No Road to Jerusalem

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.

  1. Amira Hass, “Clarifying the occupation lexicon,” Haaretz, 11 June 2003. []
  2. Michael Laitman, “Crossing the Machsom!“ []

Andrea M. and Madeleine C. are photographers documenting the school of bamboo that has just been inaugurated for Bedouin children of the Jahalin community. Read other articles by Andrea M. and Madeleine C., or visit Andrea M. and Madeleine C.'s website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on December 14th, 2009 at 11:21am #

    The denial of free access for Palestinians to their religious sites, both Muslim and Christian, is a contiuing manifestation of the brutal Israeli illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and a deliberate program of humiliation and dehumanization. It is in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention. These violations are deemed by international law as war crimes but remain ignored by the international community.

    The threats to Al-Aqsa Mosque go well beyond that. The continuing excavations under the Mosque are a genuine physical threat designed by the Zionist program, in defiance of international law and the world Muslim community.

  2. David said on December 14th, 2009 at 1:49pm #

    Please try to watch this recent 5 part address to the UN regarding Jerusalem by Harvard Professor Emeritus Walid Khalidi, a highly respected Middle East historian.

    part1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x8BM0ry1nM

    Part 2

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YD7SvFARhGI

    part 3

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SkUyFsnoX4

    part 4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt4bTXu1nFE

    part 5

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-dTvd0DYC0

  3. DavidG. said on December 14th, 2009 at 5:28pm #

    I wish that entrance to all religious sites, temples, churches, was forbidden. How else is the world going to rid itself of such silly, divisive superstitions?

    Religious belief induces derangement as well as the stifling of the intellect. It also guarantees endless war.

    Let’s give religion a miss!

    Please.

  4. russell olausen said on December 14th, 2009 at 10:47pm #

    This checkpoint “manchom’ (misspelled on purpose) is used by authority all over. Degrees, permits, drug testing, booze testing, passports, visa’s, political slush and the list is only limited by the creativity of the oppressor. This distress of the Palestinians is made the worse, by the expert ruthlessness of its application. Sometimes the only solution looks like forty days and forty nights rain with no boats around. One year ago I seen the anguish at three demonstrations against the unholy bombing of Gaza.

  5. sid wright said on December 16th, 2009 at 3:49am #

    DAVID G
    what are you going on about?

  6. Mary said on December 17th, 2009 at 11:08am #

    Ha’aretz report that the newly appointed EU Foreign Minister, Baroness Ashton, has spoken out against the Israeli occupation. A totally unexpected remark coming out of Brussels and little reported in the international press and not at all by the British press of course.

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1135787.html

    New EU foreign policy chief lambastes ‘Israeli occupation’
    By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

    Catherine Ashton on Tuesday leveled scathing criticism at the “Israeli occupation,” in her first speech as the European Union’s first high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

    The British stateswoman, who has also served as the Commissioner for Trade in the European Commission, said that in the EU’s view, “East Jerusalem is occupied territory, together with the West Bank.”

    Ashton demanded that Israel immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip, and reiterated that the union opposes the existence of the West Bank separation fence, as it opposes evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

    The stateswoman, whose full title is Baroness Ashton of Upholland, also only defined Israel’s partial freeze of West Bank settlement construction as a “first step,” as opposed to the warmer description of the move by EU foreign ministers, who last week took “positive note” of it.

    /…….