THE DAMASCUS GATE IN JERUSALEM OLD CITY
The Damascus Gate in Jerusalem Old City is recognized as the most beautiful and glorious of the Ottoman Jerusalem Wall's gates. The gate was built in 1538 under the command of the magnificent Sultan Suleiman during the Ottoman dynasty.
The gate was named "Nablus Gate" in Hebrew because the route traveled north, towards Nablus, from there. Most other languages refer to it as the "Damascus Gate" for the same reason: the road north continued further towards Damascus. Because of the pillar that originally stood in the Gate Square, is known in Arabic as "Bab al-Amud" (Gate of the Pillar).
The Museum of the Roman Square is located near the Damascus gate (inside the walls of the Old City), while the Cave of Zedekiah is located to the east of it (outside the walls).
DAMASCUS GATE HISTORY
The Ottoman Damascus gate was built on ancient ruins. Below it is several layers of ancient buildings.
The ruins of a gate tower from the 1st century BC, constructed by King Herod during the Second Temple period, can be found in the bottom layer. Above them, the remains of a triumphal arch that stood on Jerusalem's northern boundary during Roman times, when the city was known as Ilia Capitoline. During the British Mandate, archeological investigations uncovered the Roman entrance and much of the square. It had three apertures, only the eastern one of which remained intact. Only its ceiling is a late addition to its full height of 12 meters. The original staircase leading to the top of the tower has been retained (and now leads to the Walls Promenade).
The gate buildings and surrounding region changed from the 7th through 10th century, during the early Arab period. Some of the openings were sealed, the towers were converted into oil mills, the stairwells were converted into cisterns, and big cisterns were constructed in front of the gate from the outside. During the Crusader period in the 12th century, the entrance was shut, and a new gate was built at a higher level north of it. Houses and a street were built in the square facing the gate between the walls. These houses were restored during the Mamluk period in the 13th to 15th century, and vaulted buildings were added further down the street.
THE OTTOMAN DAMASCUS GATE
The current gate was built in 1538 as part of the Ottoman wall, as mentioned on top of the Roman gate, which was demolished in part. The Roman towers served as foundations for the Ottoman towers, and massive walls were created in the Crusader-Mamluk rooms to serve as foundations for the Ottoman gate. The gate's structure is twisting, like in many old gates, and individuals entering are forced into a winding route, turning left and right, to prevent an adversary attacking the gate from quickly entering the city.
THE DAMASCUS GATE IN THE 20TH CENTURY
The gate area was excavated in the twentieth century, between 1934 and 1937.
The "Irgun" carried out a series of terrorist assaults in the area of the gate in December 1947:
On December 13, 1947, "Irgun "members exploded two bombs on a crowd outside the Damascus Gate, killing ten persons and injuring 50 more. Four people dressed as Arabs traveled. Bombs strewed iron shards on the square in front of the gate, which served as the primary bus stop for local villages; several buses were struck; the petrol station caught fire; two small warehouses adjacent fell, and the Arab cafe in front of the gate was nearly destroyed.
On December 29, 1947, two British police officers and 36 civilians were killed by a bomb thrown from a taxi by an Irgun activist.
During Jordan's reign in the 1960s, a bridge was built over the ancient remains, and archaeological investigations were done from 1964–1967. In the years 1980–1984, archaeologists excavated the gated complex once more, and a preservation plan was put in place.
DAMASCUS GATE IN THE 21ST CENTURY
The East Jerusalem Development Company created a new amphitheater-style entrance in front of the gate at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The entrance features stair systems for entering and exiting the Old City, as well as over 500 chairs in front of the gate. In 2011, the Jerusalem Development Authority, in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority and with funding from the Prime Minister's Office, completed a comprehensive project to restore the Damascus Gate, including the restoration of the magnificent crown at the gate's top, which stood until 460 years ago.
In Jerusalem, the red line of the light rail features a station in front of the Damascus Gate.
As part of the Palestinian wave of terrorism (2015–2016), the Nablus Damascus Gate became a terror hotspot where multiple terrorist assaults took place. During the wave of terrorism, 11 terrorist assaults were carried out in its vicinity, killing one Israeli lady (Hadar Cohen Border Police officer) and injuring seven others. The majority of the terrorists were killed by local security personnel.
In addition, in June 2017, three Palestinian terrorists carried out a coordinated attack that injured five persons, including a police officer, Hadas Malka, who was gravely wounded and eventually died as a result of her injuries.
The Damascus Gate plaza and the steps leading from it will be renamed "Maalot Hadar and Hadas" in 2020, after Hadar Cohen and Hadas Malka, who was killed in the Palestinian terror wave (2015-2016).
Riots erupted at the Nablus Damascus Gate in Ramadan 2021 after police closed the stairs where inhabitants of the city's east congregate on Ramadan nights. For several evenings, dozens of Arab rioters clashed with police, injuring and destroying Jews who walked by.
Riots erupted once more at the Damascus Gate in October 2021.