By Deena Levenstein, tour by Phil
- Jaffa Gate, Old City of Jerusalem
Walking through the Old City of Jerusalem, one can almost feel the stories permeating from the stones. Phil, a Touring Israel tour guide, took me on a day tour of the Old City with the tour theme Jerusalem from the perspective of three faiths.
At the beginning of the tour we stood at our first stop, Jaffa Gate, and he began to show me that every stone in Jerusalem doesn’t have one story – it has at least two.
If you’ve ever been to Israel, you’ve been to Jaffa Gate because it is the most used gate into the Old City of Jerusalem from the western side of the new city.
But there are two things you may not know about this gate…
A very special mezuza
In the photo above do you see the brown structure attached to the stone wall on the right? This is called a mezuza. Inside the case is a rolled up parchment with the important Jewish prayer Shma Yisrael inscribed on it. In the Shma Jews are commanded to place a mezuza on the doorposts of their homes. The purpose of this commandment is to have a daily reminder and offer a declaration of Jewish identity and faith.
But the Shma also says something else that I, for one, never paid much attention to. We are told to put it not only on our house doorposts but also on our city gates. Unfortunately, for two thousand years there was no Jewish city on which to place a mezuza, until 1967 when Israel gained control of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Jaffa Gate, Zion Gate and Dung Gate in Jerusalem are the first gates in recorded Jewish history to have mezuzas attached to them.
- The mezuza on Zion Gate, Old City of Jerusalem
The gate of Allah’s closest friend
There is also a special Muslim meaning found at Jaffa Gate.
This gate actually has more than one name. Another of its names is Bab al-Khalil. It is called Jaffa Gate because it is the beginning of the road from old Jerusalem to the port city of Jaffa. The second name means Hebron Gate, or literally in Arabic “the gate of the close friend.” Yes, you guessed it – the other road out of Jaffa Gate leads to Hebron.
Inside the gate you’ll notice an Arabic inscription. It says:
“There is no God but Allah and Ibrahim is his closest friend.”
- “There is no God but Allah and Ibrahim is his closest friend.” Photo by Phil
This is a play on the original quote:
There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
The original line is the Islamic dedication of faith and one of the five pillars of the faith in Islam. When said three times consecutively in Arabic, one is converted to Islam.
Our second stop was Christ Church, just inside Jaffa Gate, across from the Tower of David. Stay tuned for the next segment of this tour. And meanwhile…
Please meet Phil the tour guide
- Phil and Deena overlooking the Temple Mount
Phil is a lively, fun tour guide, originally from Chicago. He truly believes being a tour guide in Israel is the best job there is, he is friendly and respectful towards everyone along the way and he takes it on as his duty to entertain and educate with enthusiasm for as long as you, his guests, have energy.
Phil can easily guide families with kids by making most anything fun. He did this for me and not only did I laugh, I also was able to learn things I’ve had trouble with in the past.
One more thing about Phil, in a country full of all kinds of religious personalities and a history steeped in religion, being guided by someone who has studied comparative religion makes the tour that much more intricate and interesting.
Be in touch with us to find out more about our guides and our luxury tours to Israel.
Photos by Deena Levenstein
Subscribe to our newsletter
you may also like
Dreidel times, for the top that never stops
Ever wondered how the dreidel came to be a Chanukah pastime? Turns out — pun intended — that the spinning top…December 4, 2017
Planning A Bar Or Bat Mitzvah At Masada? Think again
By Joe Yudin, CEO of Touring Israel Almost every week someone asks me if I can plan their son’s or daughter’s…March 7, 2016
A Walk Through An Old-New Land Pt. I
By Joe Yudin Only now is the world really starting to discover Tel Aviv, an absolute jewel of a city that…December 2, 2014
Outside The Box – Touring Israel featured in OutThere Magazine
We invite you to read this fantastic article (below) written by journalist Uwern Jong and featured in the current issue of…January 10, 2018
Yom Hazikaron – For Those We Mourn & Celebrate
This juxtaposition of one of the saddest days in the year to one of the most joyous days is difficult for many and yet makes sense since the way to truly appreciate the amazing fact that we have a state is by looking back at those who made it possible, like Akiva Levy, the Holocaust survivor, and thousands of others.April 22, 2015
Head to the sukkah this fall to eat stuffed treats and glamp in style
It’s late September, when the feel of fall is in the air and the high holiday season is at its peak….September 28, 2017
Christ Church – Saving the Jews in Unintended Ways
Christ Church in Jerusalem might remind you of a synagogue with its Hebrew writing, a Jewish menorah (the candelabra in the background), a star of David and… a strange lack of crosses (until you look up). Here is its story…July 22, 2015
33 Flavors at the Mahane Yehuda Market – Part I
Walking through Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market with Chef Tali Friedman is like walking through a toy store with a child who has learned the toys off by heart and knows exactly which are his favorites and why.June 19, 2015
33 Flavors at the Mahane Yehuda Market – Part II
Read part I of 33 Flavors at the Mahane Yehuda Market here By Deena Levenstein We walked through the seemingly secret…June 24, 2015