Sunday, February 18, 2007

One Last Pass Through the Dung Gate

For the past few days, the authors of this blog have been involved in a low-intensity dispute over one of the Old City of Jerusalem's many gates. In yesterday’s post, N asserted that the “Dung Gate” (שער האשפות) should be distinguished from the the Mughrabi ("Moors'") Gate (שער המוגרבים). As N pointed out, the “Dung Gate” – a name which originally appears in the Bible – is the southern entrance to the Old City and the Western Wall plaza. For those familiar with the area, it’s the gate that is usually used by buses and vehicles to enter and leave the area. Here's a good photograph taken from a Russian-language site for anyone wishing to refresh their memory:

The "Dung Gate"
What has so far eluded me and others involved in this blog is the distinction between the “Dung Gate” and the “Mughrabi Gate”. I am accustomed to hearing both names used interchangeably for the above gate. An Arab friend of mine who works as a lawyer in Jerusalem always referred to the “Dung Gate” as the “Mughrabi Gate”. Numerous websites, including the Wikipedia entry cited above, indicate that both names are used for the gate. The origin of the name שער האשפות (“Dung Gate”) is biblical. The Arabs of the area, however, refer to it as Bab al-Magharbe (Gate of the Maghrebins). An old map that my father retrieved for me from his Jerusalem-related mini-library attests to the fact that the “Dung Gate” was in fact referred to as the Mughrabi Gate:

The above map was scanned from a book originally published 1876 by the German travel writer Karl Baedeker. The original appears to have been published in English, rather than German, in London, under the name Jerusalem and its Surroundings. In the bottom left of the above map, the "Dung Gate" is labeled "Bab al-Mogharibe". The term "Dung Gate" is also included in brackets with the prefix "vulgar".

What is missing from Baedeker map is a label indicating the location of the other Mughrabi Gate, the entrance to the Temple Mount, that N mentioned. This gate is very clearly designated in an Israeli map first drawn in 1936 by P.G. Salmon and updated and printed in 1970 by the Israeli Land Survey Department in 1970:

Those who know Hebrew will note that the "Dung Gate" is identified as such in the bottom left of the above map. Only the Hebrew term שער האשפות is used. If we trace the curved earthworks or ramp that leads from this gate upwards, we reach the entrance to the Temple Mount, which the map identifies as the שער המערביים, which essentially means "Gate of the Maghrebis" [Westerners, i.e. those coming from the West - the Maghreb]. [An interesting linguistic aside that I cannot help but insert here is that the Arabic letter غ, transcribed into English as gh and properly pronounced like a Parisian "R", is transformed into an ע (ayn) in Hebrew. Thus al-Maghrib - المغرب ("the West" in Arabic) is ha-Ma'arav - המערב in Hebrew.]

The fuss that is currently being made is, of course, about the ramp that connects the "Dung Gate" (or Mughrabi Gate or whatever) to the other Mughrabi Gate that leads up to the Temple Mount. The wooden ramp that has been in use for this purpose in the past, has now been torn up and the mound on which it rests is being leveled. Currently, excavations are underway to locate any artifacts before a new walkway is constructed. Here are several pictures taken by Amos last summer of the old wooden ramp that is now being torn down:

This shows the ramp pretty clearly; Kotel to the left, al-Aqsa to the right

Here you can see just a small part of the ramp but maybe also the gate that leads directly to the mount

Another view of the ramp

What we need now is another post summarizing the history of both gates - when they were built, when they were re-opened and when they were modified.


Amos said...

Halas already! I don't want to hear another word about these gates! Haha. Great post. Thanks to Noah for the initial correction.

John said...

An interesting article published in ha'aretz (Hebrew edition) on February 23 by Miron Rappoport argues, based on extensive interviews with Arab politicians and activists, that Sheikh Ra'id Salah is actually in a tight spot and has failed in his bid to mobilize large segments of the Israeli Arab population:

האמת היא שהשייח תקוע
מאת מירון רפופורט
למרות הרושם שנוצר, ראיד סלאח נמצא במצוקה. כוחו הפוליטי יורד, הוא לא הצליח להיהפך למנהיג הדתי של הערבים-הישראלים, כפי ששאף. אפילו במאבק על אל-אקצה הוא מצא את עצמו לבד