‘With our heads held high’: Israelis who walk through the Damascus Gate, despite terrorism

December 7, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Sha’ar Shechem, the Damascus Gate, is one of the main entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City, and probably the most dangerous one.

Elazar at the Damascus Gate. (Shalev Shalom/TPS)

The scene of multiple terror attacks over the year, Sha’ar Shechem has been the scene of recent terror attacks, and tensions in the plaza at its entrance are palatable.

The plaza at the entrance Sha’ar Shechem is heavily guarded by Israeli forces, and groups walking through the Muslim Quarter are accompanied and secured by civilian guards.

On Saturday afternoon, an Arab terrorist stabbed and wounded Avraham Elmaleach near the Damascus Gate. The terrorist was shot and killed by security forces.

That attack occurred less than two weeks after the shooting attack at the Chain Gate in the Old City, minutes away from the Damascus Gate, in which 26-year-old Eli Kay, who was on his way to the Kotel, was shot and murdered by a Hamas-linked terrorist, who was subsequently shot dead by Israeli forces.

A few days before that attack, on November 17, a terrorist stabbed two Border Police troops near the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Old City and wounded one of them moderately and the other lightly. The troops at the scene shot the terrorist dead.

Despite the apparent dangers, Israelis choose to walk through Sha’ar Shechem on their way to the Kotel, the Western Wall, or to other locations in the Old City.

TPS was at Sha’ar Shechem on Monday morning to speak to them.

Many said that this entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City was convenient for them and that using another gate, possibly a safer one, was another walk away from their destination.

Others walk through the gate to make a statement.

Yaakov, a 35-year-old resident of Jerusalem who runs a business in the Old City told TPS that he enters the Old City through Sha’ar Shechem and “the key is to do so with your head held high.”

“Those who walk proudly through Sha’ar Shechem and hold their head high are not attacked, while those who walk through quickly and appear to be afraid are attacked,” he explained.

“We must maintain a presence here, there is no other way to do it, this is the only way to prevail,” he said.

Another young Israeli walked by and had an Israeli flag tied to his knapsack.

An Israeli woman, who walks through Sha’ar Shechem every time she goes and returns from visiting the Temple Mount, said she was not afraid. “I have gotten used to it,” she said.

Raz, 24 from Samaria, who walks through Sha’ar Shechem on a daily basis, said “it’s a purposeful undertaking to walk through here. God helps, and there are many troops here.”

Elazar, a 27-year-old yeshiva student who learns in the Old City, pointed out that “it’s more dangerous to drive on Route 1 [between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv] than to walk through here, there are more car accidents.”

“The terrorists carry out their attacks out of fear, this is our home, Jerusalem is our life,” he declared.

He further noted that since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, “many millions of Arabs surrounding Israel are afraid to touch a few million Jews here. There is deterrence, we have the Police and Border Police troops [here], and slowly, Jerusalem is shining to the entire world,” he added.

Moshe and David, aged 17 and 16, live in Jerusalem and were on their way to the Kotel, saying a detour through another entrance would make their walk longer.

David admitted it was scary but Moshe disagreed, and said the threat of an attack “added action” to the trip.

Another yeshiva student, from New Jersey to study in Israel, who was on his way to the Kotel, said that “this is our land, I am not going to have some people take it because they say they want rights to it, and I just feel at home everywhere in Israel.”


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