This is the traditional entrance into the Old City from the western part of the New City. The citadel tower, beside the Jaffa Gate, is known as the Tower of David, although historically this fortress was only first developed 800 years after King David died. Three massive towers built by Herod on the foundations of Hasmonean fortifications originally stood on this spot. Just to the south, close to the protection of the garrison in the Jaffa Gate’s tower, would have been Herod’s palace. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in a.d. 70, the foundations of the towers guarding the Jaffa Gate were among the few structures not deliberately obliterated on orders from Rome. They were left standing to show there had once been a city that had been no pushover to subdue. Each of the subsequent rulers of Jerusalem, from Romans and Byzantines to Muslims, Crusaders, and Ottoman Turks, has rebuilt the fortifications beside Jaffa Gate, although none have come close to the scale of Herod’s three towers. The Ottoman Turks built a mosque here, and its minaret still dominates the complex.
The Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, now fills the citadel, hosting well-chosen, often very exciting temporary art and history exhibits, performances, and tours. Although some of the permanent exhibits look like illustrations from a school textbook, they are useful teaching tools. The structure of the citadel itself, with its great views of the New and Old Cities, is fascinating. The courtyard of the citadel is also used for concerts and performances of plays by contemporary Israeli writers. From April to October, a Night Spectacular show that narrates Jerusalem’s history in 40 minutes is presented in English on Saturdays at 9pm and on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30pm. Bring warm clothes for evening performances. If the special performances and events are scheduled, look for bundled admission packages to the museum, the performance, and the sound-and-light show.
A breach in the city walls beside Jaffa Gate was made for the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and his entourage in 1898. Here, the leader of the British forces, General Allenby, liberating Palestine from Ottoman rule, entered Jerusalem in 1917. Today, this breach allows automobiles to enter the area of the Old City just inside the Jaffa Gate, and the Tourist Information Office is located here.
If you head straight into the bazaar (the suq) from the Jaffa Gate, you’ll enter David Street, bustling with shops selling religious crafts and souvenirs, maps, and household items.
If your first destination is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, proceed straight down David Street and take the first left, which is called Christian Quarter Road. Follow this road until you come to St. Helena’s Road, a stepped bazaar on the right that will lead you down to the entrance to the church.
If the Western Wall and the Temple Mount are your first goal, continue straight along David Street. It makes a quick jog to the right and then to the left in the heart of the covered bazaar, where it changes its name to Street of the Chain (Silsileh, in Arabic). Follow the street downhill as the bazaar continues. Eventually, turning right on a small side street marked Ha-Kotel leads to the Western Wall. Just to the right of the Western Wall, a long, curved ramp leads to the Mograbi Gate, the only gate non-Muslims can use to enter the Temple Mount.