The courtyard gardens of homes; the rooftops of churches and winding alleyways. These are some of the scenes only possible from the Ramparts Walk along the tops of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. With two routes, one beginning near Jaffa Gate and one starting from the Tower of David, this walk is one of the most unique but least known ways to see history and modern life in the Old City. It is truly a hidden gem.

 Most of the city’s current walls were built in the 16th century, although there is archaeological evidence of older versions of walls going back to the First Temple Period. The walls, like in most ancient cities, were mainly for defense. They contain several lookouts and defense posts and being more than 2 meters wide, offered plenty of room for soldiers to walk around on; Jordanian soldiers were posted atop the walls until the Six Day War in 1967. In fact, soon after Israel’s victory in the Six Day war, David Ben Gurion, then still a Knesset member, suggestd they be torn down.

 But of course that never happened; rather the walls became an important tourist attraction and walking path–although plenty of Jersalemites have never walked them. It is important to remember that because of the opening made in the walls near the Jaffa Gate in the early 20th century, the approximately four kilometers of city walls are divided into two sections; so visitors will need to explore the sections separately and with separate entrance tickets.

 The walls’ northern route, whose entrance is just inside the Jaffa Gate, near the Ministry of Tourism’ office, take walkers on a journey overlooking the Roman Catholic Latin Patriarch buildings, full of hidden courtyards where children play basketball or people hang laundry. Eventually, the walk crosses over the New Gate and continues along the Muslim Quarter to the Damascus and Lions gates. This section offers one of the best places to observe daily life in the city, from people shopping at markets, to groups of pilgrims exploring holy sites. The southern route, with an entrance in the Tower of David, takes explorers along the top of the Armenian Quarter, which contains a surprising amount of open green spaces, and ends near the Western Wall. Visitors can descend the walls near the bottom entrance to the Kotel. The walking routes are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m daily, except on Friday, when they close at 2 p.m. Each route is 10 shekels per adult. For more information, call 072-3290703.

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