A Jerusalem legend provides us with the following story: Before Jerusalem was encompassed by a wall, the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent had a dream in which he saw powerful lions about to tear him about as punishment for not properly protecting the holy city.
The sultan understood that this was a sign from heaven, where upon he ordered the building of the wall that encircles the old city to the present day. He also decreed that images of the lions he had seen in his dream were to be placed in the facade of the eastern gate (Lion Gate).
He began in the north in 1537 and continued down the east and west sides. The south wall was completed only in 1540, apparently because there was a dispute as to whether Mount Sion should be included. The authorities objected to the expense involved in extending the wall for the sake of one building, the Cenacle, and tried to get the Franciscans to bear the cost. The priests had no money, so they were left outside. Suleiman's anger - he had the architects executed- shows that he intended his wall to honor and protect all the places of popular veneration.
Jaffa Gate (Sha'ar Yafo or Bab al Khalil) is the main western entrance to the Old City. The Jaffa Gate was restored by funds collected from South African Jewry after the Six Day War. General Allenby entered Jerusalem through this gate in 1971 after defeating the Turks in his march through Palestine.
Zion gate is one of the original gates of the Ottoman wall, but was of much lesser importance than Jaffa Gate and served as a quite secondary point of departure from the city, mainly for those going to the cemeteries and religious structures
on Mount Zion.
The Zion Gate was badly damaged in 1949 when the Palmach blasted their way through here to reach the besieged Jewish community in the Old City. The gate was partially repaired after the Six Day War. Some of the scars of battle have been deliberately exposed to record the history of the city.
Dung Gate is the lowest of all gates in the wall.
It faces the village of Silwam and thus its Arabic name- Bab Silwan, which has been used since the Middle Ages.
During the Mameluke and Ottoman periods, the Gate was called Bab Almaghraba, named for the Moghrabi (Moors) neighborhood which was where, today, stands the Western Wall Plaza. Since the second century CE, the city's refuse has been carted through this gate to be dumped outside; hence the name of the gate.
The Dung gate is the name of a gate in the Jerusalem wall which was near the Siloam Pool in the days of the Second Temple. The name was transferred to this gate in the 19th century.
At first, the gate was a small rectangular postern in the tower of the wall.
Above it, in the wall, is an arch built from ''pillows” of stones, and over it is a rosette. There is a Star of David in the center of the row of stones between the lintel of the postern and the arch. This decorative motif was common during the Mameluke and Ottoman periods.
Golden Gate (Sha'ar Hazahav or Bab El-Rahmeh) The gate was used by the Turkish through the period of the Muslims in the Seventh Century. There are two entrance ways to the gate: one is called ''The Gate of Repentance'' and one is called the ''Gate of Mercy''. According to the Christians, Jesus walked through this gate to Jerusalem and therefore it is referred to as ''The Golden Gate''. According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will come through this gate. This is the reason that before the gate, a cemetery of Muslims exists, for it is forbidden for the high priest to go through a cemetery. The Christians believe that this is where the Byzantine Emperor, Hercules, came in after the defeat of the Muslims.
The Crusaders opened the gates just for religious purposes. At the end of the Crusader period the Muslims returned to rule Jerusalem and until today, ''The Golden Gate'' is blocked and there exists a big house of worship and an Islamic study hall. The only entrance is from the Temple Mount.
Through this gate, the Israeli paratroopers broke into the Old City in the Six-Day War of 1967.
This is the only open gate in the eastern wall, and one of the original gates of the sixteenth-century wall encompassing the Old City. It was called by many name in the past: Gate of the Tribes, Bad Sitt Maryam (Lady Mary's Gate) by the Arabs, Gate of Jehoshaphat, and St. Stephen's Gate (by the Eastern Church), after St. Stephen, who is believed to have been martyred nearby.
From the mid-nineteenth century the Jews called it the Lion's Gate after the two pairs of flanking carved lions (actually, leopards) in its facade – the symbol of the Mamluk sultan Baybars, who conquered Israel in 1260.
Some authorities are of the opinion that these stone leopards were taken from one of the structures built by Baybars, and are in secondary use here.
This gate was known as the Flower Gate because of the floral designs engraved on its facade. The original gate was known as Bab-a-Sahairad and referred to the Moslem burial ground opposite the gate. A-sahairad means 'those who do not sleep at night' and alludes to the future resurrection of those buried there. However the name was eventually corrupted into A-zahar which in Arabic means Flower Gate.
This gate is also known as Herod's Gate, because it leads to the house of Herod Antipas, where Jesus Christ was sent by Pilate.
Also called the Sheep's Gate due to the weekly sheep market that used to be held in the square outside the gate.
Damascus Gate The most ornamented gate is the Damascus Gate. This was built during the time of Suleiman the Magnificent between 1538-1541. This gate stands on the remains of two earlier entrances to the old city. The first was a Herodian structure. The second dated from 135CE when the Romans recaptured Jerusalem and named it Aelia Capitolina. Its name in Arabic, ''Bab El Amud'', is a reminder, as inside the gate used to stand, in the time of the Romans and Byzintines, a tall pillar, which can be seen in the Madaba Map. From this pillar they would measure the distance to Jerusalem with the mile stones that were placed along the way.