Jaffa Gate








JERUSALEM may well be said to be a city fortified by nature. Stretching from the plain of Esdraelon on the north to the desert of Beersheba on the south is a broad mountain range, having for its eastern border the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, and for its western, the plains of Sharon and Philistia. Two valleys begin amid the broken summit of this mountain ridge, and, starting as mere gentle depressions, deepen as they pursue their course, which is at first to the eastward. They soon diverge, and passing in opposite directions and then coming together again, enclose a sort of rocky island, which they cut off from the surrounding highlands. The ravine which passes west and south of the city is called the valley of Hinnom; the other, which passes along the eastern side, is known as the valley of Jehoshaphat, or the Kidron. On the broad ridge, which they enclose, stands the city of Jerusalem.

The ridge is itself divided by a third valley, called the Tyropeon, and sometimes the valley of the Cheesemongers. This valley passes through the city from northwest to southeast, and falls into the valley of the Kidron. That part of the enclosed ridge lying on the west of the Tyropeon is the Mount Zion, and that on the east the Mount Moriah, of the Bible. Thus the city is encompassed on all sides except the north by deep and narrow valleys, so that it stands like a giant fortress, with deep moats on three of its sides.

Higher summits surround Jerusalem on every side. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people." Yet none of them can really be called mountains; they are simply rounded, irregular ridges, rising above the buildings of the city from fifty to two hundred feet. On the south is the so-called Hill of Evil Counsel, overhanging the ravine of Hinnom. On the east, just across the Kidron, rising six hundred feet above the valley, is the three-topped Mount of Olives, so rich in sacred memories. A few fig trees are seen, but olives are still, as they were in our Lord's day, the prevailing trees on the mount. Olive-trees dot it all over, most of them old, gnarled, and stunted. On its slope is the traditional garden of Gethsemane. Whether this be the real garden or not, it cannot be far away; for the whole mount is full of the memories of Him who so often sought its quiet, sunny slopes for rest and meditation. It is pleasant to think of him here and at the home of the gentle sisters in the village of Bethany, on the eastern slope of the mountain.

In the days of old, the hills about Jerusalem were covered with trees and fruitful vineyards, so that the whole country round nailed like a garden. It -must have been a goodly sight to look upon when the thousands of Israel gathered there at the feast of tabernacles and other yearly feasts, and encamped in their booths and tents in, the valleys and on the hills "about Jerusalem."  Moriah, crowned by the temple, rising proudly from the deep, dark Kidron; Zion, higher yet, away beyond it; then the great city, and the hills crowned with olive groves, fruit orchards, and terraced vineyards—beneath whose friendly bowers many a happy family or neighborhood group found shelter—rising rank over rank to the very top of the mountains.

Who could witness it all, and not join heartily in the triumphal psalm: "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness! Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, the city of the great King." Jerusalem is enclosed with lofty walls of hewn stone, strong in appearance, but really so weak as to offer no defense except against the Bedouins and the jackals. They are built of the material used in former walls, which have again and again been destroyed by invading armies. The circuit of the walls is nearly two and one-half miles. The area enclosed by them is irregular, so the walls are not straight nor at right angles. They are surmounted by battlements, and at many prominent points, towers rise to a considerable height above the walls.

The height of the walls above the ground, on the outside of the city, varies from twenty to fifty feet, according to the inequality of the surface. On the inside of the wall there is a broad stone walk, reached by steps from the ground below, which was built to serve as a platform for the defenders in case of attack. This platform is one of the best points from which to view the city.

There are five gates in the city wall, all of which are closed at sunset, except the Jaffa Gate, which is left open half an hour longer. The first and most important of these gates is the Hebron Gate, usually spoken of as the Jaffa Gate, and situated on the west side of the city. It is a massive square tower of stone, and is entered by a large archway. A very good view of this gate is given in the picture on the preceding page. All the roads from the south and west of Palestine lead to the Jaffa Gate, which may be regarded as the principal entrance to the city.

The Damascus Gate lies on the northern side of the city. It is the most elaborate of all the city portals, and is quite strongly fortified. The great road to Nablous, Damascus, and northern Palestine and Syria leads from it.

St. Stephen's Gate is in the eastern wall, a little more than halfway from the southern wall to the northern. A road leads from it through the valley of the Kidron, and thence over the Mount of Olives to Jericho. Herod's Gate is also in the eastern wall of the city, but it has for a long time been kept closed. Zion Gate, or Gate of the Prophet David, as it is known by the Arabs, is in the southern wall, on the summit of Mount Zion. It is perfectly plain, and has apparently no other importance than to form an outlet to that part of Zion without the walls. This has sometimes been called the Lepers' Gate, from the numbers of people afflicted with this loathsome disease who have their hovels just to the east of the gate.

But the present walls of Jerusalem are not those, which enclosed the city when Jesus was there. It is thought that the city must then have been four or five times as large as it is now. Jerusalem is but a ruin of what it was even in the days of Christ; but so long as Olivet, Zion, and Moriah, Hinnom and Kidron, are there, it will be a sacred place to every Christian heart.



E. B. G.