Tag Archives: Jerusalem
Six weeks ago, I learned of a Palestinian family when I was in Ramallah. Like all Palestinian families I know, this one, too, is fiercely loving and loyal to each other. From what I’ve learned, despite living under occupation, this family appears to be happy – especially in the blessings of their children.
For Muslims, today is the beginning of the New Year – Muharram 1, 1432. The mother of this family will be taking the children from Ramallah to Jerusalem to mark the New Year at Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims. Their father will not be joining them. He is prohibited from entering Jerusalem.
His crime? He is a Palestinian male in the prime of life. And for this, Israel refuses to grant him a travel permit to enter the holy city of Jerusalem. His family has lived in a village less than one hour from Jerusalem for centuries. They inhabited Palestine for hundreds of years before Theodor Herzl ever penned his seminal book Der Judenstaat in 1895 outlining the Zionist dream. His family lived in Palestine centuries before the first Zionist ever stepped foot in the Holy Land.
But Israel – fully supported by the United States – is turning Jerusalem into a gated community, one that Zionist leaders hope one day will be for Jews only. Without the travel permit, this Palestinian man in the prime of his life is prohibited from praying at Al Aqsa. One prayer offered in Al Aqsa is worth 5,000 prayers offered anywhere else, according to one hadith, or saying, of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Israel’s brutal Apartheid regime is robbing this man of these blessings.
But these unnatural, inhumane and illegal travel restrictions are doing something else less obvious – they are robbing this loving family from sharing together in the New Year’s event at Al Aqsa. This may seem like a trivial thing, but it is not. Familial bonds grow stronger with shared experiences – especially extraordinary events like spending New Year’s Day at Al Aqsa.
I spent a good deal of time at the Al Aqsa compound during my trip to Palestine. After praying in Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock, my favorite pleasure was just sitting in the plaza under a cypress tree watching squealing children play, listening to Qur’an recitation, watching women talking, men studying, families communing. Despite all the activity, a sense of peace and serenity prevailed. Watching this hubbub of activity was comforting.
But this loving family I just met will not share in this communal experience. The best they will be able to do is show their husband and father some pictures, tell him some anecdotes about how the day progressed.
One thing I admire most about the Palestinian people I’ve met over the years is their strong sense of family. The bonds are seemingly unbreakable and they extend for several generations. It’s a most noble state of being. And it’s one that I almost envy with my fractured family scattered across the United States.
These strong family ties frighten Zionist leaders and that’s why they desperately want to weaken them. Most sociologists will say the family structure is the backbone of a strong society. A strong society is equipped to resist almost anything peacefully. Palestinians’ pride in their families and their families’ centuries-long tie to the land keep them grounded, keep them resilient in the face of the most unfathomable and incomprehensible of circumstances arising from Israel’s choking occupation.
That the state of Israel has continued a codified, systematic plan of ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Palestine is no secret. From random arrests and detentions, the Apartheid Wall, checkpoints and the restriction on free movement to the siege on Gaza and Operation Cast Lead, Israel is trying to get rid of Palestinians for good. One way or another.
But don’t take my word for it. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who’s now lying in a vegetative state after suffering a massive stroke a few years ago, admitted that Israel is trying to make life so miserable for Palestinians they will leave on their own accord.
“You don’t simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away … I prefer to advocate a more “positive” policy … to create, in effect, a condition that … will induce people to leave.” ~ former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, quoted in the article “Forcible Removal of Arabs gaining support in Israel” (The London Times, Aug. 24, 1988.
Please don’t wring your hands in pity over this family’s plight. Pity is the last thing they would want and absolutely the last thing they need. Pity is useless.
Action is what is needed. It is up to us – especially those of us whose tax dollars are paying for this occupation – to continue to badger our senators and representatives in Congress with the truth of what their foreign policy has wrought. Our elected officials, who are more concerned with pleasing their Zionist benefactors than they are with upholding the American values of liberty and justice, who are more concerned with providing for Israel’s security than they are with ours, do not deserve a peaceful night’s sleep until they begin to rectify the injustices of the policies for which they vote.
To find your elected official’s contact info, go to www.govtrack.us. Educate yourselves, then arm yourself with facts and the truth. Email or call your congressmen until they get to know you by name. Be relentless. Because until we do all we can to legally effect a change in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, we don’t deserve a peaceful night’s rest either.
To learn more or to get involved, visit American Muslims for Palestine at www.ampalestine.org.
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.