New view of the Holy City as Jerusalem wall walkway extends 1 km.
A group of young girls, ages 4 and 5, played, strolled and talked to each other on the bright green artificial grass of a soccer field, enjoying an unusually warm and sunny December day. The scene would not have seemed so special if it weren’t for the fact that the golden Dome of the Rock was standing majestically just behind them. The view was just one of the many unique experiences offered by a stroll along the new section of the Northern Ramparts Walk around the walls surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem.
The section was inaugurated on Tuesday after five years of work, in the presence of Jerusalem and Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin and the Ministry’s director-general Mordechai Benita. The project will allow visitors to explore the walk in its full length – about 3 km. from the Jaffa Gate to the Lion’s Gate – adding a little over a kilometer to the previous itinerary. Another section of the promenade, the southern one, already extends from Jaffa Gate to the Western Wall for about a kilometer.
Few people can remain unmoved when they walk down the alleys of the Old City, infused by its spiritual energy and buzzing vitality. However, to understand even better how an area covering just about a square kilometer has been the scene of some of the most important events in the history of the three monotheistic faiths – and perhaps of humankind in general – it might be useful to take a step back and observe it from a little further away. The Ramparts Walk along the city’s walls offers this opportunity.
The three most famous domes of the city – the Hurva Synagogue and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as the Dome of the Rock – are visible at the same time from multiple spots, sometimes vividly framed by lines of colorful clothes drying in the breeze, pots of flowers and children’s toys left on the rooftops.
About 40,000 people live in the Old City, and a glimpse of their daily life in the four quarters – Muslim, Jewish, Armenian and Christian – can be spotted while walking along the Ottoman Walls built around five centuries ago. The smell of baked goods and grilled meat, music from a school and noise from the busy streets completes the unique sensory experience.
Among the sites included in the new section of the walk are the Lion Gate and the Stork Tower, one of the most prominent in the walls complex, where researchers have suggested that Godfrey of Bouillon, one of the leaders of the first Crusade, managed to breach into the previous walls in 1099.
Outside the walls, the modern city stands with its skyline comprising both new towers and older buildings, with golden Jerusalem stone prominent in their architecture and both pedestrian and car traffic filling the streets. As the visitor progresses, they can see the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Bab a-Zahara, the Rockefeller Museum, Mount Scopus, and the Mount of Olives.
“By walking on these walls and looking at the city from above, it is possible to understand Jerusalem better,” Elkin noted, adding that the walk also represents a way to tie together all the parts of the Old City.
“The Wall Promenade Project expresses the connection of the different parts of Jerusalem. Just as the different parts of the Old City cannot be severed from it, it is impossible to detach Jerusalem from the Old City, which represents its very heart. The walls whose original purpose was to separate [Jerusalem from its surroundings], today express precisely the connection [between the different parts] of Jerusalem, a united Jerusalem,” he further said. “Anyone standing here can look at the Old City and its history and can look out to the Mount of Olives with all its historical significance and to the Hebrew University, a place that symbolizes the future of this city.”
Zelkin also expressed hope that in the future, visitors will be able to walk the full length of the walls in one unified itinerary.
According to a statement by the East Jerusalem Development Company (PAMI), the project of opening the new section of the ramparts was initiated by the Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry and undertaken by PAMI at a cost of NIS 11 million.
“The new section of the Northern Promenade blends well with the ongoing activities and investments of the Jerusalem Ministry and Heritage in the Old City and east Jerusalem,” commented Benita. “Our comprehensive plan is to allow people to exit from Jaffa Gate and to return to it by mostly walking on the walls of the Old City.
“The promenade is the historical trek of Jerusalem and those who walk it immerse themselves in an experience of culture and heritage that at the same time preserves the environment. The walk is conducted in a more relaxed atmosphere than would be had on the street level and it reduces the congestion in the alleyways,” he added.
Written by: Rossella Tercatin for www.jpost.com