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The Gate of Peace

Jerusalem, Israel, 1967

The gate building was designed immediately after the six day war in 1967 as a protest against the proposal of David Ben-Gurion to demolish the city walls of the Old Jerusalem. He believed it necessary for the integration of the Jewish and Arab sectors of the city. In the excitement of those days there was a real danger that such a primitive idea would find its promptu and the demolition of the houses facing the Wailing Wall is one of the better known examples.

In this situation I decided to oppose Ben-Gurion's idea not only on it's own terms but also to suggest a construction alternative which envisaged joining the two parts of Jerusalem without senseless destruction. I knew that the Old City must remain untouched , it's landscape being the most integral part. The proposal I made consisted of a hollow structure – a large gate creating an entrance and passageway, but not obstructing the existing architecture: Such a Gate building, if constructed at the meeting point of the two parts of Jerusalem, might serve as a new focus within the city; the symbolic image of its future unity.

The ´´Gate of Peace´´ had never any true chances of realization as it contradicted the official building policy and the megalomaniac plans for ´´Greater Jerusalem´´ expanding from Ram-Allah to Bethlehem.

Jerusalem is a small city which will always radiate greater significance than its size may ever suggest. Although without natural resources and always short of water it played one of the most important roles any city has in human history. By surrounding Jerusalem with massive new developments, the fragile balance between the natural and the man-made landscape would vanish forever. The Old City and the surrounding hills create a unique architectural space which must reject such intrusion over its identity. Only very few things can be done in Jerusalem, and at times I was hesitant as to the validity of my own proposal. However, in due course, I came to the conclusion that the chosen strategic point mid-way between the two parts of Jerusalem lacked visual meaning and remained a no man's land, as it had been for nearly twenty years. Its ideal location in the geographical centre of the city, at the intersection of the vital approaches and incoming roads from Tel-Aviv, Ram-Allah, Jerico, and Bethlehem, constitute a natural potential for a future heart of the city.

Unlike in Greek cities where agora was the focal point of the city, or Egypt, where the temple or the palace of the King fulfilled this function, in Jerusalem it was the city gate which drew together inhabitants with many of their activities. This long tradition is evident even today whether one enters through Jaffa, Damascus, or Herod's Gates.

To understand and appreciate the new structure, one has to imagine its monumental interior infiltrated by human movement and activities, comfortably protected from the intense light and heat outside. Among the many beautiful gates leading to Jerusalem there is one which is still missing – the Gate of Peace.

Zvi Hecker Architect, Berlin