‘Let’s walk the Old City Ramparts..
Walk about Zion, go round about her,
number her towers, consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels;that you may tell the next generation that this is God,
our God for ever and ever.
He will be our guide for ever.(Psalm 48:12-14)
.. and see where King David’s soldiers stood and what they saw from their vantage points’, is what we – Pat, Gabriele, Shalin and I – wanted to do following the ‘water-walking’ experience at the Hezekiah’s tunnel, all immersed, even in our own memories.
We walked up and down the road from the City of David to the Jaffa Gates and got our tickets. It was a tiny Entrance fee. There seemed to be just a handful of visitors at the time with our little group of four. Adventurous and prepared, were we, all with walking shoes and some water – there was this guide tip – Be prepared for a lot of stone-stairs in varying levels.
One part of the Ramparts Walk begins just outside Jaffa Gate. The entrance is a bit hard to find. Before going through the gate into the Old City, head to the enclosure to the right of Jaffa Gate, as you face the Old City. You’ll be walking between two stone walls on a stone path. Follow the signs or ask someone – the entrance is a bit of way down, around a corner to the left. This section takes you from Jaffa Gate to Zion Gate and lets you off near Dung Gate, not far from the Western Wall Plaza and the Jewish Quarter. It offers a stunning view of Old City rooftops, Sultan’s Pool, Yemin Moshe, Mt. Zion and the Mt. of Olives. You can also access the ramparts from Damascus Gate follow them to Lion’s Gate.
Near the Entrance, there is a stone sit-out. While sitting there, waiting for Shalin to finish her sandwich, I looked around and a thought crossed my mind ‘we are about to walk another piece of Bible history!’ What a fun way to get the overview of Jerusalem in the 21st Century, by climbing the olden ramparts (the watch-points, I say) of the Old City and circle the city above. There were moments I wondered what must have passed by the minds of the soldiers standing guard in the varying time periods. Walking on top of the Old City is exhilarating and gives you wonderful view over the new city of Jerusalem through the arrow slits on the turret walls and/or over them.
There are places that I had never seen in my earlier visits, like the cloistered Armenian compound, an old hospital… from each vantage point; we could see the day-to-day Old city life and the exuberance of Sukkoth. The hubbub of city life in this holiday season was worth capturing on film and just drinking in the sight from where each of us stood – bustling markets, sheets hanging on washing lines, a vendor frying falafels, festive dancing on temporary platforms….
The walls of Jerusalem that we see today were built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century when he restored the ancient city walls that served as military fortifications. During 1948-1967, the Jordanian snipers used the ramparts as a vantage point. Multiple bullet holes stand witness to this shooting position on old buildings facing the Old City. Today, the ramparts serve a more peaceful purpose as a choice destination for school field trips, tourists and Jerusalem enthusiasts, I understand.
The walk is about 4 kilometres. You can’t circumnavigate the entire Old City in one shot, since access to the ramparts of the Temple Mount is closed off, and the road bisects the walls at Jaffa Gate. We had to descend at the Lion’s or Dung Gate and resumed from the Damascus Gate.
It is not advised to walk alone or after dark. Should you wish to experience the Rampart Walk, go for it! And again, the tip to heed: the walk requires a lot of stair climbing and descending. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable walking shoes, and that you have enough water with you – once you’re on the ramparts, there’s no getting off until the end and no refreshment kiosk or bathroom along the way. While this is fun for adults and older kids, avoid taking little children, those fearful of heights and people who have trouble walking.