JERUSALEM — Jews, Muslims and Christians pass daily through the gates of Jerusalem’s Old City on their way to and from prayers or simply to go about their everyday business in one of the most politically sensitive spots on earth.
There are eight gates — seven are open and one is sealed — along the Old City walls that were built in the 16th century by Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
It’s always busy at Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Muslim quarter, and at Jaffa Gate, facing west toward the Mediterranean, where local residents and tourists mix in markets lining stone alleyways.
Lions’ Gate — two pairs of heraldic lions are carved on the archway — is also known as St. Stephen’s Gate. It faces east, toward ancient Jericho. It is often crowded with Muslim worshipers after prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest shrine.
Many Jewish worshipers take another route to Judaism’s nearby Western Wall. They pass through the Dung Gate, the closest entrance to the holy place, and Jewish families on their way to celebrate a 13-year-old son’s bar mitzvah can be spotted making their way to the wall.
Security is always tight in this volatile area at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli police patrol and closed-circuit TV cameras monitor the passageways of the Old City.
Israel views all of Jerusalem, including the walled Old City that it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as its “eternal and indivisible” capital.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, where the Old City is located, as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Writing by Jeffrey Heller; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise/Reuters - Photography by Nir Elias/Reuters