Walls of Jerusalem

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For the national park in Tasmania, see Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls[1]
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Jerusalem, city wall.jpg
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, vi
Reference 148
UNESCO region Western Asia
Inscription history
Inscription 1981 (5th Session)
Endangered 1982-

The Walls of Jerusalem (Arabic: أسوار القدس‎; Hebrew: חומות ירושלים‎) surround the old city of Jerusalem (approx. 1 km²). The walls were built between 1535 and 1538, when Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire, by the order of Suleiman I.

The length of the walls is 4,018 meters (2.4966 mi), their average height is 12 meters (39.37 feet) and the average thickness is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet). The walls contain 34 watchtowers and 8 gates.

In 1981, The Jerusalem walls were added, along with the Old City of Jerusalem, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.[2]

The walls of Jerusalem, which were built originally to protect the borders of the city against intrusions, mainly serve as an attraction for tourists since they ceased to serve as a means of protection for the city.


The city of Jerusalem has been surrounded by walls for its defense since ancient times. In the middle Bronze Age, a period also known as the Patriarchs period, a city named Jebos was built in the location of today's Jerusalem, which was relatively small (50,000 square meters) but was fortified. Remains of this wall are located above the Hezekiah's Tunnel.

According to Jewish tradition, as expressed in the Tanakh, Jerusalem remained a Jebusite city until the rise of David, who conquered the city and established the City of David on the site of the Jebusite city. Later on King David extended the walls, which were located on a low hill, outside of the walls of today's Old City area. Solomon, David's son, built the first temple in the city and also extended the city walls in order to protect the temple. During the First Temple period the city walls extended towards the northwest part of the city, the area where today the Jewish quarter of the city is located.

After the Babylonian captivity and the Persian conquest of Babylonia, Cyrus II of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Judea and rebuild the Temple. The construction was finished in 516 BCE or 430 BCE. Then, Artaxerxes I or possibly Darius II allowed Ezra and Nehemiah to return and rebuild the city's walls and to govern Judea, which was ruled as Yehud province under the Persians. During the Second Temple period, especially during the Hasmonean period, the city walls were expanded and renovated. Herod the Great expanded the walls to include the West Hill. Agrippa I later began the construction of a third wall. The walls were completed just before the outbreak of the First Jewish–Roman War. Some remains of this wall are located today near the Mandelbaum Gate gas station.

After the Fall of Jerusalem, the walls were destroyed and were later partially restored during the Aelia Capitolina period, and afterward extensively renewed by the Empress Aelia Eudocia. In 1033, most of the walls constructed by Empress Eudocia were destroyed by an earthquake. During the Crusader conquest in 1099, the walls were rebuilt but destroyed again during the conquest of Saladin. Saladin's nephew, Al-Malik al-Mu'azzam 'Isa, ordered the reconstruction of the city walls, but later on, in 1219, he changed his mind after most of the watchtowers were built and had the walls torn down, mainly because he feared that the Crusaders would benefit of the fortifications if they managed to reconquer the city. For the next three centuries the city remained without protective walls, the Temple Mount/Haram ash-Sharif being the only well fortified area during this period.

In the 16th century, during the reign of the Ottoman Empire in the region, the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent decided to fully rebuild the city walls, partially on the remains of the ancient walls. The construction lasted from 1535-1538 and these are the walls that exist today.


A contemporary inscription in Arabic from the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent stated as follows:

“Has decreed the construction of the wall he who has protected the home of Islam with his might and main and wiped out the tyranny of idols with his power and strength, he whom alone God has enabled to enslave the necks of kings in countries (far and wide) and deservedly acquire the throne of the Caliphate, the Sultan son of the Sultan son of the Sultan son of the Sultan, Suleyman.”[3]

See also[edit]


Coordinates: 31°46′29″N 35°13′40″E / 31.77472°N 35.22778°E / 31.77472; 35.22778