 1541; those walls are the ones that exist today. There is an inscription in Arabic dating back to the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent that states: “Has decreed the construction of the wall he who has protected the home of Islam with his might and central and wiped out the tyranny of idols with his power and strength, he whom alone God has enabled to enslave the necks of kings in countries (far and wide) and deservedly acquire the throne of the Caliphate, the Sultan, son of the Sultan, son of the Sultan, son of the Sultan, Suleyman.”