Only a handful of sights truly epitomize Jerusalem: the towering walls of the Old City; the glinting Dome of the Rock; the cascades of moss down the venerable stones of the Western Wall; the pinnacle of the Tower of David; and the long approach to the mighty edifice that is Jaffa Gate.
Jaffa Gate, so named because it was the starting point for the road to Jaffa, is the traditional pilgrims' entrance to Jerusalem, the massive portal which renders all who pass through it into the Holy City small and humble. The gate was built in the 16th century along with the Old City's walls by Suleiman the Magnificent, whose admiration for Jerusalem caused him to embark upon the most significant program of public works and beautification since Herod's renovation and expansion of the Temple.
A local legend quickly sprang up that all those who conquer Jerusalem would enter the city through the Jaffa Gate. Aware of the legend's pervasiveness, wily Ottoman authorities knocked out a portion of the wall next to the Jaffa Gate (a gap still open today) in preparation for the state visit of German Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898, making the kaiser think he had imperiously rode through the gate while denying him the actual privilege. When the British took Jerusalem during World War I, General Allenby, the commander of the Commonwealth forces, dismounted his horse and, in a display of respect for Jerusalem, entered the city through Jaffa Gate on foot.
Today the gate retains its status as the de rigueur entrance for visitors, opening up to a wide plaza leading to the bustling Christian Quarter souk and the quiet alleys of the Armenian Quarter.
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