February 2, 2023

During Ramadan, Palestinians Barred From Aqsa Turn to Smugglers

7 min read

JERUSALEM – Early on a recent morning, only moonlight was passing through the darkness when a smuggler, Hassam Musk, was led up a flight of stairs against Israel’s concrete separation barrier.

Mr Musk, a 27-year-old dentist, said he quickly climbed the stairs but was still 26 feet short of the wall. He grabbed the edge where the razor wire had been cut and lifted himself up, taking short breaks to scan the area. No sign of a soldier.

He grabbed the rope hanging from the other side, leaned his foot against the wall and lowered himself.

About an hour later, Mr. Musk said, he went to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem just in time for the Fajr prayers. Legally barred from entering Jerusalem from his home in the West Bank, he was one of many Palestinians who resorted to other means to visit one of Islam’s holiest sites during the holy month of Ramadan. Taken

Sitting in the shade of a tree in the Al-Aqsa compound this afternoon, Mr Musk said, “I have come out of the belief in praying and standing in solidarity.” Is.”

The Israeli government, which normally prevents West Bank residents from entering Jerusalem without permission, has generally eased restrictions to allow hundreds of thousands of people to visit Al-Aqsa during Ramadan. Children up to 12 years of age, women and men 50 years of age and older are allowed to attend Friday prayers there without permission. Men between the ages of 40 and 50 can enter with the current permit.

But most young people with criminal records are sent back to government crossing points or denied entry permits. While Palestinians say such sanctions are discriminatory, Israeli officials are still refraining from doing so. A series of Palestinian attacks At least 14 people have been killed since the start of Ramadan, insisting they are taking the necessary precautions.

Many Palestinians who are barred from entering – the hundreds who cross daily – say that instead, they climb the controversial separation barrier, walking through holes where the barrier is a metal fence, or a hill. Walk in areas where there is a gap in the barrier. Others hire a doctor to obtain a medical permit to enter Jerusalem, or bribe soldiers or Jewish settlers to obtain them through checkpoints.

Others live stream their travels to encourage Palestinians to follow in their footsteps.

While interviewers said in violation of the rules that they had come to Al-Aqsa to offer prayers or pay homage to the historic site, Israeli officials said the unregistered entries pose a potential security threat.

Over the past two weeks, hundreds of Palestinians, mostly young people, have been arrested in connection with the mosque riots. A police spokesman said “a handful” of those arrested had entered Israel illegally.

Over the past two years, corona virus epidemics, along with a 440-mile hurdle, have made security more affordable and fencing has multiplied.

Recent Palestinian attacks have focused the government’s attention on security vulnerabilities. Israeli authorities have identified one of the attackers, a gunman who killed five people on the outskirts of Tel Aviv last month, a West Bank resident who had entered Israel illegally.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, speaking at a cabinet meeting this month about the impasse, acknowledged that “over the years it has been full of holes.”

Since then, the Israeli army has stepped up security along the fence, repaired violations, dug trenches to prevent vehicles from passing, and deployed more troops. And Israel’s security cabinet approved more than مل 100 million to build another 25-mile barrier.

The struggle of some Palestinians to reach Al-Aqsa is part of a wider struggle for control of the mosque grounds – known to Jews as Temple Mount, the site of an ancient temple and the holiest site of Judaism. – and the ancient heart of Jerusalem, which is famous. As the old city.

Israel occupied the old city from Jordan in 1967, along with the rest of East Jerusalem. Israel has since made the area part of its capital, but much of the world, including the UN Security Council, considers it an occupied territory.

Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state. Some people fear that the mosque compound is below. threat An increasing number of Jewish worshipers were allowed to enter and pray on the mountain, and a group of right-wing activists trying to rebuild the Jewish temple there.

I was tense. جھڑپیں During the last two weeks between the Palestinians and the Israeli paramilitary police. At times, police forced Palestinians from parts of the site or locked them inside mosques to gain access to tourists and Jewish worshipers.

Last Friday, Israeli authorities barred a convoy of Palestinians, especially men, from the West Bank from attending Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli officials did not answer questions about how many Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza had applied to go to the mosque this Ramadan, nor how many had been rejected.

For young people, Aqsa in particular seems out of reach. Ibrahim, a 24-year-old university student from Bethlehem, compared the Israeli permit to a golden ticket: “It’s like Willie Wonka, very few people get it.”

Ibrahim, who did not want to be named, enters Jerusalem legally with medical permission, then visits Al-Aqsa. For him, travel is not about religion. It is about visiting a key site for Palestinian identity and quietly resisting Israeli occupation.

“You deployed police and security guards, but I am able to enter anyway,” he said. “It’s about emphasizing our existence.”

Mr Musk applied for a permit in 2015, when he was in college, and was rejected. He said he was only told that his refusal was “for security reasons”.

The following week he went in with a smuggler and has not bothered to apply for another permit since.

He said that it is easier for us to visit Mecca than to visit Al-Aqsa. “If I want to go to Mecca, I apply for a visa and leave. But if I want to come to Al-Aqsa, I have to take a risk and go over the wall and I can be shot dead.”

One day this month, Mr. Musk, along with some friends, tried to enter Israel through a jungle area and was captured by Israeli soldiers. He said the soldiers tied his hands behind his back and told him to lie on the ground for six hours before marching back to the West Bank and being released.

The next day he paid a smuggler 15 15 to get him out of the way.

As Musa Nasser recently waited his turn to measure the wall, dozens of men who had passed before him were caught on the other side. When the soldiers took them away, Mr. Nasir and others pushed for him.

But crossing the wall is not the only obstacle.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that falling from the wall on Wednesday broke the bones of several Palestinians.

At checkpoints in the Old City of East Jerusalem and at many entrances to the mosque compound, Israeli police routinely detain people, especially young people, and demand to see their identities. Those who do not do the proper paperwork can be arrested.

Mr Nasser’s strategy is to try to blend in.

“There are things that can tell the police whether you are from the West Bank or not,” said Mr Nasir, a 25-year-old bank employee. “They can tell by the look on your face if there is fear. They can tell by the lines on your forehead. And they know by your shoes.”

“Young people in the West Bank like jeans, button-up shirts and don’t wear many brand names,” he said. This style is dominated by sports, running shoes, and brand name carnocopia in Jerusalem.

“The style of dress plays a big role in getting caught,” he said. “It doesn’t protect 100%, but it does help a lot.”

Jamal Karam, 53, said he was convicted 13 years ago of harboring a wanted man and was sentenced to two years in prison. He denies the allegations.

He has since been unable to obtain a permit to enter Jerusalem, and is returned whenever he goes to a checkpoint. So he secretly resorted to it.

“Occupancy needs to give people a chance to live their lives so that people don’t react,” said Mr Karame, an electrician from Hebron. “It’s bad enough that we’re already occupied, but you’re also preventing me from praying in Al-Aqsa.”

As he walks around the compound, his fingers move swiftly in a string of white prayer beads. On each rosary is the silver engraving of the Prophet’s Mosque in the Ka’bah or Medina. He remembered that when he was a child his father used to bring him to play in the mosque premises. At that time the journey took less than an hour and there was no check post.

She wants to be able to bring her six children here just as easily.

He said that if we do not offer prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque then who will?

Myra Novak And Gabby Sobelman Cooperation reporting.

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