Jerusalem & Bethlehem, July 2017

“Today is a special day” announced Asala Rajmi, a fifteen year old Palestinian girl living in Jerusalem “Ya Aqsa Manta Waheed- they sing all the time- Free Palestine, Free Al-Aqsa Mosque”.

Throughout the early morning and into the afternoon of July 27th, the streets of Jerusalem were filled with Palestinian men, women and children celebrating the overturn of all security surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque within Temple Mount.

The murder of two Israeli Police officers outside Lions Gate on Friday July 14th reignited uproar across Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli police initially closed Temple Mount then added metal detectors and extra security surrounding the compound, leading to wide spread protests and violence as Palestinians accused Israeli Police of taking away their holy site which should be free for all. Each day after after the placement of added security, Palestinians prayed and protested on the streets outside Temple Mount and in front of the Israeli-West Bank barrier in Bethlehem, refusing to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque until the security was completely removed.

Munther Amira, a born resident of the Aida Refugee Camp in the West Bank, asserted “The Israeli government insists to humiliate Palestinians”. He and other residents of the Aida Camp spent the day building home-made metal detectors to take to the Israeli-West Bank barrier at evening prayer to protest with, stating “We did these magnetic gates as a symbolic thing to tell the Israeli occupation it will not pass- we will not remain silent. By building the gates, by praying there, by doing demonstrations- we will do whatever we can to stop them from doing these things in Jerusalem”.

For almost two solid weeks, Palestinians took to the streets during Muslim prayers to show their resilience. Although members of the community like Munther consider themselves “part of the non violent movement in Palestine”, others provoked tension throwing rocks at Israeli forces. On Friday 21st July, a day of rage was called upon Jerusalem by Muslim Elders seeing both Israelis and Palestinians killed and scores of Palestinians injured during clashes with Israeli forces. “We finished our prayers and they started tear gas, bombs, even rubber bullets. Women were there, old men, children were there” expressed Munther.

Despite tireless efforts to reclaim their mosque, on July 27th after a day full of street celebrations at the removal of added Israeli security, some took the opportunity to enforce more violence towards the Israelis. Chaos ensued as crowds pushed through one of the gates into the Old City, and activists flew the Palestinian Flag inside Al-Aqsa Mosque while others threw rocks over the Temple Mount compound and down onto Jewish people praying at the Western Wall.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, within the compound of Temple Mount, is significant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to the fear Palestinians hold of Israel asserting control over the holy site. It is considered the third holiest site in Islam and also the most sacred site for Jews, with Jews permitted to visit the compound but prohibited from praying to avoid heightening tensions.

“The Mosque is our Mosque” insists Munther, a notion held by many Palestinians across Jerusalem and the West Bank “Do not imagine that if the Israelis will start throwing tear gas, shooting, the people will throw flowers towards the soldiers”.

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