Preservation project marks 468th birthday of Jerusalem's Zion Gate

Jerusalem's Zion Gate, one of the most impressive entryways into the capital's walled Old City, has finished undergoing major preservation work in time for its 468th birthday, the Antiquities Authority announced Sunday. Constructed in 1540 by Suleiman the Magnificent, the Zion Gate is one of eight gates built into the walls of the Old City. Located in the southwestern part of the Old City's wall, it connects the Armenian Quarter and the Jewish Quarter to Mount Zion. The site was damaged during the War of Independence, when the gate was the scene of fierce battles between Israeli soldiers and the Jordanian Army during Israel's unsuccessful attempt to break through the siege of the Jewish Quarter. Evidence of these battles can be seen in the numerous bullet and shell marks still visible on the gate's façade. The NIS 800,000 preservation project, carried out over the last six months, was the first such work done on the walls of the Old City by Israeli authorities since the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, and is part of a larger project for the city walls, said Avi Mashiach, the project's architect from the state-run archeological body. The work, which is being underwritten by the city, included micro-biological cleaning and the restoration of stones that were damaged during the fighting and had begun to crumble during the last several years, he said. "We stabilized the stones so they would not pose a danger to visitors," Mashiach said. The front of the gate and its interior received extensive treatment. Among other things, the original bullet and shell damage was preserved and the dedicatory inscription to Suleiman at the front of the gate was restored. The preservation and rehabilitation of the Old City's walls was meant to end the wear and tear the walls had suffered over the centuries, the Antiquities Authority said. Today, both pedestrians and vehicles use the gate, which, along with the nearby Jaffa Gate, is the central entryway for non-Muslims to the Old City. A ceremonial "rededication" of the Zion Gate will take place Monday afternoon in the presence of soldiers who fought in the War of Independence, and will also be attended by Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, Antiquities Authority director Shuka Dorfman, and Moshe Leon, director-general of the Jerusalem Development Authority, which funded the project.