By Kristin Szremski
I miss the Adhan.
I miss hearing the call to prayer ring out above the buzz of everyday life. I miss hearing the cacophony of mixed voices swirl and blend together from the numerous mosques dotting the city’s neighborhoods or the countryside hilltops.
Everyday that I was in the Holy Land, I would strain to hear it. Each time, it filled me with certain joy and pleasure. In the evenings, I would open my hotel room windows, hanging on every sweet word that would be called out from the minarets.
Added to this tapestry was the recitation of Qur’an I heard so often while walking down the streets – both in the historic sections of Jerusalem and the newer shopping district of Ramallah, while walking through the checkpoint in Bethlehem and picking olives in The Galilee.
Despite the horrors of the occupation evident in the Apartheid Wall, checkpoints and arrogant Israeli soldiers taking pleasure in trying to humiliate Palestinians – and me as a Muslim – life is warmly embraced with the awareness and feeling of Allah, swt. A sense of hope and purity prevails and it’s evident in the generosity, compassion and warmth found in the Palestinian people, despite the pain of living under occupation that you can see in their eyes.
You can feel the holiness with which Allah swt has imbued Palestine. It is palpable. I felt it in the Al Aqsa compound, in the presence of the ‘furthest mosque’ and the place where our Prophet (pbuh) lead all the prophets in prayer. And I felt it the two times I pressed my face into the holy soil when I was able to pray outside under olive and cypress trees.
So, as I sat on the tarmac in Tel Aviv, waiting to take off and come back home to my life in Illinois – despite eagerly anticipating being reunited with my daughter – I cried. It hurt knowing that I would be coming back to a life that, superficially in society, anyway, is devoid of any recognition of God.
I’m still sad. I’m sad at the state of Al Quds and the Muslim world’s reaction to the very real threats Zionism presents to the Islamic nature of that holy city and our sacred mosques. Each and every day, Israel continues its plans to ‘Judaize’ the city by erasing all evidence of the Christian and Muslim connection to it and replacing it with revised Jewish history. Every day, more and more of this holy city is lost to creeping illegal Israeli settlements, which are not just apartment buildings but entire municipal centers that cater only to Jews. These neighborhoods are forcing the indigenous Palestinian population outside city limits, where they lose their Jerusalem residency and are forever forbidden from re-entering.
Since 1967, when – against international law – Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, it has been digging tunnels under the Al Aqsa compound, weakening its foundation. Once it falls, heralding the destruction of what Allah swt calls in the Qur’an the ‘furthest mosque’, the ultra-Orthodox will build their Third Temple there. That’s their stated goal.
Meanwhile, we are turning a blind eye toward Zionist schemes to make Jerusalem a city for Jews only, plans that are built upon deceit, injustice and oppression. They are working hard to ‘legitimize’ their occupation of the Palestinian people and with it their total domination of all of Jerusalem.
We continue to be more concerned about amassing material goods and living the good life available in the United States than we are with protecting the sanctity of the holiest of cities.
Allah swt orders us to fight oppression and injustice, and we must make every effort to do so legally and with compassion. We have to wake up, cast off fear and cowardice, and together with people of all faiths, work to make Jerusalem the city it was in the hands of Omar bin Khattab. It was a righteous city then, where people of all faiths lived and worshiped in peace and harmony. It was that city once. It can be that city again. It is up to us.