Herod the Great has embarked on a massive building campaign to enlarge and improve the Temple Mount. He built it in Greco-Roman style in order to please his Roman overlords. He spared no funds and the end result was a magnificent complex of buildings that became known far beyond the walls of Jerusalem.
In Judaism, the title of Kohen refers to a descendant of first priest Aaron, brother of Moses. During the Temple period the Kohanim performed the blessings of the congregations as well as animal sacrifice
Mount of Olives is the most sought after burial place for the religious Jews. There are estimated over 150,000 Jewish graves there with each grave costing upwards $50,000.
The Golden Gate, the oldest of all Jerusalem gates, is believed to be have been built by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius around 627CE on the top of the ruins of previously existing gates. The stones in the wall just above the ground have been dated to the 6th century BCE, around the time of prophet Nehemiah.
The Golden Gate is located on the eastern side of Jerusalem's old city wall, thus one of names it is known by is an Eastern Gate. It faces the of Mount of Olives right across the Kidron valley. The Golden Gate is a structure that consists of the two gates that lead directly to the Temple Mount. The southern part of the gate is called the Gate of Mercy (Shaar Harashamim in Hebrew) as in ancient times Jews would pray in front of the gate asking Almighty for mercy.
Muslims also refer to it as Mercy Gate (Bab al-Rahma) and sometimes as the Gate of Eternal Life. In the New Testament it is mentioned as a Beautiful Gate. The northern part is called Gate of Repentance (Shaar Teshuvah in Hebrew). During the time of the First Temple period this was the closest entrance to the Temple of Solomon.
Jews believe that the Mashiach (Messiah) will enter Jerusalem from the east through the Golden Gate and as he enters the Temple Mount he'll bring redemption to the Hebrew nation. According to the prophecy of Zachariah, when the Mashiach passes through the gate he'll blow the ram's horn and all the dead, laying at the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, will rise up from their graves.he arrival of Mashiach will initiate the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple. It will also mark the beginning of the Messianic Age.
The Golden Gate also has an important place in Christianity. According to the New Testament, Jesus rode his donkey through the Golden Gate on Palm Sunday. Christians believe that Jesus was their messiah but they also expect him to return to Jerusalem for his final act and enter the city through the Golden Gate.
Muslims expect the Golden Gate to be a part of the last judgment of men at the end of history. In 692CE the Dome of Rock was built by Caliph Abdel-Malik on the top of the Temple Mount. It's believed that it was right around that time when Muslims sealed off the Golden Gate with 15 foot thick stone structure in order to prevent the fulfillment of Zachariah's prophecy and keep the Jewish Messiah from entering the Temple Mount.
Just to be on the safe side they also built a large cemetery all along the Golden Gate gate in a belief that the messiah will not pass through it due to the Old Testament law that prohibits the high priests (the Kohanim) from coming into contact with the dead. But many Jews believe that the Messiah will be the descendant of King David and not the Kohen and therefore can pas through the cemetery without breaking any Jewish laws.
The Damascus Gate is the largest and most decorative of all Jerusalem gates. It was built in 1541AD by the Ottoman ruler Suleiman The Magnificent on the top of two older gates, one built by Herod the Great and another one built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It was primarily built for defensive purposes with slits for firing at attackers and an opening for poring boiling oil on enemy soldiers trying to climb the wall.
The name, Damascus Gate, derives from the fact that it was a starting point for early travelers on their way to the city of Damascus in Syria. Muslims also refer to it as the Column Gate or the Gate of the Pillar because of the column inside the gate that allowed people to calculate the distance to Damascus. At the top of the Damascus Gate there is a carved inscription in Arabic: "There in no God but God and Mohammed is his messenger".
Damascus Gate is located on the northern side of the city and leads directly into the Muslim Quarter of East Jerusalem. On Fridays the crowds of Muslim worshipers make their way through the Damascus Gate to East Jerusalem after the morning prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque on Mount Moriah. There is a spacious plaza in front of the gate, where the street vendors sell souvenirs and refreshments especially useful during the hot summer days.
The Jews call it the Shechem Gate as it also leads to the city of Shechem to the north of Jerusalem. On his way to Canaan, Abraham traveled through Shechem where he built an altar and offered his first sacrifice to God. It later became the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel. Presently Shechem is called Nablus and is a third largest Palestinian city.
The Lion's Gate is located on the East side of the Old City and it opens up directly into the Muslim Quarter. Outside the Lion's gate one has a magnificent view of the Mount of Olives and a road to the ancient city of Jericho.
