The Damascus Gate (also known as Shechem Gate or Nablus
Gate) (Hebrew: שער שכם, Sha'ar Shkhem, Arabic: باب العامود,
Bab-al-Amud, meaning Gate of the Column) is an important
gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. The modern gate was built
in 1542 by the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent.
The original gate was presumably built in Second Temple
times. The Romans built a new gate at the time of Hadrian,
in the second century AD. In front of the gate stood a Roman
victory column, shown on the Madaba Map, thus giving the
gate its name in Arabic to this day, Bab el-Amud, The Column
Gate. The column has never been found, but the Roman gate
can be seen today, due to excavations made during the
British mandate. This was the northern entrance gate to the
city at the time of the Crusades.
The gate has 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. In 1972, right-wing activist rabbi
Meir Kahane proposed that a mezuzah be affixed to the gate,
to secure the Jewish claim to the gate. After repeated
protests from Arab residents, the Israeli government refused
to consider Kahane's proposal. Today, only three of the Old
City's gates have mezuzot attached.
While the proper English name of the gate is "Damascus
Gate", in Hebrew it is called Sha'ar Shechem, meaning
"Shechem (Nablus) Gate". Israeli media therefore frequently
refer to the gate as 'Shechem (Nablus) Gate' in English
language publications as well. In either case, the name
refers to a city north of Jerusalem, since the Damascus Gate
is the main north-facing gate of the Old City.