Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday Prayer in Al Aqsa

Thursday afternoon the group broke up to go to our new home bases. Two other students and myself are in Bethlehem, which is not too far from Jerusalem. I decided to take advantage of the proximity and use my first day off since I've started the program to go to Jerusalem and attend Friday prayer at Al Aqsa mosque, which is the third holiest place in the Islamic faith.

To get out of Bethlehem a checkpoint is passed, so the entire bus gets off, shows the IDF solider their IDs and gets back on the bus. Upon arriving to the Old City the main road that leads to Jaffa gate, the gate I needed to enter through, was closed. I got off to find a find the open area closed and barracked with one small entrance, where IDs had to be shown to get into the Old City. On any other day the area is open and people come and go as they please. Once I got through, I asked someone if this was normal and was told that the Israel government does this pretty regularly because of Friday prayer.

As I navigated through to get to the Temple Mount my ID was checked two more times and I found myself crying out of anger. I was lucky because I have a US passport and the soldiers can only hassle me so much, but others who are going to perform a RELIGIOUS duty are not as fortunate. Once I got to the Temple Mount I felt a huge sigh of relief because I knew I could walk around freely. The spiritually of the location was in the air, but so was the frustration that those around me feel and face on a daily basis.
More than anything else I have experienced thus far, the experience defined occupation so much more clearly for me.

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