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|Location 31°46′53.9″N 35°13′49.8″E|
|Open to visitors yes|
|Need appointment no|
|Handicap accessibility no|
|Geographical Coordinates 31.78164,35.2305|
Damascus Gate (Hebrew: שַׁעַר שְׁכֶם, Sha'ar Sh'khem) is the main entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located in the wall on the city's northwest side where the highway leads out to Nablus, and from there, in times past, to the capital of Syria, Damascus; as such, its modern English name is Damascus Gate, and its modern Hebrew name, Sha'ar Shkhem (Hebrew: שער שכם), meaning Shechem Gate, or Nablus Gate. Of its Arabic names, Bab al-Nasr means "gate of victory," and Bab al-Amud (Arabic: باب العامود) means "gate of the column." The latter name, in use continuously since at least as early as the 10th century, preserves the memory of a design detail dating to the 2nd century AD Roman era gate.
Damascus Gate is flanked by two towers, each equipped with machicolations. It is located at the edge of the Arab bazaar and marketplace. In contrast to the Jaffa Gate, where stairs rise towards the gate, in the Damascus Gate, the stairs descend towards the gate. Until 1967, a crenellated turret loomed over the gate, but it was damaged in the fighting that took place in and around the Old City during the Six-Day War. In August 2011, Israel restored the turret, including its arrow-slit, with the help of pictures from the early twentieth century when the British Empire controlled Jerusalem. Eleven anchors fasten the restored turret to the wall, and four stone slabs combine to form the crenellated top.
History and time period
In its current form, the gate was built in 1537 under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Underneath, remains of a gate dating to the time of the Roman rule of Hadrian in the 2nd century AD have been discovered and excavated. In front of this gate stood a Roman victory column topped with the Emperor Hadrian's image, as depicted on the 6th century Madaba Map. This historical detail is preserved in the current gate's Arabic name, Bab el-Amud, meaning "gate of the column". On the lintel to the 2nd century gate, under which one can pass today, is inscribed the city's name under Roman rule, Aelia Capitolina. Hadrian had significantly expanded the gate which served as the main entrance to the city from at least as early as the 1st century BC during the rule of Agrippa.
One of eight gates remade in the 10th century, Damascus Gate is the only one to have preserved the same name (i.e. Bab al-Amud) in modern times. The Crusaders called it St. Stephen's Gate (in Latin, Porta Sancti Stephani), highlighting its proximity to St. Stephen's Church and the site of his martyrdom. Several phases of construction work on the gate took place the early Ayyubid period (1183-1192) and both early 12th century and later 13th century Crusader rule over Jerusalem. A 1523 account of a visit to Jerusalem by a Jewish traveller from Leghorn uses the name Bâb el 'Amud and notes its proximity to the Cave of Zedekiah.