Jaffa Gate – the Jewish and Muslim Story

By Deena Levenstein, tour by Phil

Jaffa Gate, Old City of Jerusalem
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.

Jaffa Gate, Old City of Jerusalem
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.”

jaffa gate arabic quote, old city jerusalem, photo by phil
“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

Meet Phil
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


Deena Levenstein

Deena Levenstein is a writer and social-cultural entrepreneur in Jerusalem. She creates and hosts events and runs "Things to do in Jerusalem," a Facebook group of handpicked cultural events in the city. In her spare time she blogs at

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