The Ottoman period in Jerusalem was a time of revival and rebuilding, led by the first ruler of the city- Suleiman the Magnificent. Suleiman built the current Old City walls, and led to freedom of worship for Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The Ottoman period was one of Jerusalem's golden ages, when the city was led to magnificent achievements, and many of the historic sites which it is now famous for were constructed or rebuilt. The period began in 1517, when the Ottoman Empire conquered Jerusalem from the Friars who had ruled there before.
Suleiman the Magnificent constructed the walls of the city, now known as the Old City walls. The walled city had been destroyed in past wars, and rebuilding was excelled during the period of the Ottomans, who were peaceful rulers and allowed for religious freedom in the city. This period was known as an age of coexistence, when many mosques, churches and synagogues were constructed. These included the famed Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter, which was built by Judah HaHasid in 1700 and survived until 1948. This Jerusalem landmark was recently rebuilt, and now continues to stand in the center of the Jewish quarter.
Following 300 years as an un-walled city, Suleiman decided to reconstruct the Old City walls. It was built in accordance with the line of the previous walls of the city, but the gates were designed and constructed according to Suleiman's orders. These gates continue to serve the Old City to this day, and they are used for entering the Old City by millions of visitor each year. These gates lead to Jerusalem's historic and religious sites, like the Temple Mount, Western Wall, Al Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Many researchers and archeologists have wondered as to Suleiman the Magnificent's motivation towards investing in Jerusalem. Most agree that he was moved by religious reasons, and his yearning to see the Holy City revived and protected from external threats. Others claim that he intended on turning the city into an economic stronghold, attracting additional citizens with the promise of security. In addition, several researchers believe that this investment was geared towards the Muslim population, intended to increase his popularity among Islamic residents.
The Ottoman wall is 4.5 KM long, surrounding an area of 1 square kilometer. This area, known today as the Old City, comprised the entire city of Jerusalem of the time. 2.5 meters thick and 10 meters high, it was designed to secure the city and provide safety to its residents, while no expense was spared on the external trappings and beautiful design of the walls and the gates.
With the decline of Ottoman Empire following the First World War, the city of Jerusalem was handed over to the British Mandate, which invested much effort in the development of the New City, extending beyond the walls.
Currently, the old and new areas combine to make modern day Jerusalem, with Suleiman's walls standing at the heart of the city and surrounding its most prized landmarks.