Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Gates of Jerusalem Then and Now, Part II
The Damascus Gate

Updating first postings in Israel Daily Picture in preparation for Book 3, Jews and Holy Sites in the Holy Land, Revealed in Early Photographs.
Damascus Gate (circa 1860)
The Jerusalem Old City's Damascus Gate, also known as the Nablus Gate (Sha'ar Schem), faces north toward those two cities.  It is part of the wall of the Old City built in 1540 during the reign of the Ottoman ruler, Suleiman the Magnificent.

Archeologists found a Roman gate built by Hadrian in the second century, probably on the foundations of an even earlier gate. Heaps of ashes, believed to be remains of Jewish Temple sacrifices, were found a few hundred meters from the Gate and remained until the early 20th century when they were cleared for buildings.

This photo is labeled "Damascus Gate."
Actually, it is the city wall just to the
right of and above the Gate.
The earliest photo of Damascus Gate dates back to 1844, taken by a French photographer, Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804 - 1898), believed to be a student of Louis Daguerre who is credited with inventing photography in 1839.
The daguerreotype photos were found in a storeroom in Girault de Prangey's estate in the 1920s. In recent years, the Biblioteque Nationale de France digitized them. 

This Damascus Gate photo dates back to circa 1859. It was
taken by the first Jewish photographer in Jerusalem, Mendel
Diness. After converting to Christianity, Diness moved to
the United States where he became a preacher named John
Mendenhall Dennis.

The photo below, from the Library of Congress collection, was colorized with an early process, "photochrome," by the Detroit Photographic Company. The photo is dated 1890-1900.

Damascus Gate, circa 1890.

Photographs over the last 180 years indicate that the Damascus Gate was the primary entrance to the Old City. The gate is adjacent to the Old City's Muslim and Christian Quarters. 


The buildings on the right and left of the gate were shops built by a Jewish Jerusalem banker, Chaim Aharon Volero, at the turn of the century, Picture shows the construction of the row of Valeros' shops outside Damascus Gate  (circa 1900). The domes of the Hurva and Tifferet Yisrael  synagogues are on the horizon in the center-left of the picture. The shops were demolished by British city planners in 1937
Photographs also show how Damascus Gate was a center for nationalist and military activity in the 20th century after World War I.  

Arab Anti-Zionist demonstration, March 8, 1920, less than three years after the Balfour
Declaration and the British capture of Jerusalem. Many demonstrators declared
that they were Syrians. 

Old City held by insurgents, 1938. Damascus Gate locked

In 1938 local Arab terrorist gangs  took control of the Old City.  In October 1938, the British recaptured the city, described in the British Mandate report below: 

During the month [October 1938], the arrival of strong military reinforcements brought about an improvement of the security position. The Old City of Jerusalem, which had become the rallying point of a large number of bandits and from which acts of violence, murder and intimidation were being organized and perpetrated freely and with impunity, was fully re-occupied by the troops on the 19th of the month. This was a successful, organized operation of considerable magnitude.

Search for arms en masse outside Damascus Gate, September 9, 1938

Damascus Gate. Troops retaking the Old City, October, 1938

Damascus Gate today
 Click on the photos to enlarge. Click on the captions to see the originals.

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