Theme Week East Jerusalem – The Jaffa Gate

Wednesday, 6 September 2017 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Union for the Mediterranean
Reading Time:  5 minutes

Jaffa Gate plaque © Djampa/cc-by-sa-4.0

Jaffa Gate plaque © Djampa/cc-by-sa-4.0

Jaffa Gate (Bab al-Khalil, Hebron Gate) is a stone portal in the historic walls of the Arabic East Jerusalem (Old City). It is one of eight gates in Jerusalem’s Old City walls (Damascus Gate, Dung Gate, Golden Gate, Herod’s Gate, Huldah Gates, Jaffa Gate, Lions’ Gate, New Gate, and Zion Gate). The Crusaders calling it “David’s Gate”. 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. 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 suq (marketplace). Jaffa Gate was inaugurated in 1538 as part of the rebuilding of the Old City walls by Suleiman the Magnificent.

Like the stones used for the rest of the Old City walls (Jerusalem stone), 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. Immediately next to the old gate, which is used only by pedestrians, is a breach in the wall, through which the roadway passes. According to legend, this was made in 1898 when German Emperor Wilhelm II insisted on entering the city mounted on his white horse. Local legend said that Jerusalem would be ruled by a king who entered the city’s gates on a white horse, so to satisfy the emperor’s vanity and avoid the fate foretold by legend, a breach was made in the wall rather than allow him to ride through a gate. However, photographs from 1880 show that the city wall was never continuous at that point owing to a moat around the Citadel / Tower of David that interrupted the wall’s path. The moat has since been filled in, leaving the gap today.

Jaffa Gate © Berthold Werner Jaffa Gate plaque © Djampa/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Herwig Reidlinger/cc-by-sa-3.0 Jaffa Gate © Cucaracha/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Jaffa Gate plaque © Djampa/cc-by-sa-4.0
In 1907 a clock was built on the roof of the Jaffa Gate and in 1908 a clock tower was built over the gate to serve the developing business district in the upper part of the Hinnom Valley. It was meant to be 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. The tower cost 20,000 francs; such was the poverty of the city that the money was not raised – and therefore the clock tower was not completed – until 1908. The clock tower was built of limestone quarried from the nearby Zedekiah’s Cave. It stood 13 feet tall, and was topped by four clock faces, oriented to the cardinal compass points. The eastern and western faces showed official time (European time) while the northern and southern faces showed local time. Above the clock faces was a bell and the crescent and star symbol of Ottoman rule. The clock tower only lasted for a decade and was knocked down by the British in 1922 – for aesthetical reasons. The clock itself was re-erected on a modern, far less decorated tower at Allenby Square near the British Post Office and City Hall; this British-built tower was itself ultimately demolished in 1934.

Seven such clock towers were erected in what is now Israel and Palestine – in Safed, Acre, Haifa, Nazareth, Nablus, Jerusalem, and the famous tower in Jaffa. The fact that the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem was selected for the clock tower indicates the gate’s importance at the time, even more than the Damascus Gate.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on LonelyPlanet.com – Jaffa Gate, The Guardian, 21 July 2019: By the Jaffa Gate, final showdown looms in battle over Jerusalem’s historic hotel and Wikipedia Jaffa Gate (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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