Conservation work on the Lions Gate (aka St. Stephen’s Gate) has been finished, according to a press release issued by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The work of preserving and stabilizing the Lions Gate in the Old City’s eastern wall has been completed. This impressive gate is the last of the seven open gates of the city wall that were meticulously and professionally treated in recent years by the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority. This was done within the framework of the comprehensive project of conserving and rehabilitating the Old City walls, at the initiative of and with funding provided by the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Prime Minister’s Office.
At the start of the conservation work on the Lions Gate the project engineers discovered that the sentry’s post situated above the gate’s entrance, which was where the soldier guarding the tower once stood, was in danger of collapse. The sentry’s post was entirely dismantled, broken stones in it were replaced and it was returned and secured to its original place on the wall. The two lions carved on either side of the gate also underwent conservation and cleaning.
Within the framework of the conservation work carried out on the Old City walls in Jerusalem, which lasted five years, the walls were conserved which had been built and renovated in the mid-sixteenth century by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman I. Both sides of the wall were treated for a total distance of c. 3,800 m. Each and every one of the stones in the wall was photographed with a laser, documented and studied. Approximately 1,000 deteriorating stones were stabilized; c. 2,000 square meters at the top of the wall were stabilized and sealed to prevent the penetration of water; c. 350 merlons and embrasures were conserved and the stone work in them was completed; c. 2,000 square meters of stones in the wall were dismantled and rebuilt due to vegetation that had taken root in them and a total of c. 5,000 square meters of the walls’ surface were cleaned.

The press release includes quotes from several officials as well as 12 high-resolution photographs of the work on seven of the Old City gates.

St Stephen's Gate, mat00878
Lions Gate circa 1910 (photo source)

Where was the royal palace in Jerusalem during the time of the monarchy? Most scholars have assumed that it was located to the south of Solomon’s temple, between the ancient city and the summit of Mount Moriah. In a 2009 article, David Ussishkin suggests that the palace was built to the north of the temple for the following reasons:

1. It is more logical that the king would desire to isolate his royal compound from the population so that everyone traveling from the city to the temple would not pass by it.

2. In a number of ancient cities, the palace was built at the edge of the acropolis. This was true at the Hittite capital of Hattusha, the Late Bronze cities of Ugarit and Megiddo, as well as a nymber of Assyrian cities including Calah, Nineveh, and Dur-Sharrukin.

Ussishkin notes some difficulties with his hypothesis:

1. Some biblical texts indicate that the palace was south of the temple (Neh 3:25-29; 12:37).

2. The royal acropolis was located in the center of some cities, including Samaria and Zincirli-Sam’al.

I would also question the premise that Solomon would desire to be isolated from the people. God’s intention for Israel’s king was that he would represent the nation to God and vice versa (Deut 17:14-20; 1 Kgs 3:7-10; Ps 72:1-4). The first story of Solomon’s kingship is his adjudication of the case of the dead infant (1 Kgs 3:16-29). The isolation that may have been desired by other kings of the world may not have been appropriate for the king in Jerusalem.

Absent archaeological investigation of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, it is impossible to confirm the location of the home of Judah’s kings.

Ussishkin’s proposal is a small portion of his article “The Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the First Temple Period: An Archaeologist’s View,” found on pages 473-83 of Exploring the Longue Durée: Essays in Honor of Lawrence E. Stager, ed. J. David Schloen. This thick book is loaded with many articles of interest to students of biblical archaeology.

Temple Mount aerial from north, tb010703228

The Temple Mount from the north. Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 3.