I have seen the Old City of Jerusalem from every direction. From the north on Mount Scopus. From the east on the Mount of Olives. From the south at the Haas Promenade. From the west atop the Citadel. I’ve even flown above it in a helicopter.
But the most unique way I’ve seen the city is from atop its walls.
(Photo: Atop the wall of Jerusalem ramparts. Photo by James Foo)
A visitor can walk atop most of the Old City wall of Jerusalem, accessed at the Jaffa Gate and Damascus Gate. The walk has railings on the inside and high stone walls on the outside, so safety is assured. Explanatory signs along the way give understanding to the history that occurred nearby.
More than once, I’ve walked on the ramparts, a matchless and wonderful way to see both inside and outside the Old City.
This quick tour travels atop the wall of Jerusalem from the Jaffa Gate to the Dung Gate.
I remember in the 2008 election when Barack Obama conducted his world tour as part of his presidential campaign, he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem. You may remember that he inserted a prayer in the wall. The Jews consider this a sacred act—even if the individual represents another faith.
(Photo: Paul J. Richards / AFP – Getty Images)
After Obama left the Western Wall Plaza, someone scrabbled out the prayer—written on King David Hotel stationary—and took a picture of it.
Here’s what Obama’s prayer said:
I’ve heard it said, “If you want to understand the history of Israel, then learn the history of Jerusalem.” Many books depict the expansion and contraction of the walls of Jerusalem, but I thought a timeline might illustrate it well.
The ancient world had a bully system that worked in straightforward terms. A nation would conquer a region and demand tribute—annual payment of money and goods. If you didn’t pay tribute, they’d come and kill you. Pretty simple system.
King Hezekiah refused to pay tribute to the bully. So the Assyrians invaded Judah.
Archaeology has unearthed treasures that reveal Hezekiah’s faith in God.
The walls and gates of Jerusalem have expanded and contracted over the centuries like the breathing of a living being. Even today, the Old City of Jerusalem is such that we have to enter the city through gates—just as people did for thousands of years.
Gates were more than passageways. They served as places for personal business and civic affairs (see Ruth 4:1). Gates often took their names from the distant cities they faced, like Jaffa, Damascus, and Shechem.
There are 8 gates of Jerusalem today. But the Bible promises 12 in the future.