Old City of Jerusalem – Last Ramadan Friday
Old City of Jerusalem – Last Ramadan Friday – Noon Prayer
Nothing but the massive ‘security’ forces wandering up and down nearly every street in the Muslim Quarter around noon today prepared us for what happened after the evening prayer. We still don’t understand how the riots began and what was the Israeli police’s excuse to violently enter the Temple Mount (holiest Muslim mosques) itself, and the unthinkable act of throwing a smoke grenade into a mosque. Was there a plan operated in order to bring the situation to its extreme?
Damascus Gate 12:30 and a round of gates in the Old City
Busy traffic of people entering for prayer – they arrive in designated buses straight from the checkpoints and on foot from all over the city. Salah A-Din Street and all the nearby streets are blocked to vehicular traffic. According to the chaotic social media regarding roads blocked throughout Jerusalem and the expected riots on the news media, we anticipated chaos, pressure and crowding, but it was calm. More women and children, even a festively-dressed girl who wished to have her picture taken (see photos).
Many policemen, special police units and Border Police everywhere, armed to the teeth. Near the gates of Temple Mount they inspect so that only Muslims may pass, and rightly so.
We arrived at Lions Gate (St. Stephen's Gate) and walked closer to the gate leading to Temple Mount. The prayer resounded in the background, and Claire who speaks perfect Arabic confirms that the text (as well as the tone) are no sign of incitement (given to strict interpretation of course): “This is our place, our land, and the heart opens up to Allah on this day here”. (see short video). Very moving. Outside the gate is heavy presence of armed forces. Luckily our mood improves in the colorful market on the way to the buses parked opposite the Rockefeller Museum that would drive people back to Qalandiya Checkpoint (see photos). Here they could shop and mix. And buy presents. Around the city walls there are hardly any people.
When we get back to the Damascus Gate, prayer was over and people were exiting. Vendors were placing their wares for sale until nightfall, and two carts of Jerusalem beigels block the steps instead of the fences that were placed and then removed by the police after the protests and rioting. So simple – beigel carts instead of barriers…