The Jaffa Gate is so named because it is the portal for Jaffa Road, the precursor to the modern highway to the ancient port of Jaffa and the Mediterranean coastal plain.
Inside the Jaffa Gate is a small square separating the Christian and Armenian Quarters. The Christian Quarter is to the north, on the left, and the Armenian Quarter is to the South, on the right. The Gate's location is determined by the city's topography, located along the valley followed by Jaffa Road into the old city, between the northern hill of the Acra and the southern of Mount Zion. The road and the valley it follows continue eastward and down into the Tyropoeon Valley, bisecting the northern and southern halves of the city, with the Christian and Muslim Quarters to the north, and Armenian and Jewish Quarters to the south. One of the entrances to the Arab marketplace is just inside the Jaffa Gate.
Running along the high city walls, south of the Jaffa Gate is the Citadel of Jerusalem, usually called the "Tower of David," a Jerusalem landmark that dates back to antiquity. The current tower was built during the reign of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. It is called the Tower of David because the foundations of the tower go back to King David's times with the building of the first tower on the site, as described in the Bible.
Legend has it that every conqueror of Jerusalem will enter through the Jaffa Gate. Thus when German Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Jerusalem in 1898, Ottoman authorities breached the city wall right next to the gate so that he could enter believing he was going through the Jaffa Gate. In 1908, a clock tower was built near the gate to serve the developing business district in the area. The tower lasted only a decade: it was knocked down by the British when they occupied Jerusalem.
In 1917, British general Edmund Allenby entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, giving a speech at the nearby Tower of David. Allenby entered the city on foot in a show of respect for the city and a desire to avoid comparison with the Kaiser's entry in 1898. The British demolished other buildings adjoining the city wall in 1944 in an attempt to preserve Jerusalem's historic vistas.
During Israel's War of Independence, Israeli forces fought hard to connect the Jewish Quarter of the Old City with Israeli-held western Jerusalem by controlling the Jaffa Gate. On the evening of May 18, 1948, the Haganah launched a frontal assault on the gate but were beaten back with heavy losses. With a Jordanian victory in 1948, Israeli forces were not able to gain control of the gate until the Six Day War in 1967.
As the westernmost of the gates, it is heavily used by pedestrians and vehicles, and the plaza in front of the gate has been expanded to connect with new Mamilla shopping district outside the Jaffa Gate.