Old City Gates
Located on the northwestern perimeter of the walled city. Its Hebrew name is Sha’ar Hadash and its Arabic name is Bab el Jedid, both meaning “new.” The gate was opened in 1887 by the Turkish sultan Abed el Hamid after intense lobbying by Christians who had settled outside the walled city and wanted direct access to the Christian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Sha'ar Shechem or Sha'ar Damesek, Nablus Gate. The Arabic name is Bab el Amud which means the Gate of the Pillar. Located in the middle of the northern side, its year of construction was 1537. Damascus Gate is named after the most important city to the north during nearly every historical period. On Fridays and Saturdays, Damascus Gate is the busiest gate leading into the Old City.
Alternative names are: Flower Gate or Sheep Gate. In Arabic, the gate was called Bab es Sahirah, Cemetery Gate. Outside the gate, up on the hill is a cemetery. The residents of the northeast corner of the Old City substituted only one letter and they changed the name of the gate to Bab el Zahirah meaning Flowers Gate; they were not interested in receiving mail addressed to the “Cemetery Neighbourhood”!
In Hebrew the gate is named Sha’ar Perachim, Flowers Gate. There is another name, Sha’ar Hodus which means Herod’s Gate. This part of the city was not enclosed by a wall during the reign of Herod the Great. Roman Catholic tradition has it that the home of Herod Antipas was in the area of the Flagellation Convent, near the gate. Its location is to the east of northern side, the year of construction is unknown.
Alternative names are: Gate of Yehoshafat, St. Stephen's Gate, and Gate of the Tribes. In Hebrew it is called Sha’ar Ha-Arayot in honor of the decorations above the gate. In Arabic the gate is called Bab el Asbat, the Gate of the Tribes, as they say the tribes of Israel entered the Old City through this gate. Its location is in the north of the eastern side, and its year of construction was 1538-39. Tradition has it that Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned in the Kidron Valley below.
An alternative name is the Gate of Silwan. In Hebrew the Dung Gate is called Sha’ar Ashpot. From inside the city, to reach the gate, one would walk downhill and it is where Old City residents, over the centuries, would throw their garbage. Paradoxically, the Dung Gate is today one of the cleanest areas in the Old City. In Arabic the gate is called Bab el Mugrabi meaning the gate of the North Africans. During the Turkish times there was a neighborhood inside the Dung Gate, close to the Wailing Wall called the Mugrabi neighborhood whose residents had originated from North Africa. When you enter the Old City through the Dung Gate, you’ll walk up directly through the security outpost to the Western (“Wailing”) Wall plaza. Its location is to the east of the southern side, constructed in 1538-40.
An alternative name is the Gate to the Jewish Quarter as its location is in the middle of the southern side of the Old City. It was constructed in the year 1540. The gate was built for Suleiman the Magnificent. In Hebrew it is called Sha’ar Tziyon (Zion Gate) and in Arabic, Bab a-Nabi Daud (Gate of the Prophet David) as the Tomb of King David, on adjacent Mount Zion, is only a few steps away. In the 19th century, an area close to the gate was the gathering place of lepers. Zion Gate leads directly to the Armenian and Jewish quarters.
Located in the middle of the western side of the Old City, it was constructed in 1530-40. This was the destination of Jewish and Christian pilgrims disembarking at the Jaffa port. In Hebrew the gate is translated Sha’ar Yafo. Yafo is the name for Jaffa in the Hebrew Bible, mentioned for example, in the Book of Jonah. In Arabic the gate is called Bab el Halil which means Hebron Gate. Until the end of the 19th century, Jaffa Gate was locked every night to keep out marauders, hyenas, jackals and “dragons”. The dragons may have been imaginary, but the others were real! Travelers arriving at dusk had to carry lanterns so they could be identified and admitted into the city. Latecomers had to sleep outside the walls and wait until dawn when Jaffa Gate opened.