There isn’t a Jerusalemite who hasn’t seen this site: an enormous black cloth that in recent months has concealed one of the most important and famous gates in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Now after the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department has completed the rehabilitation work there, it can be unveiled and we’ll be able to see the “facelift” the gate has undergone, and its beauty, as if it was rediscovered.
The Old City walls of Jerusalem were built in the sixteenth century by Sultan Suleiman, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire (1520-1566 CE), and they are some of Jerusalem’s most important cultural heritage assets.
As part of the “Jerusalem City Walls” project, which the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department has directed since April 2007, with funding from the Prime Minister’s Office and administered by the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality, extensive measures have been taken for the purpose of conserving and rehabilitating the Old City walls – in response to the effects of destruction, neglect and weathering that the walls have suffered from over the course of time. The conservation action was preceded by careful preparations and formulating a multi-year program of documentation, planning and execution of the conservation and rehabilitation measures slated to be implemented on the walls.
During the preservation work at Jaffa Gate, extensive conservation treatment was carried out on all of the gate’s facades and its interior: stones were reinforced and hazards that endangered the safety of the visiting public were removed, the bullet damage to the gate was preserved, weathered stones and decorations were treated and the gate underwent a thorough cleaning. Among other things, the gate’s dedicatory inscription, which was in a severely deteriorated physical state and was quickly becoming detached from the structure, was completely dismantled and conserved.
Jaffa Gate was first inaugurated in 1538. It constituted part of the city walls and in fact it was only toward the end of the nineteenth century did it become a center of bustling and prosperous activity. The period culminated in the year 1898, when it was decided to breach a wide entrance in the city wall of Jerusalem (as we know it today) and thereby allow the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II and his wife, Augusta Victoria, to enter the city in their carriage. Thus, for the first time in the history of modern Jerusalem, carts could enter the OldCity.
In the War of Independence the gate was the focal point of some very harsh battles. During the war Jaffa Gate was completely blocked by an armored vehicle that had been damaged in the fighting and was wedged in the opening. In the cease-fire agreements between Israel and Jordan Jaffa Gate stood at the opening to the no man's land that stretched from Jaffa Gate to Zahal Square and the Mamilla neighborhood and separated it from Jordanian controlled Jerusalem in the east. Consequently, the blocked armored vehicle was not removed, and the gate remained closed the entire period that the city was divided. The remains of the bullets that pierced the stones of the gate are clearly visible on the upper parts of the structure.