Shushan Gate

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Shushan Gate (Shaar Šušān) was the eastern gate of the Jewish Temple. It was named after the ancient Persian city of Susa. The gate most probably was given this name by builders who had returned from exile in Babylon and for whom the Palace of Shushan lived on in their memories. Historically, on the Day of the Atonement, the scapegoat was taken out through the Shushan Gate and sent off over the Mount of Olives into the wilderness, symbolically carrying the sins of the people with it (Lev 16:6-10).


The exact location of the Shushan Gate is unknown, however it was either located directly beneath the Gate of Mercy or somewhere near it to the south in the eastern wall. According to Mishna, "There were five gates leading to the Temple Mount... The eastern gate has an image of Shushan the Capital, it was where the priest who burned the Red Heifer, the Heifer, and all of those who participated in the process would exit to go to the Mount of Olives." [Midot 1:3].

70 years after the Babylonian sack of Jerusalem, and Jewish exile in Babylon, King Darius son of Queen Esther and King Achashverosh, granted his Jewish subjects permission to return to Zion and rebuild their Temple.

According to Mishna, the the returning Jews made an engraving of Shushan, the capital of the Persian Empire, above the newly built Eastern Gateway of the Temple Mount. The engraving commemorated Purim and reminded the Jewish People from whence they came and to remain loyal to their Persian benefactors. Because Persia was east of the Holy Land, the Eastern Temple Gateway was chosen as the site for this memorial engraving.

Identification with the Golden Gate

circa 10 BCE

The Golden Gate, also known as the Bab az-Zahabi is Arabic, is the only gate in the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. Today, it is the only visible structure from outside the eastern wall. Christians call it the Golden Gate, but the Jews and Moslems refer to it as Shaar Harachamim and Bab al-Rahamah, both literally meaning the Gate of Mercy.

The eastern facade of the modern Golden Gate, is composed of two blocked-up gateways adorned with intricately carved relief arches. These architectural elements are similar to the Double Hulda Gates. This implies that the gate has been rebuilt in the Umayyad period, on the foundations of an earlier gate, possibly the Shushan Gate.

Two gate posts were discovered below the modern structure, belonging to a gate that dates from the First Temple period and is most likely the Shushan Gate, mentioned in Mishnah Middot 1.3 as the only gate in the Eastern Wall.


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