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Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate

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Palestinians buy food from a vendor outside the Damascus Gate in the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem 1 Sept. In August, Israeli archaeologists completed restoration work on the Damascus Gate, the last stage in a project begun in 2007 to restore and conserve the city’s 2.5 miles of ancient walls. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill) 

21 Sep 2011 – by Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) — At the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, history is literally etched in stone.

From its monumental Roman base to the top of its newly restored Ottoman crown and its stones scarred by bullet holes, the city’s most elaborate gate has been witness to the comings and goings of centuries of conquering soldiers and rulers and remains the main gate into the Old City.

In August, Israeli archaeologists completed restoration work on the Damascus Gate, the last stage in a project begun in 2007 to restore and conserve the city’s 2.5 miles of ancient walls, said conservation architect Avi Mashiah of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who directed the work.

The Damascus Gate was the last of the gates to be restored not only because of its architectural complexity, but also because of its role as the social and commercial hub for the Old City in East Jerusalem, he said.

The Israeli restoration of the Damascus Gate took 10 months, Mashiah said, and was conducted in coordination with the Palestinian merchants whose busy shops line the entrance into the old city. Work time was limited to evening hours at their request, he said, and no water was used to clean the stones so their merchandise and stores would not be damaged.

During Roman times, the gate consisted of three monumental arches flanked by two unique still-standing towers built at an angle to the arches. It was an important symbol of the Roman “Aelia Capitolina” city founded on the ruins of Jerusalem by Emperor Hadrian in 135 A.D., said Italian Franciscan Father Eugenio Alliata, professor of Christian archaeology at the Studium Bibilicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem and director of the school’s museum. It was atop of the Roman ruins that the Crusaders built their gate. The ancient Hebrews, the Fatimid, the Mamluk, Ottomans, British, Jordanians and Israelis have also laid claim to the city and its wall.

“This was the most important monument of Jerusalem, the most important entrance to Jerusalem,” said Father Alliata.





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Tags: Jerusalem Palestine Israel Damascus Gate