The most impressive and decorated gate in the old city’s wall.
It was the first gate to be built by the architects of Sultan
Suleiman the Magnificent, in the beginning of the 16th century.
So most of the economic strain was put into this gate.
Facing north, the gate is directed to the next main Othman
The gate has different names in various languages,
cultures and religions. In Arabic it is Bab el-Amud,
gate of the column, where the mille stone of Jerusalem
was located since the Roman period. St. Stephan gate is
the common Christian denomination, because the martyrdom
of St. Stephan, according to the Catholic Church,
happened in the area just outside this gate.
In Hebrew it is called Sha’ar Shchem or Nablus gate,
which is the closest historical city in the north. The beautiful decoration of the gate includes some
protection elements like the embrasure- an arrow loop hole, or the machicolations- closed balconies
with holes in the floor to pour hot liquid on the enemy’s soldiers. These were built to scare the city’s
visitors and spies. With today’s weapons they don’t have any strategic meaning.
Beneath the main square of today’s gate lays the ruined
Roman gate of Aelia Capitolina, the roman denomination
It was built in the beginning of the 2nd century C.E honoring
the Emperor Hadrian. The small eastern part of the arch
still stands and is located under the Othman entrance to the city.
It was very similar to Constantine Arch in Rome,
with three arches: a monumental one and two secondary ones
on both sides. It was decorated with statues and inscriptions
welcoming the emperor to the city.
Today you can still take a walk on the two thousand year old pavement.
In the middle of this main square stood the mile stone from which the romans measured the distance
to the nearby cities. The original stone is not there but it is described in the byzantine Madaba map.
This gate served as an indication that a visitor entered the roman city, because no city in the Roman
Empire had a wall of protection. In the borders of the empire, because of the famous Pax Romana or
Roman peace, when there were security problems the Senate or Emperor sent one of the Legions
to take care of the situation. Only after the end of the 3rd century when X Legion left the city,
a wall was built using this existing gate.
The biggest artificial cave in Israel. According to the Jewish
tradition this cave used Zedekiah, the last king of Yehuda,
as a hiding place from the army of Babylonia in
the 6th century B.C.E. Another tradition relates to a different
name of the cave: Solomon’s Quarries. According to this
tradition the stones for the Temple of Solomon came from
this cave. The Free Masons organization chose this place
as a gathering area. The historical founders of the
Masonry organization are the architects of King Solomon’s
Temple. That is the reason that the main hall is
bearing the name of this secret organization.
In the Muslim tradition this is the burial place of Korah (a biblical figure that spoke against Moses)
and his children. The name of the cave in Arabic is Migharat al-Kitan or Cotton Cave,
because the cave is thought to have been once used as a storage place for cotton.
It is a very impressive space, 5-acre or 20,000 m2. Very often there are cultural
events and concerts in the cave.
East to Damascus gate there is another small gate called Herod’s Gate.
According to Luke 23, Jesus was brought in front of Herod Antipas,
the nephew of Herod the Great, so througout the years Christians
came and worshipped the encounter in this area of the city till the name
stuck to the gate. It is a relatively simple structure with almost no decorations,
except a few geometrical shapes.
The common name in Arabic is Bab az- Zahra. Az-Zahra is a disruption
of the name As-Sahira given to the hill and cemetery across the road,
where people who performed the pilgrimage to Mecca are buried.
The term, mentioned in the Quran, relates to the Muslim resurrection
on Judgment day. The name in Hebrew, Sha’ar HaPrahim or Flower Gate,
comes from this mistake because Zahra means blossom.
This gate serves mainly the Muslim citizens of the city.
In the old city, close to the gate, there are a couple of Jewish house
s and an Indian hostel that belong to a small Indian Muslim community.
In front of Damascus Gate, near the market, there is the West Bank central bus station.
All of the buses that go to Bethlehem, Ramallah and East Jerusalem neighborhoods are
located there, as well as shared taxis to Jericho and Allenby Bridge check point, known as
the border passage to Jordan.