Damascus Gate – Jerusalem


We are at Damascus Gate, one of the most impressive and magnificent gate in the walls of Jerusalem old city. I’ll just mention, that there are eight gates in the walls of Jerusalem. Seven of them are open, one of them – the Golden Gate also called the gate of mercy, is a sealed gate. Damascus Gate is located in the center of the northern wall, from where the road to Nablus begins, hence its name is also Nablus Gate, and in Hebrew Shechem gate, where Shechem is Nablus.

Nablus road starts right across the main road named Sultan Suliman. Nablus road, initially leads to the northern neighborhoods of Jerusalem and then leads to Ramallah and from there to Nablus and if continuing to the north eventually we will reach Damascus. The gate has more names: in Arabic it is also called “Bab al-Amoud” (gate of the column), following the column that once stood in the gate’s plaza and on which a statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian was placed. From this column the distances to the various cities were measured. The column also appears on the map of Madaba from the end of the Byzantine period, and we will return to the map of Madaba and the streets that originated at the column plaza towards the south of the city.

It is important to remember that although emperor Hadrian’s reign is considered one of the most prosperous during the reign of the emperors in Rome, he is the one who suppressed the Bar Kochba Revolt in the year 135, in which hundreds of thousands of Jews lost their lives, & his decrees, among other things, prohibited the entry of Jews to Jerusalem. Emperor Hadrian turned Jerusalem into a pagan city called Aelia Capitolina.

In most other languages ​​the gate is called “Damascus Gate”, for the reason I mentioned: the road to the north led further towards the city of Damascus.

The gate is also called Stephen’s Gate, because according to one of the Christian traditions, the first Christian saint – Saint Stephen, was stoned in front of the gate. This tradition relocated from Damascus Gate to the Lions’ Gate and back to Damascus Gate.

The current gate was built at the same time as the wall was built during the Ottoman period in 1538, by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Above the entrance – there is an inscription that mentions Sultan Suleiman.

As can been seen for the Tower Gate, Damascus Gate is located in the center of a river bed which is the main ravine that crosses the city from north to south. The slopes of the valley and the dense houses can be seen beautifully. The ravine deepens and widens in the area of ​​the Western Wall Plaza, near the Temple Mount and exits the city through the Dung’s Gate.

And now we return to Madaba map and Emperor Hadrian who built Aelia Capitolina. Two streets were paved from the column plaza. The two streets crossed the city on a north-south axis. One street is the upper, western cardo, and the second street is the eastern cardo, which is also named the secondary cardo that was built along HaGuy Street (where Guy in Hebrew is valley) & you can see its end at the Tanners’ Gate, and of course you are invited to watch the video “The Tanners’ Gate”.

The gate is located on the ravine, and this is to protect the weak point in the northern wall. As happened in a number of occasions throughout history, the point of breaking into Jerusalem was at the northern wall.

Due to the fact that the gate is at a weak point, its level of fortification is the highest among the gates of the Old City. Not only did it have two guard posts built above it on the wall, but its gatehouse contains two turns, which slows down the enemy breaking into the city, since the penetrators must turn left at the entrance and after a short distance turn again, this time to the right. The doors that close the gate are made of wood and coated with iron, similar to the doors of Jaffa Gate.

The Ottoman gate was built on top of ancient ruins in several layers. The gate you see here is the remains of a triumphal gate built by Emperor Hadrian after the Bar Kochba revolt. The Roman gate included 3 openings, of which only the eastern one remains intact.

The Roman gate was also was also built on the remains of a gate from the Second Temple period. This gate leads to an excavation site under the current gate structure. We reached the end, and as usual, I have a question for you, I mentioned the two north-south longitude axes roads. In a Roman city or a Roman military camp there was also a street that crossed on an east-west axis. What is the name of this road? – the answer will appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

Information Sources

  1. Book: Pathways in Jerusalem, Editors: Eyal Meiron, Publisher: Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
  2. Book: The new Israel Guide, book 12 – Jerusalem, Editor: Alona Vardi, Publisher: Keter

Related Sites