The Old City is a 0.9 square kilometre walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem, Israel.Until the 1860s this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Temple Mount and its Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims.
Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century. Today, the Old City is roughly divided into the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.
The core of Jerusalem, Old City, has a history that stretches back more than 3,000 years. The present street plan dates largely from Byzantine times, with the walls and ramparts dating back to the 16th century. The crossroad of three continents, Jerusalem has been one of the most fought over cities in human history.
The Old City surrounded by a wall built in the first half of the 16th century by the Ottoman Turk, Suleyman the Magnificent. The 4 km (2.5 mile) circuit is accessed by eight gates, of which seven remain in current use. The gates are, in clockwise order:
- Jaffa Gate (The Gate of David's Prayer Shrine, Porta Davidi) on the western side of the city (access from West Jerusalem), next to the Citadel. The busiest of the seven Old City gates, Jaffa Gate has easy access in and out of the Old City. The Jaffa Gate has access staircases for the Ramparts Walk
- New Gate (Gate of Hammid) - on the northwestern edge of the Old City, the closest gate to West Jerusalem and convenient for entry to the Christian Quarter. It was the last gate cut into the city wall, in 1889.
- Damascus Gate (Sha'ar Damesek, Nablus Gate, Gate of the Pillar) - on the northern side of the city (access from East Jerusalem), it is the most monumental of all the gates. The Damascus Gate has access staircases for the Ramparts Walk via the Roman Square Excavations.
- Herod's Gate (Sha'ar Hordos, Flower Gate, Sheep Gate) - on the northern side of the city, faces Arab East Jerusalem. Its name originates from the the 1500's when Christian pilgrims wrongly thought that the house inside the gate was the palace of Herod .
- St Stephen's Gate ( Lions' Gate) - on the eastern side of the city, it faces the Mount of Olives and is the start of the Via Dolorosa. Its name was adopted in the Middle Ages by Christians who believed that the first Christian martyr, St Stephen, was executed here. Prior to that, however, it had been generally accepted that St Stephen had been stoned to death outside Damascus Gate.
- Golden Gate (Gate of Mercy, the Gate of Eternal Life)- on the east wall of the Temple Mount, was long ago sealed shut by the Muslims in the 7th century. According to tradition the Messiah will arrive in the Temple via this gate.
- Dung Gate (Gate of Silwan, Sha'ar HaMugrabim) on the southern side of the city, it provides direct access to the Jewish quarter and the Western Wall. This is the terminal of buses 1 and 2. Parking is available outside of the city walls near the City of David.
- Zion Gate (Gate to the Jewish Quarter) on the southern side of the city, it provides direct access to the Armenian quarter from Mount Zion. The outside of the gate is pockmarked by bullet-holes due to fierce fighting here in 1948 between the Israelis and the Jordanians. The Arabic name of the gate is Bab el-Nabi Daud (Gate of the Prophet David), because of its proximity to the traditional location of King David's Tomb. Parking is available just outside the gate. (From : http://wikitravel.org/en/Jerusalem/Old_City)
The Muslim Quarter is the largest and most populous of the four quarters and is situated in the northeastern corner of the Old City, extending from the Lions' Gate in the east, along the northern wall of the Temple Mount in the south, to the Damascus Gate route in the west. Its population was 22,000 in 2005. Like the other three quarters of the Old City, the Muslim quarter had a mixed population of Jews as well as Muslims and Christians until the riots of 1929. Today 60 Jewish families live in the Muslim Quarter, and a few yeshivot are located there. The main one is Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim.
The Christian Quarter is situated in the north-western corner of the Old City, extending from the New Gate (see below) in the north, along the western wall of the Old City as far as the Jaffa Gate, along the Jaffa Gate - Western Wall route in the south, bordering on the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, as far as the Damascus Gate in the east, where it borders on the Muslim Quarter. The quarter contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity's holiest places.
The Armenian Quarter is the smallest of the four quarters of the Old City. Although the Armenian people are Christians, the Armenian Quarter is distinct from the Christian Quarter. Despite the small size and population of this quarter, the Armenians and their Patriarchate remain staunchly independent and form a vigorous presence in the Old City. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the four quarters of the city came under Jordanian control. Jordanian law required Armenians and other Christians to “give equal time to the Bible and Qur'an” in private Christian schools, and restricted the expansion of church assets. The 1967 war is remembered by residents of the quarter as a miracle, after two unexploded bombs were found inside the Armenian monastery. Today more than 3,000 Armenians live in Jerusalem, 500 of them in the Armenian Quarter. Some are temporary residents studying at the seminary or working as church functionaries. The Patriarchate owns the land in this quarter as well as valuable property in West Jerusalem and elsewhere. In 1975, a theological seminary was established in the Armenian Quarter. After the 1967 war, the Israeli government gave compensation for repairing any churches or holy sites damaged in the fighting, regardless of who caused the damage.