There are eight main gates to the old city of Jerusalem. Seven of them are open, one of them, the Gate of Mercy also called the Golden Gate, is sealed. In front of us, is the New Gate with a unique profile compared to all the other gates – it is the only gate among the entrance gates to the Old City that is not part of the current main structure of the walls built in the 16th century. I will just add that in the set of videos covering the walls, we will see some parts, built thousands of years ago.
The New gate was built by the Ottomans in 1889, at the request of Christian priests and following a pressure originated by the French ambassador in Istanbul. The request was to allow for easier access between the Catholic institutions inside the walls and French Catholic institutions outside the walls such as the Saint-Louis Hospital, which was established in1851 and the hostel Notre Dame, both part of the French compound outside the walls.
It sounds a simple and logical request, yet behind it, was a power struggle between several European powers. let’s across the road, and have a close look at the impressive Notre Dame facility and I’ll add there another layer of information about what really happened here.
The European infiltration into the Ottoman Empire territory in the 19th century, especially in the Land of Israel, reflected a struggle between the various European powers over prestige, influence and land outposts.
The special nature of the Land of Israel as the Holy Land, and the special attention it created among Christian believers for their various sects, has pushed the superpowers to advance their interests in the land of Israel and especially in Jerusalem, through different religious related activities such as assisting as much as possible pilgrimage from their countries to the Holy Land. This led to a situation where each of the superpowers sponsored a different Christian religious group.
For example, the Russians declared themselves protectors of the interests of the Orthodox Greeks in the land of Israel, while the French positioned themselves as the protectors of the Catholics and the Latinos believers. In other words, any achievement of the Greeks in competition with the Latinos was also seen as an achievement of the Russians vis-à-vis the French, and vice versa.
Starting in the middle of the 19th century, the struggle received a more visible character when the powers – especially France, Britain, Germany, and Russia – began to buy lands and establish various institutions especially in Jerusalem yet also in other cities, to serve their religious sects. The French compound is the result of the struggle I just described.
From the French side, the individual who pushed for the purchase of land and the establishments of French institutions in the last quarter of the19th century and in the first quarter of the 20th century, was the French baron-Amedee de Piellat. He was one of the most prominent figures behind the French Catholic enterprises, having an impact on the city of Jerusalem structure until today.
Unlike some of the other gates, the entrance to the New gate is direct and not a 90 degree entrance that aims to slow down invaders to the city. The simple reason for avoiding the angled entrance – this gate was built 400 years after the other gates when the effectiveness of the angled entrance was already low due to new type of weapons which existed at that time. Also, notice that there are no decorations that characterize the other gates.
The New gate was closed between the years 1948 & 1967 as the border between Jordan and Israel passed very close to it. After the Six Day War, the gate was re-opened and is now located on a central route in Jerusalem.
The New gate is the highest of the old city’s gates. In Arabic, the gate was ; the opening of the gate. And finally, as usual, a question for you – The old city of Jerusalem is divided into 4 quarters which are the Armenian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim quarters. In which quarter is the New gate located? The answer will appear at the end of the video.