through this gate, the israeli paratroopers broke into the old city during the six-day war (another force, from the jerusalem brigade, breached the dung gate at the same time), continuing from there to temple mount.
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this is the only open gate in the eastern wall, and one of the original gates of the sixteenth-century wall encompassing the old city. it was known by many name in the past: gate of the tribes, bad sitt maryam (lady mary's gate) by the arabs, gate of jehoshaphat, and st. stephen's gate (by the eastern church).
beinning in the mid-nineteenth century the jews called it the lions' gate after the two pairs of flanking carved lions (actually leopards) on its facade- the symbol of the mamluk sultan baybars, who conquered israel in 1260. some authorities are of the opinion that these stone leopards were taken from one of the structures built by baybars, and are in secondary use on the facade.
however, a jerusalem legend provides another explanation for the presence of the lions/leopards. before jerusalem was encompassed by a wall, the ottoman sultan suleiman the magnificent had a recurring dream in which he saw tremendously powerful lions about to tear him apart as punishment for not properly protecting the holy city. the sultan understood that this was a sign from heaven, where upon he ordered the erection of the wall that encircles the old city to the present day. he also decreed that images of the lions he had seen in his dream were to be placed in the facade of the eastern gate.
* courtesy of yad ben zvi
''jerusalem, a walk through time''