The sky was clear and blue that spring day in April 1969. The early morning sun glanced off the mauve-colored Mount of Olives. Tiny wild flowers dotted the hillside. The air was fresh and fragrant after an unusually heavy rain the night before.
It was a perfect time to explore the walls and gates of Jerusalem. I was then a graduate student at the American Institute of Holy Land Studies and was studying Biblical archaeology under Professor Moshe Kochavi of Tel Aviv University. I had taken a special interest in the topography of Jerusalem.
I slung my camera over my shoulder and headed for the outside of the eastern wall of the Old City. I would follow this wall through the Moslem cemetery to the Golden Gate, which was easily worth a morning’s exploration. As I breathed the spring air deeply, I had no idea that I would soon be knee-deep in human bones!
The Golden Gate is one of the most beautiful of Jerusalem’s eight Old City gates. Today the two arches of the gate are sealed shut and stand in silent contrast to the hubbub of the Jaffa Gate on the west and the Damascus Gate on the north. Scholars are not sure when the Golden Gate was mortared in. It may have been blocked for security reasons during the various Arab-Crusader conflicts from the 11th to the 13th centuries. Or it may have been closed by the Ottoman Turks after Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem from 1539 to 1542. The most recent clearing and strengthening of the gate was done by the Turkish authorities in 1891.