One of the most famous images of the Old City of Jerusalem is the impressive picturesque wall surrounding the ancient City. The Ramparts Walk atop the ancient walls stretching all around the Old City is a treasure for both locals and tourists, and one of the most pleasant strolls leading the visitor through the rich history, biblical narratives, and natural beauty.
The current walls (appearing in all the familiar photos) were built by the Ottoman ruler, Suleiman the Magnificent, during the 16th century, and for 400 years Turkish soldiers marched atop the ramparts, patrolling between the guard towers. Parts of the walls were erected over ancient biblical walls dating back thousands of years. Understanding the spiritual centrality and political significance of Jerusalem, the Ottomans built the walls to ensure the security and safety of its residents, prevent local tribal incursions, and discourage another crusade by Christian armies from the West.
The walls of the Old City are roughly 4 km (2.5 miles) long, their average height is 12 meters (40 feet), and their average thickness is 2.5 meters (8 feet) containing 34 different watchtowers and eight different gates.
In fact, the Ottoman sultan originally intended the walls to enclose the southern City of David and Mt. Zion as well, but his architects failed him and consequently were beheaded. Eight gates are found in the city walls today: Jaffa Gate, New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod Gate, Lions Gate, Golden (Eastern) Gate, Dung Gate, and Zion Gate. The path atop the walls was renovated and turned into a beautiful promenade which offers spectacular views of Jerusalem both inside and outside the walls, encompassing images from the distant past alongside the buzz of modern development.
The visitors who desire to scale the walls and enjoy this picturesque walk can choose between two paths. The northern trail stretches from the Jaffa Gate (on the west side of the Old City) to the Lions Gate on the east side.
The southern trail, which is shorter, starts at the Tower of David by the Jaffa Gate and continues around the south side of the city, ending by the Dung Gates next to the Western Wall. Inscriptions and signs along the walk identify landmarks and sites that the visitor is walking by, offering safe exits for those wishing to descend from the ramparts and explore the Old City at ground level.
Walking along the northern trail, the visitor will first pass by the Christian Quarter with its numerous churches and chapels, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Church of Flagellation, and more.
Continuing on the wall around the Muslim Quarter, the scenery changes to mosques and minarets, schools and play yards, all part of the Old City of Jerusalem. With the ramparts crossing over the New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod’s Gate and Lions Gate, the northern trail circles around a large area spanning residential, religious and commercial neighborhoods of the Old City.
Selecting the southern trail, which is shorter and easier to navigate, the visitor will pass the legendary Tower of David before crossing over the Zion Gate. This walk circles the Armenian and Jewish Quarters before ending by the Dung Gate.
From this vantage of the ramparts, one can see the Armenian churches, the Dormition Abbey, Mt. Zion, the famous Church of St. Peter and the Upper Room complex. In fact, even the stables of the Israeli Police force can be viewed from the tall ramparts, a historical flashback to the periods of British, Jordanian and Turkish regimes that used horses for military and security services.
Descending from the wall just before the Dung Gate at the end of the walk, you find yourself just a short distance away from the Western Wall, a choice destination for prayer and meditation for millions of worshipers arriving from around the world each year.
During WWI, the British forces, led by General Allenby, conquered the Holy Land from the Turkish Islamic rulers and liberated Jerusalem just before Christmas of 1917. Moved by a religious sense of responsibility to preserve the City’s biblical and historic beauty, the British administration established specific regulations including keeping a green natural belt separating the old from the new and prohibited new construction near the walls.
The Israeli authorities adopted the same principles and implement them to this day to preserve the beauty and history of the City that is dear to so many hearts all across the world.
And why do the children of God care? Because, as the Scripture indicates in Isaiah’s prophecy, “I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6-7).
We are looking forward to welcoming you to Israel. And when you arrive, our Sar-El team will be ready to lead you on a historic walk across the ramparts of Jerusalem, the City of our Great King.
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