Palestinians pray at Al-Aqsa mosque of Jerusalem during Ramadan!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Palestinians, especially in Gaza Strip, had the rarest opportunity this year to offer Friday prayers in the Al-Aqsa mosque of Jerusalem during Ramadan which is considered by them as a holy act of Muslims.
Tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers streamed through Jerusalem’s Old City to one of Islam’s most revered sites last Friday as Israel eased blockade restrictions for the fasting month of Ramadan. Sources say at least 80,000 people from east Jerusalem, Israel and the West Bank had gone to Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, for Friday prayers, the first since this week’s start of Ramadan.
There were also 500 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who, the prime target for regular Israeli military attacks, were allowed rare permission this year by the Zionist regime in Tel Aviv to pray at the site, an Israeli official said. They made their way through the Old City’s narrow alleyways and plazas, decorated in areas with lights and lanterns. Sellers hawked prayer mats to passing pilgrims.
This year was expected to mark the first time since the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s that Israeli authorities permitted West Bank residents to take direct buses from Palestinian cities to the Al-Aqsa esplanade. But the direct buses were not in place this Friday, with Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of the military ministry unit which manages civilian affairs in the West Bank, blaming PLO , saying it was “due to the lack of preparation of the Palestinian Authority.” There was no immediate reaction from the Palestinian Authority.
Men under the age of 40 from the West Bank still needed permits to enter, and Palestinian officials say more must be done to allow access for all those who wished to pray to do so at Al-Aqsa, which Jews call the Temple Mount and consider the holiest site in their religion.
Women of all ages and men aged 40 and over from the Israeli-occupied West Bank were allowed into Jerusalem without permits, normally required to cross checkpoints and exit the territory. According to police, 48,000 Palestinians from the West Bank were among Friday’s visitors compared to a few thousand on an average Friday. Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Islamic Waqf which runs Al-Aqsa, told AFP he estimated 200,000 worshippers were in and around the compound. Police and border guards were deployed in force with riot gear and assault rifles. Roads were cordoned off around the Old City and barricades were set up near the entrances to the mosque.
The tragic scene is that white-robed men walked as twirling prayer beads while veiled local women begged to pilgrims for alms. Men and boys who had decorated their stores with gaudy flashing lights and blared Koranic recitations out of CD players sold sweets to pilgrims for the breaking of their fast after sundown. “This is the holiest place for Muslims in Palestine, and we’re excited as always to make the journey,” said 64-year-old Ahmed from the West Bank city of Ramallah, preferring to give only his first name. “It took a while to get through the checkpoint at Qalandiya between Ramallah and Jerusalem) but it was worth it.”
Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (SAS). As a result, Ramadan is also known as the month to recite the holy text even more eagerly and with renewed dedication to completing the task. Muslims are encouraged to complete the full recitation of the Holy Quran at least once during the month. With an average of 600 pages, this seemingly huge task can be achieved through the recitation of four pages before each of the five prayers daily throughout the entire month.
One cannot so confidently say Israel allowed this year the Palestinians to perform their Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque of Jerusalem during Ramadan as a part of albeit indirect its recognition of member status for Palestine state. Israel along with USA and Canada had voted against UN vote for Palestine state but Palestine won the vote to obtain defacto membership and is now on its way to become a full fledged UN member to enjoy all rights of being a sovereign nation after very many years of Israeli yoke based on expansionism and genocides.