Mordecai Ardon sought to create a new Israeli artistic language that was both figurative-realistic and abstract-symbolic. In At the Gates of Jerusalem he used mystical imagery and other concepts from Jewish tradition to convey his feelings about the cosmic significance of Israel's return to the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.
In the left-hand panel, heavenly Jerusalem is represented by motifs drawn from the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, composed of God's attributes and the circle indicating completeness. Earthly Jerusalem appears in the right-hand panel, represented by a glowing rock denoting the Foundation Stone. According to legend, the earth took shape around this stone, said to lie under the site where the Temple and later the Dome of the Rock were built. The bright dots are sparks of God's glory, scattered on the ground awaiting redemption. The central panel shows ladders representing all religious faith. Their broken rungs have been repaired with thin ropes, symbolizing the link between the material and the spiritual, between the earthly and the heavenly.
Ardon was not a religious man, but his messianic message expresses deep emotion as it joins a moment in Israel's modern history to the ancient sources of Judaism.