Israel’s History – a Picture a Day (Beta) The Gates of Jerusalem Then and Now (Part I) – Zion Gate

Israel’s History – a Picture a Day (Beta)


Posted: 22 Jul 2018 09:30 PM PDT
Updating first posting in Israel Daily Picture in preparation for Book 3, Jews and Holy Sites in the Holy Land, Revealed in Early Photographs.

The walls of Jerusalem’s Old City that we see today were built in 1540 during the days of the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent.  


The location and name “Zion Gate” appear on maps dating back to the 12th century.  It is one of eight gates in the Old City Wall.  

Zion Gate, picture by Bergheim, circa 1867.  Today, the walls are pock-marked from
bullets and artillery shells fired during the1948 war in the Jews’ attempt to resupply and 
relieve the Jewish Quarter besieged by the Jordanian Legion.
Zion Gate (circa 1898)  The photo was captioned “Jerusalem” 
with no further detail. While the American Colony photographic
 department was established in 1898, its founder, Elijah
 Meyer, was an active photographer prior to that date.


Zion Gate circa 1900





Camels leaving “David’s Portal” (circa 1910)

Expulsion of Jews from the Jewish Quarter in the 1948 War
through the Zion Gate (John Philips for Life Magazine)

Located between Mt. Zion and the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, the gate was the setting for fierce fighting during the 1948 war.  A small Palmach force, commanded by David “Dado” Elazar (later IDF chief of staff in 1973), attempted to break through the gate on May 1948 to relieve the besieged Jewish Quarter.  They were met with stiff resistance by the Jordanian Legion and were forced to withdraw.

On May 28, 1948 the Jewish Quarter surrendered.  Jews were expelled through Zion Gate and didn’t return until the city of Jerusalem was reunited 19 years later in the June 1967 war.
Posted: 22 Jul 2018 05:37 AM PDT

Jewish men sitting on the ground at the “Wailing Wall” (circa  1935).
From the Library of Congress collection.

Tisha B’Av is commemorated today (on the 10th of Av), Sunday July 22, 2018.
The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av — Tisha B’Av — is the day in the Hebrew calendar when great calamities befell the Jewish people, including the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, the fall of the fortress Beitar in the Jewish rebellion against Rome in 136 CE, and the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.  The day is commemorated with fasting, prayers and the reading of Lamentations.  In Jerusalem, thousands pray at the Kotel, the Western Wall. 

Devout Jewish women” at the Wall (circa
1900). View another photo of devout women here

The American Colony photographers frequently focused their cameras on the worshipers at the “Wailing Place of the Jews.”  The Colony founders who came to Jerusalem in 1881 were devout Christians who saw the return of the Jews to the Holy Land as a sign of messianic times. 
Of the dozens of pictures at the Kotel there are several of elderly men and women sitting on the ground or on low stools, customs of mourning practiced on Tisha B’Av.

“A Jewish beggar reading at the Wailing Wall” (circa 1920).
Note others sitting on the ground. The day is almost
certainly Tisha B’Av and he is probably reading the
book of Lamentations.


Jews straining to see the Western Wall (circa 1929)

Other pictures presented here show the very narrow and confined area of the Kotel over the ages until Israel’s army captured the Old City in 1967 and enlarged the Kotel plaza. 
The tragedies that occurred to the Jewish nation are also evident in the pictures of the deserted plaza after Arab pogroms in 1929.  The area was deserted, of course, during the 19 years of Jordanian rule of the Old City when Jews were forbidden to pray at the site.
A story is told of Napoleon passing a synagogue and hearing congregants inside mourning.  To his question who they are mourning, he was told they were weeping over the destruction of the Jewish Temple 1,800 years earlier.  Napoleon responded, according to the legend, “If the Jews are still crying after so many hundreds of years, then I am certain the Temple will one day be rebuilt.”

Western Wall deserted in 1929. View looking south.

“Jews’ wailing place without mourners.
Deserted during 1929 riots.” View looking north.

A Jordanian soldier (and policeman in the background) at the Western Wall
one month after Jews were expelled from the Old City’s Jewish Quarter
in May 1948.


Dedicated in memory of 
Chaim Menachem ben Levi

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