In an attempt to counter Israel’s policy of depriving them of their right to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestinians banned from doing so by the occupation authorities are resorting to standing at the nearest access points to the Noble Sanctuary gates, Quds Press has revealed. The Israelis want to keep Palestinian visitors away from the Sanctuary as part of their Judaisation plan for the occupied city of Jerusalem.
Those prevented from having access to Al-Aqsa include not only Palestinians from across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also natives of Jerusalem itself. Men and women alike are affected.
Hanadi Halawani — Umm Mahmood — recalled to Quds Press the atmosphere in Al-Aqsa Mosque during the month of Ramadan in previous years with great pain and sorrow. “This year,” she explained, “the occupation has spoiled the most important ritual of the holy month of Ramadan, which is spending time with my family and friends in Al-Aqsa Mosque.” She lives in Wadi Al-Joz neighbourhood, which is the nearest point to the mosque after the Old City. “Painfully, I have to watch buses which pass in front of my house every day loaded with hundreds of worshippers coming to Al-Aqsa, while I am deprived of that opportunity because of an order by the Israeli occupation.”
Umm Mahmood used to accompany her family to the mosque in Ramadan every year to break the fast with a meal which she prepared at home. She would then pray with her companions who stay in Al-Aqsa. However, this year, she is being deprived of her right to enter the mosque and even the Old City for three months by an Israeli police order received last Monday. The order was handed to her at the Qashla Police Station after an interrogation that lasted for hours and was full of threats and intimidation.
This did not deter her, though, and on the first night of Ramadan she went to the nearest point possible to Al-Aqsa Mosque and performed her Tarawih prayers there. These are the special prayers said at night only during Ramadan. Umm Mahmood identified the specific point using the map attached by the police to the banning order. She has to take a roundabout route in order not to violate the order and face further sanctions.
“I prayed the sunset, night and Tarawih prayers with my children,” Umm Mahmood pointed out. “Some of them entered Al-Aqsa with their father, and some stayed with me. I will not abandon my stay at the nearest point of the mosque, and occupation orders will never deprive us of our rights.”
When asked why she thinks the Israel authorities have issued the banning order, the Jerusalemite mentor said that they are trying to silence the voices of those who stay in Al-Aqsa. “The banning orders,” she added, “are issued under false pretences.”