The gate was rebuilt in the beginning of the 15th century by an Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. It was part of the project to rebuild a wall around the City of Jerusalem in order to protect its inhabitants from marauding outsiders.
The legend has it that Suleiman had a recurring dream in which vicious lions were about to tear him to pieces. The dream was interpreted as a warning to the ruler to properly protect the Holy City or face the wrath of God. To commemorate his experience, Suleiman ordered a pair of lions to be engraved on each side of the gate.
Christians call it the Gate of St. Stephen who is believed to be the first Christian martyr, killed around 34-35 CE. This name was given to the gate by the first Christian Crusaders. The New Testament tells a story of Stephen, a converted Hellenic Jew, who was stoned for blasphemy against Moses and God and for speaking against the Temple and the Law.
One of the active participants of that that event was a men called Saul who later converted to Christianity and became Saint Paul. The Lion's Gate is also near where the route of the Vial Dolorosa procession begins. It is led by the Franciscan monks and 500 meters later ends in the Christian Quarter at the gate of the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
It is also referred to as St. Mary's Gate due its close proximity to the tomb of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, located at the base of the Mount of Olives. Muslims consider the St. Mary's Tomb as a sacred place because they believe that during his Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, the prophet Mohammed saw a light over Mary's tomb.
Jews refer to it as Sha'ar Ha'ariot. Lions's Gate is also known as the entrance that Israeli paratroopers used to enter the Old City in June of 1967, during the Six Day War. It was a very important event for the Jews as for the first time in centuries they were in possession of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.
The Dung Gate is located on South-Eastern side of the Old City. It's the only gate that opens up into the Jewish Quarter and most often used by the pedestrians and the vehicles to get to the Western Wall, the most sacred place in Judaism.
The current structure was built at the time of Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent around 1540CE but the Hebrew name for Dung Gate, Sha'ar Ha'ashpot, can be traced back to the Biblical times. During the Temple period, Jewish priests performed thousands of animal sacrifices that produced the enormous amount of waste which was taken out of the City through the Dung Gate to be disposed of in the Kidron Valley located just across.
Sha'ar Ha'ashpot is mentioned in the book of Nehemiah as the gate used to take "piles of sweepings off the streets". In the Bible, under the Nehemiah 3:14, there is a mention of the Dung Gate in relation to the rebuilding process of the second Temple: "Malkijah son of Recab, head of the district of Beth Hakkerem, worked on the Dung Gate.
He rebuilt it and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars". It is not clear if the biblical Dung Gate was located exactly at the same spot as the current gate because throughout the history the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed and rebuilt several times. But the old gate was located at least within the vicinity of the current structure. In 1949, as a result of the Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan, the Dung Gate fell under Jordanian Control.
The Jordanians renovated the structure built by the Ottomans by widening it in order to accommodate vehicle passage. In 1967, after the Six Day War, Israel captured East Jerusalem with the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. For the first time since 1948, Jews were able to pray at the Western Wall. Currently the Dung Gate is the only entrance for the Jews to the Temple Mount. Dung Gate is also referred to as the Gate of Silwan due to its close proximity to the Arab village of Silwan.
Mugrabi Gate is the other name used for the structure after the history of Moorish immigrants in East Jerusalem during the 16th century. The Moors have not lived in the city for centuries but the name remains.
The Zion Gate is located on south-western side of the Old City. The current structure was build around 1540CE by Suleiman the Magnificent and allows for a convenient entrance into the Armenian and Jewish Quarters. Outside the gates to the south is a hill called Mount Zion after which the Zion Gate was named.
The entrance through the Zion Gate is L-shaped. It was constructed that way in order to slow down the potential invaders from entering the city in a rapid fashion. Today the Zion Gate is used by both pedestrians and motorists.
Before Suleiman embarked on re-building the city, Mount Zion was part of the Old City structure but it ended up outside the city walls after the the construction was completed. Mount Zion is one of the highest places in Jerusalem and offers a magnificent panorama view of the Old City laying beneath. The hill is considered to be a holy ground by the believers and houses the shrines belonging to all three Abrahamic religions.
One of the main attractions of the Mount Zion s a Tomb of David where King David is believed to be buried. That is why Muslims call it the Gate of the prophet David. Mount Zion is also called a Gate to the Jewish Quarter because of it close proximity to it and the fact that during periods of the Ottoman rule the keys to the gate were given to the city Jews. Mount Zion is also a place where Christians believe the Last Supper took place in the Upper Room also know as Cenacle.
During the War of Independence in 1948, the Zion Gate was a major battleground in a fight between the Jewish and Arab forces. As a reminder of those events the Zion Gate is covered with bullet holes providing the visitors with a glimpse into how fierce the fight was for the ownership of Holy City.
