Damascus Gate from Jerusale
The Wall and the Damascus




  1 OF 3

Ottoman Period in Jerusalem

Hasan Bey Mosquefrom Jaffa

When the Ottoman Turks defected the Mameluke forces in 1517, Palestine came under the rule of a new empire that was to dominate the entire Near East for the next 400 years. At the outset, particularly during the reign of Sultan Suleiman, known in Arabic as "the Law maker," but better known as Suleiman the Magnificent, Jerusalem flourished. Walls and gates, which had lain in ruins since the Ayyubid period, were rebuilt. The ancient aqueduct was reactivated and public drinking fountains were installed. After Suleiman's death, however, cultural and economic stagnation set in, Jerusalem again became a small, unimportant town. For the next 300 years its population barely increased, while trade and commerce were frozen; Jerusalem became a backwater.

Although the renewal of Jerusalem's Jewish community is attributed to the activity of Nahmanides, who arrived in the city in 1267, the community's true consolidation occured in the 15th and 16th centuries, with the influx of Jews who had been expelled from Spain.

The 19th century witnessed far-reaching changes, along with the gradual weakening of the Ottoman Empire. Political change in Jerusalem and indeed throughout the country was accelerated as part of a policy of Europeanization. European institutions in Jerusalem, particularly those of a religious character, enjoyed growing influence. Foreign consulates, merchants and settlers, grew in numbers and in power

These foreigners brought in their wake many innovations: modern postal systems run by the various consulates; the use of the wheel for modes of transportation; stagecoach and carriage, the wheelbarrow and the cart; and the oil-lantern. These were among the first signs of modernization in the city. By mid-century the first paved road ran from Jaffa to Jerusalem; by 1892 the railroad had reached the city.

The Wall and the Damascus Gate

The Wall and the Damascus

The wall that encloses the present-day Old City of Jerusalem was built in the sixteenth century by the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent. Originally it had seven gates; an eighth, aptly named New Gate, was added in the late nineteenth century in the wall's northwest sector.

The largest and most splendid of the portals is Damascus Gate. Located on the wall's northern side, it is adjacent to ruins attesting that this has been the site of the city's main entrance since ancient times. The gate's defenses include slits for firing at attackers, thick doors, and an opening from which boiling oil could be spilled on assailants below

  1 OF 3