Damascus Gate - first Friday of Ramadan
Damascus Gate, the Old City of Jerusalem
Tens/hundreds of thousands in an endless stream enter through Damascus Gate, apparently freely
The area is filled with police and Border Police forces
A fascinating encounter with a Palestinian Jerusalemite, photographer of Sky News in Arabic
10:00 a.m. We reached a spot from which the entry way through Damascus Gate could be observed. At this stage I could still see groups of soldiers standing on the laws surrounding the Old City wall and receiving instructions for conduct during the prayers and afterwards. They disappear and the whole area is flooded with police and Border Police. Throughout our stay (until 1 p.m.) the huge crowd is quiet and perfectly orderly. Although it was said that only men above 40 would be admitted freely, there were many younger men. They may have received permits. They may have been Jerusalem residents, or perhaps control was not that strict…
Palestinians stream down the steps to the track and to Damascus Gate: men, women with Hijabs head covers, some totally covered in black except for peering eyes, and many children. As time passed, the number of people arriving grows and so does the crowding at the gate. J. whom we met and who informed us of many things, said that on Ramadan Fridays between 300,000 and 400,000 people come to pray at the holy sites (Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount). He declares himself to be secular but fasts during Ramadan… -Why? –For the spirituality of the fast.
After 12, the Old City bakeries spew boys and young men with huge trays of pastry on their heads, heading for shops along the street meant for the numerous tourists who come to view this ‘exotic’ sight, and perhaps for Palestinians who are preparing their stock for the Iftar meal (served to break the fast after dark).
Around 11, two Palestinians arrived carrying a tripod and professional cameras – a photographer and a reporter of Sky News in Arabic. They are both Jerusalemites, fluent Hebrew speakers. J., wearing jeans, sneakers and a yellow t-shirt, looking like a typical Israeli, told us about himself and his life, residing in a home in one of the better parts of Jerusalem where he was born and raised, and also about photography that has turned into a hobby and a profession for him, quite by chance. He showed us an amazing collection of photographs of Jerusalem sites from various historical periods. Hopefully he will be true to his word and send us some…
At a certain point the crowd halted and the Palestinian we met explained that the tracks winding from different directions through the narrow alleys leading to Al Aqsa are filled, and traffic must be stopped for a while. Near 1 p.m. we left, not waiting for the crowd to come out after prayers.