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Al-Aqsa under threat as Israeli elections loom

15 10 6

When Muslims first prayed, they faced Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem rather than Mecca. When Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him) ascended to heaven, he did so from Al-Aqsa, not Mecca. Muslims believe the rock from which he ascended (Mi’raj) is the same rock in the basement of the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al-Aqsa compound. Muslims refer to the compound as the Holy Sanctuary and revere it as the third holiest mosque in Islam.

Those who can still make a special effort to visit Jerusalem, to sit and pray in Al-Aqsa’s magical and quiet surroundings. They enjoy the Athan, the call to prayer which rings through the skies of Jerusalem five times a day, as it has for centuries. Muslim visitors enjoy the old city of Jerusalem, eat hummus, falafel and kunafa and take in centuries of history. They also visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a sacred site to Christians the world over. They also look from a distance at the Buraq Wall (the Western Wall), at which Jews pray and insert notes of prayer and wishes.

What they also experience is the full force of the military occupation that the whole city endures. Visitors quickly become aware of the presence of an occupying army, police and illegal settlers. They experience the Separation Wall – which separates Palestinian communities – and the checkpoints at which Palestinians are humiliated and from which many turned away unless they have permits from the occupier to cross into their capital city.

The gates of Al-Aqsa are manned by Israeli security forces that decide who enters and who does not. On one of my visits, one of the Israeli guards asked me to prove that I was a Muslim by reading verses from the Qur’an. I refused and pointed him to my grandfather’s name, Mohammed. No one but a Palestinian can explain the pain of having to justify to a tool of the illegal occupier their right to freely enter one of their holy sites.

READ: Friday Prayer at Al-Aqsa

Ask a Palestinian from Jerusalem about the daily grind of the occupation and........

© Middle East Monitor