second Friday of Ramadan in Jerusalem's Old City
At around half past ten we met at the light railway station and went on to the Old City. The mild weather makes it easier for the fasting Muslims. On all sides there is a very large presence of policemen and border police, fences are blocking some of the roads and traffic was routed into defined directions. We went with a large crowd toward Damascus Gate. The preparations for the opening of stores of food, toys and other products is underway, they will be opened after the prayers in the evening. We continued along the wall and entered the Old City through Herod's Gate. Signs of Jerusalem’s Municipality are greeting the people coming for the Ramadan.
The streets in the city are decorated with colorful lights, stalls are selling prayer items, bagels and bread are kept covered yet.
We moved with the crowd toward the entrance to Temple Mount. Near the entrance through Huta Gate, young men are standing, wearing ushers’ yellow vests. One of them stands on a chair at the street corner to Huta Gate and directs the crowds toward Al-Aqsa Mosque. On the street leading to the Temple Mount they installed a fence dividing it into two a young man is standing on a chair directing the people: men to the right, women to the left.
In the intersection there are several policemen and border police who do not interfere with what is happening. They rarely turn to this or that person and ask if he is a Muslim. As far as we saw they were satisfied with a positive answer. Non-Muslims cannot pass here. An older man arrives, he is probably responsible for the young people who turn to him with respect and kiss him. The border police men and the policemen know him as well and talk to him.
At the center of the intersection a large ball-shaped lamp is hanging surrounded by small balls. The large ball says, "Al-Aqsa" and on the balls are the names of cities in the West Bank: Nablus, Jenin, Hebron, Tul-Karem and more, and another ball labeled "1948 Lands".
We stood there for a while and when our friends Roni P. and Rachel H. arrived we continued together toward Lions Gate, where there is another entrance to the Temple Mount and then another entrance next to the lavatories and the purifying facility, where many people linger. At this hour there were still not too many people and the road was open.
As time went on the human mass grew and flowed toward the Temple Mount for the noon prayers. The silence was exemplary. Young women distributed leaflets with orientation maps and a list of restaurants, hotels and necessary phone numbers. We were delighted to meet A. from Al-Walaja village next to Lions Gate, we know him from Bethlehem Checkpoint. He said they gave a lot of permits for Ramadan. He himself is already at the age when he can enter without a permit.
A massive presence of security forces; some armed with rubber bullets rifles but they did not intervene and the festive atmosphere was undisturbed.
At around 12: 30 we made our way towards the exit through Herod's Gate. A lot of people; opened stalls, colorful lights. At about 12: 45 we heard the sound of the muezzin calling for prayer. Outside the walls it was fairly empty and alongside them the bagels sellers were waiting in the shade for the opening hour of the stalls.