The most recent provocations by Israel centered on the Al Aqsa Mosque highlight a certain cynicism: by using this highly sensitive issue, Israel indeed angers the worshipers, depriving them from their fundamental right of freedom of religion (protected by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). The usual strategy of Israel is based on a tactic of provocation-reaction that Israel uses to justify the repression, and eventually the takeover of a disputed place. In the case of Al Aqsa, the reaction was “guaranteed,” since the special attachment of the Palestinian Muslims to the mosque has been demonstrated many times over the years.
Looking at the dense crowd of people gathering each Friday of Ramadan at the check points to reach the Dome of the Rock, one would easily understand how deep is the attachment of the Palestinian Muslims for the holy place. This year, the fast was particularly challenging as it took place in summertime. Therefore, the attempt to reach Al Aqsa — despite hours of waiting under the sun and the risk of being denied — could be named an act of an heroism (the conditions imposed by the IDF allowed only men over 50 and women over 45 to pass). A pre-checkpoint was added to the usual one to “filter” the people, whereas a consequent number of “candidates” would attempt to pass — despite their age being deemed as too young for the IDF — motivated by hope and determination. According to the UN agency OCHA, Israel has prohibited more than 40 percent of the West Bank population, from entering occupied East Jerusalem for Friday prayers.
The limited access to their capital causes frustration and humiliation among the Palestinians of the West Bank who cluster at the check points, unique points of passage to reach Jerusalem. The checkpoint is one of the most powerful tools of the occupation. Interestingly, the Hebrew term for checkpoint used by all Israelis, machsom, means barrier, obstacle. On the semantic level, it reveals the real nature of this concept: rather than a point of passage made for security purpose, the machsom is a barrier, made to stop people, “to harass and humiliate.”1 In kabbalistic vocabulary, the machsom is a barrier “that stands between this world and the spiritual world.”2 … quite an ironic coincidence, in the context of people trying to go to pray…
The anguish, humiliation, and frustration of the worshipers was documented by photographers Magda C. and Andrea M. The exhibition is currently visible at the Alternative Information Center in Beit Sahour.
- Amira Hass, “Clarifying the occupation lexicon,” Haaretz, 11 June 2003. [↩]
- Michael Laitman, “Crossing the Machsom!“ [↩]