The New Gate
The New Gate was not one of the original Jerusalem Old City gates built in 1540 under Suleiman the Magnificent, but it was added about 350 years later in 1889. The New Gate was built after requests by the French to allow access between the French Catholic complex outside the walls and the Christian Quarter’s Franciscan complex within the walls. The New Gate is on the northwestern wall of Jerusalem’s Old City and was originally called the Gate of the Sultan Abdul Hamid. In Arabic, the gate is still called Bab al-Sultan and Bab al-Hamid. It was the last of the city wall gates to be built and stands between the Jaffa Gate and Damascus Gate. Unlike other Jerusalem Old City gates, the New Gate has no gate tower or gatehouse and is a simple, large open pedestrian through-way. This reflects the improved security of the city at the time and the diminished need for defensive towers. The stone arched gateway is not as adorned with decoration as other Old City gates. The only decoration is a stone Shield of David (Megen David) in the wall adjacent to the arched, crenelated gateway.
History of Jerusalem’s New Gate
There is no clear record of the New Gate before the Crusader period when a breach was opened 150m east of the present gate to allow inconspicuous access for troops. This may have been the Crusader Lazarus Gate used by pilgrims visiting the Holy Sepulcher Church. When Saladin captured Jerusalem in 1187 the Crusader gateway is thought to have been closed. In the 16th century, when the present-day city walls were being built under Suleiman the Magnificent, a different opening in the northwestern wall was created, called the New Gate of the Serbian Monastery, and was used by Franciscans during the construction of the Notre Dame Hospice and the Church of St. Savior. It was also a convenient access point for Russian Christian pilgrims coming from the Russian Compound outside the city walls to the religious sites of the Old City.
Under British rule from the 1920s to 1948, the city gates were given an iron gate guarded by police. In 1948 Israel gained independence and war broke out between the fledgling nation and its neighboring states. During the conflict, Jerusalem was captured and held by the Jordanians from 1948 to 1967 when Israel reclaimed the city during the Six-Day War. While the city was under Jordanian occupation the New Gate was sealed and the international cease-fire line passed nearby.
Visiting Jerusalem’s New Gate
In 2019 the New Gate was renovated for 11 million shekels, to improve foot-traffic and make the portal a more central access point to the heritage sites within the Christian Quarter such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The project included leveling the pedestrian street for better accessibility; lighting; giving nearby shopfronts a facelift and adding an electric gate to prevent vehicles entering the gate.
The New Gate is not the usual way that visitors enter the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a more modest and quieter entrance with fewer tourists but can be used to access all of the top Old City sites. It is the quickest route between the Old City and West Jerusalem. The New Gate is accessible for people with special needs and opens up to a Christian neighborhood where you can see how locals live in the Old City and enjoy quaint stores.