Zion Gate – Jerusalem


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. Zion Gate, which was built during the years 1540 & 1541, is one of the original gates of the Ottoman Wall. The gate is located on the southwest side of the old city wall and today it links the Armenian Quarter and the Jewish Quarter to Mount Zion.

The gate served as a secondary exit point from the old city mainly for connecting it with the various cemeteries and religious sites on Mount Zion. Its name was derived from its location on Mount Zion, and I will only mention that the summit of Mount Zion is outside the wall, 200m south of here.

The name Zion Gate appears for the first time on the Crusader map of Cambrai from the 12th century, in which the gate is named Porta Montis Syon, meaning ‘Mount Zion Gate’.

The Arabic name of the gate, Bab a-Nabi Daoud, derives from its being a short distance from a site which some believers considered to be the tomb of King David located on Mount Zion, and another name by the Arabs for the gate is Bab Haret Elihud that is “Gate of the Jewish Neighborhood”, and this is since its located by the Jewish Quarter.

As with other gates in the walls of Jerusalem, the entrance has a 90-degree turn, in this case the turn is to the right. This was made in order to make it harder and slow down attackers trying to enter through the gate. Another mean for slowing down attackers are the slits as you can see above the gate, and they are designed to enable pouring boiling oil on the enemy passing through the gate. Above the entrance to the gate is an inscription reminiscent of the glorious Sultan Suleiman who in his days the gate was built, also listed is the date of the gate construction (1540 – 1541). Above the entrance, a pointed arch, and above the firing slits on the sides of the entrance are decorated arches. The small spire above the gate and the carved columns are the prominent architectural details.

On the gate are gunshot remnants of the battles that took place here in 1948, hence the gate nickname is ‘The Wounded Gate’ or ‘The Crying Gate’. During the siege of the War of Independence, the Palmach (Israeli forces) tried several times to break through the gate to connect to the Jewish quarter, yet all attempts failed.

The gates in the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed and rebuilt many times during the many wars the city knew. In the Ayyubid period the gate was located about 100 meters east of the present location. As you can see in the video, you can walk through the Armenian Patriarchate Street, and reach its previous location. If you arrive from the Jewish Street and turn at the end towards Zion Gate, at the bend of the road when you look down you will see the remains of a restored gate house: here was the tower gate that protected the city’s entrance gate built in 1212 by al-Malek Al-Mu’atim the Ayyubid, nephew of Saladin, who defeated the Crusaders. From historical evidence, it is known that 7 years after he built the gate, he destroyed it along with the fortifications of the city because he feared a re-invasion of the Crusaders and preferred to collapse the walls so that the Crusaders could not find a protected city to fortify. The wall was rebuilt only in the days of the glorious Sultan Suleiman in the 16th century.

And finally, as usual a question – Zion Gate is located in the southern wall of the Old City, how many gates are in total along the southern wall – 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. The new encyclopedia for archeological excavations in Israel
  3. Ami Metav - Mapping the Old City of Jerusalem

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