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Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem

The Jaffa Gate

The Jaffa Gate on the western side of the Old City in Jerusalem faces west to the main port of Judaea, Jaffa. The gate that you see now was built, in 1538, by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent who ruled the Ottoman Empire, what we now call Turkey during 1520-1566. The entry stands 6 meters high and the wall rises another 6 meters above that.

The walls in this area were erected by the Hasmonean kings in the 2nd C BCE. Herod the Great added here 3 mighty towers (37-34BC):- naming them after Miriam (his wife, buried in a cave to the west of the tower), Hippicus (his friend), and Phatsael (Phasaelus, his brother). The base of the western third tower is the base of the current Tower of David Citadel, standing next to the Jaffa Gate.

In Arabic the gate is called Bab Al-Khalil (Hebron or Abraham Gate) and Bab Mihrab Daud (David’s Prayer Niche Gate). The Crusader name was Forte David (Tower of David).

Jaffa Gate and the Kaiser

Until 1898 there was a  wall and a moat between the Jaffa gate and the walls of the Old City, on its south side of the Jaffa Gate. The entrance was through the small gate at the north side. During the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898 this wall on the south side of the gate was dismantled to enable the escort carriages of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to enter the old city. The Kaiser, himself, entered the city mounted on a white horse to satisfy local legend that Jerusalem would be ruled by a king who entered the city’s gates on a white horse. The wider entrance is now used as the vehicle access to the Old City.

In 1908 a clock tower was built over the Jaffa Gate. It was one of approximately one hundred such clock towers built throughout the Ottoman Empire in 1900 in celebration of the 25th year of rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. This tower was completed only in 1908. It was demolished by the British in 1922.

A picture of Jaffa gate with the tower clock on top and a nice 'Sabil' (a drinking water fountain) in front.
A picture of Jaffa gate with the tower clock on top and a nice ‘Sabil’ (a drinking water fountain) in front.

In 1917, British General Edmund Allenby entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate. Allenby entered the city on foot in a show of respect for the city.

The gate was sealed during the Jordanian control 1948-1967.

The Jaffa Gate was reopened in 1967 after the Six Day War. This gate is the main entrance from the modern western part of Jerusalem to the Old City. In 2000, Pope John Paul II came through Jaffa Gate to the Old City during his visit in Israel.

Gates of Jerusalem

Gates of Jerusalem map
Gates of Jerusalem map
  • New Gate (on the western side, also called HaSha’ar HaHadash, Gate of Hamid)
  • Damascus Gate (on the north-western side, also called Nablus Gate, Column Gate, Sha’ar Shechem)
  • Herod’s Gate (on the north side, also called the Flowers Gate, Sheep’s Gate,Sha’ar HaPerachim)
  • Lions’ Gate (near St. Anna, also St. Stephen’s Gate, St. Mary’s Gate and Sha’ar Ha’ariot)
  • Golden Gate (a closed double gate, also called the Gate of Mercy, Eastern Gate, Sha’ar Harahamim) 
  • Dung Gate (on south side, near the Western Wall, also called Sha’ar Ha’ashpot, Gate of Silwan, Mograbi Gate)
  • Zion Gate (on the south-west side, also called Sha’ar Tzion, Gate of the Prophet David)
  • Jaffa Gate (also called Sha’ar Yaffo, Hebron Gate, Gate of the Friend – The friend being Abraham.)
  • The Triple Gate, Double Gate and Single Gate in the southern wall of the City are now sealed.

Jaffa Gate sign jerusalem
Jaffa Gate sign jerusalem

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