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Ancient Walls and Gates in Jerusalem
Jaffa Gate in Wikipedia
Jaffa Gate (Hebrew: שער יפו, Sha'ar Yafo; Arabic: باب الخليل, Bab el-Khalil, "Gate of the
Friend"; also Arabic, Bab Mihrab Daud, "Gate of the Prayer Niche of David"; also David's Gate)
is a stone portal in the historic walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is one of eight gates
in Jerusalem's Old City walls.
Jaffa Gate is the only one of the Old City gates positioned at a right angle to the wall. This
could have been done as a defensive measure to slow down oncoming attackers, or to orient it
in the direction of Jaffa Road, from which pilgrims arrived at the end of their journey from the
port of Jaffa.
Both the Jaffa Gate and Jaffa Road are named after the port of Jaffa, from whence Jonah embarked
on his Biblical sea journey and pilgrims debarked on their trip to the Holy City. The modern-day
Highway 1, which starts from the western end of Jaffa Road, completes the same route to Tel
The Arabic name for the gate, Bab el-Khalil (Gate of the Friend), refers to Abraham, the beloved
of God who is buried in Hebron. Since Abraham lived in Hebron, another name for Jaffa Gate is
"Hebron Gate". The Arabs also called this gate Bab Mihrab Daud (Gate of the Prayer Niche of
David), since King David is considered a prophet by Islam. The Crusaders, who rebuilt the
citadel to the south of Jaffa Gate, also built a gate behind the present location of Jaffa Gate,
calling it "David's Gate".
Like the stones used for the rest of the Old City walls, the stones of Jaffa Gate are large,
hewn, sand-colored blocks. The entryway stands about 20 feet (6 meters) high, and the wall
rises another 20 feet above that.
Jaffa Gate was inaugurated in 1538 as part of the rebuilding of the Old City walls by Suleiman
These tombs are believed to be those of the architects of the Old City walls.
Just inside the gate, behind an iron grating on the left, lie two tombs. These are believed to
be the graves of the two architects whom Suleiman commissioned to construct the Old City walls.
According to legend, when Suleiman saw that the architects had left Mount Zion and the tomb of
King David out of the enclosure, he ordered them killed. However, in deference to their
impressive achievement, he had them buried inside the walls next to Jaffa Gate.
In 1908, a clock tower was built near the gate to serve the developing business district in the
area. The tower lasted only a decade: it was knocked down by the British when they occupied
In 1917, British general Edmund Allenby entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, giving a
speech at the nearby Tower of David. Allenby entered the city on foot in a show of respect for
the city and a desire to avoid comparison with the Kaiser's entry in 1898. The British
demolished other buildings adjoining the city wall in 1944 in an attempt to preserve Jerusalem's
During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Israeli forces fought hard to connect the Jewish Quarter of
the Old City with Israeli-held western Jerusalem by controlling the Jaffa Gate. On the evening
of May 18, 1948, the Haganah launched a frontal assault on the gate but were beaten back with
heavy losses. With a Jordanian victory in 1948, Israeli forces were not able to gain control
of the gate until the Six Day War in 1967.
In 2000 Pope John Paul II came through Jaffa Gate to the Old City during his visit in Israel in
the Holy Year.
Inside Jaffa Gate is a small square with entrances to the Christian Quarter (on the left),
Muslim Quarter (straight ahead) and the Armenian Quarter (to the right, past the Tower of
David). A tourist information office and shops line the square. The entrance to the Muslim
Quarter is part of the Arab shuk (marketplace).
The gate's location is determined by the city's topography, located along the valley followed by
Jaffa Road into the old city, between the northern hill of the Acra and the southern hill of
Mount Zion. The road and the valley it follows continue eastward and down into the Tyropoeon
Valley, bisecting the northern and southern halves of the city, with the Christian and Muslim
Quarters to the north, and Armenian and Jewish Quarters to the south.
Running along the Old City walls south of Jaffa Gate is the Tower of David, a Jerusalem landmark
that dates back to antiquity. The current tower was built during the reign of Suleiman the
Magnificent. It is called the Tower of David because the foundations of the tower go back to
King David's times with the building of the first tower on the site, as described in the Hebrew
Jaffa Gate is heavily used by pedestrians and vehicles alike. In the early 2000s, the road
straddling the gate was moved further west and a plaza constructed in its stead to connect Jaffa
Gate with the soon-to-be-built Mamilla shopping mall across the street.
In 2010, the Israel Antiquities Authority completed a two-month restoration and cleaning of
Jaffa Gate as part of a $4 million project begun in 2007 to renovate the length of the Old City
walls. The clean-up included replacing broken stones, cleaning the walls of decades of car
exhaust, and reattaching an elaborate Arabic inscription erected at the gate's original
dedication in 1593. Bullet fragments in the gate, from fighting in the War of Independence, were
preserved. Infrastructure work beside Jaffa Gate also uncovered an ancient aqueduct dating
from the second or third century A.D.
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