While the Israelis won the War of Independence they did not succeed in holding on to the Eastern part of Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter which fell under the Jordanian control. Zion Gate also ended up in Jordanian hands and the area around it was called a "No-Man's-Land" because it was heavily mined and under the constant sniper fire.
For 19 years from 1948 to 1967 the Jordanians kept the Zion Gate closed. That changed after the Six-Day War, when Israel took control of the entire Jerusalem and cleaned up the mess left behind by the Jordanian forces who kept the city in terrible shape. They reopened the Zion Gate and allowed full access to the holly places for all religions.
The Jaffa Gate, build by Sultan Suleiman in 1538, is located on the west side and is one of the main entrances into the Old City of Jerusalem. On the inside it opens right in between the Armenian and the Christian Quarters. On the outside It faces the Jaffa road that leads to the ancient port city of Jaffa about 40 miles away, currently a suburb of Tel-Aviv.
Jaffa Gate is also a main link between the Old City and modern Jerusalem which began developing in the middle of the 19th century due to overcrowded conditions in the Old City. Today Jaffa Gate is widely used for commerce as well as for access to the Holy sites by the tourists and the believers.
The early Ottoman rulers kept the Jaffa Gate locked from sunset to dawn for security reasons. Any late arriving persons had to lower themselves over the gate with ropes. On Fridays the gate was locked so that infidels would not take over the city while Muslims were busy praying.
Jewish visitors entering the Jaffa Gate were required to tear their clothes as a sign of morning for the lost city of David. A rabbi would be stationed at the gate to supervise the ceremony. The entrance in Jaffa Gate is angled which makes the entrance for automobiles very difficult. The auto traffic moves through the opening in the wall right next to Jaffa Gate.
The hole in the gate was cut in 1898 by the Ottoman rulers to accommodate the visiting ally, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who entered the city in horse carriage accompanied by other German dignitaries.
On December 11, 1917 British general Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate as a victor after routing the Ottoman army. Before entering the city he dismounted and together with his officers entered Jerusalem on foot so would not be seen by the locals as a conqueror. He later accepted the official surrender from the Turkish representatives at the Citadel's Tower of David, located nearby.
The Arabic name for Jaffa Gate is Bab el-Halil or Hebron Gate. It is also referred to as the Gate of the Friend, a reference to biblical Abraham who is believed to be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs in the city of Hebron. That site is holy to both Jews and Muslims.
The New Gate is located on the north-western side of the Old City and represents the closest physical entrance to Jerusalem's Christian Quarter. It's the newest of all Jerusalem gates and was constructed in 1896 by the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II, thus why it is sometimes called the Gate of Hamid.
The New Gate is a modest structure, not nearly as grand as the other Jerusalem gates in stature or in history. It was built at the request of some European governments who had influence with Sultan Hamid. They convinced the Turkish authorities to open a breach in the existing wall and to make a gate out of it. It was needed because the Christian population of the Holy City was growing outside the Old City walls and New Gate gave them direct access into the Christian Quarter.
After Israel's War of Independence of 1948 the Jordanian Authorities ended up in control of East Jerusalem. The international cease-fire line separating Israelis and Arabs crossed just near the New Gate so the Jordanians sealed it off completely. It was kept sealed until 1967 when as a result of the Six Day War, the Israelis ended up in possession of East Jerusalem and all the city gates. They reopened the New Gate, allowing full access to the Holy City for all religious denominations.
Herods's Gate is located in the north-eastern section of Jerusalem's Old City. It opens up into the heart of the Muslim Quarter which is full of small shops and houses. The gate is believed to be named after Herod the Great who rebuild the Jewish Temple around 26BCE, although some sources believe that it was named after his son, Herod Antipas.
Herod's Gate is also know as Sheep's Gate because it led to the sheep market in ancient times. The Sheep Gate is mentioned by Nehemiah, a Babylonian Jew who came to Jerusalem with his followers to rebuild the desolate city. In Nehemiah 3:1 it reads: "Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel".
Throughout the history of Jerusalem Herod's Gate was a place of a non-stop bloodshed. Most invaders, including the Babylonians, Romans and Crusaders, came to Jerusalem from the North and inevitably had to use the Sheep's Gate and adjacent walls to get into the City.
Arabs call it Bab-a-Sahairad, referring to the Moslem burial ground opposite the gate. Herod's Gate also is known as Flower Gate because of the floral designs engraved on the wall above the gate. Another reason it's called Flower Gate because the local merchants sell fruits and flowers near the entrance.