Jerusalem Wall

Jerusalem Wall

Jerusalem Wall

Old Jerusalem Wall

Unlike the Wailing Wall, the wall encircling Old Jerusalem isn't the biblically old one. The Roman army destroyed the last of those after sacking Jerusalem in 70 AD. The wall that encircles Old Jerusalem today was built by Suleiman in 1540, so it is only 5 centuries old.

About ten feet thick and up to fifty feet high, Suleiman's majestic wall around Jerusalem is dotted with forty-two bastions, including the one above that faces south. The wall is about three miles long and encloses Old Jerusalem roughly in the shape of a trapezoid.

Given the topography of Old Jerusalem, which sits atop a hill with steep drop offs on its east, west and south sides, the weakest point of the city's protective wall was its northern facade, through which every successful breach in its history occurred.

The Old Jerusalem wall has eight gates. Counter clock-wise from the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque currently sit, they are as below.

Facing east toward Mount of Olives from the Temple Mount is the Golden Gate, through which the Jews of the Byzantine era claimed the Messiah will enter Jerusalem. To prevent this entry, the Muslims sealed this gate during Suleiman's construction, but by then the Messiah already had come.*

North of the Golden Gate but still facing eastward is the Lion's Gate, named after the two pairs of relief lion figures that flank the gate. This gate is also known as Stephen's Gate, after the first Christian martyr.

Opening northward from the northeast corner of the city is Herod's Gate, which along with Damascus Gate, serves Jerusalem's northeastern, Arab/Muslim neighborhood.

At the northwest corner of Jerusalem is the New Gate, opened in 1889 to provide easier access into the city's Christian neighborhood. In this ancient city, a century is considered new.

South of the New Gate and facing westward is the bustling Jaffa Gate.** South of the Jaffa Gate at the city's southwest corner is the Zion Gate, which opens onto Mount Zion and Oskar Schindler's Grave, and facing south from east of it is the Dung Gate, through which Jerusalem's garbage used to be disposed. Southeast of the Dung Gate is the City of David, Hezekiah's Tunnel and Gihon Spring.

* Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour). One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. (John 1:35-42; also see Why Was Jesus Crucified? and Jesus' Tomb).

Travel Tip
From sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, the vast majority of Jewish businesses in Israel shut in observance of the Sabbath. This includes shops and restaurants, as well as public transportation; bus and train departures stop at around 2 PM on Friday to enable arrival before sunset and don't resume until sunset on Saturday.

** The "Christian Information Center," which occupies a prominent location at the Jaffa Gate, is Roman Catholic and run by nuns and priests wearing civilian clothes and direct Christian visitors to the Holy Sepulchre Church instead of the Biblical Golgotha and Tomb of Jesus.