On Fridays in Ramadan, the month of fasting and spiritual activities, the Israeli military makes special arrangements for Palestinians living on the “other” side of The Wall, who seek and who long to go for prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the major holy sites for Muslims worldwide, which has special significance during the month of Ramadan.
In recent years, because of the pushing and shoving that the arrangements always entail, there have been special entrances created separating women from men before even getting into the checkpoint zone.
Every year the arrangements are slightly different. There are no longer Israeli soldiers on horseback riding into the crowds of Palestinians desperate to get through to Jerusalem. The last use of tear gas fired into the fasting worshippers was two years ago. But they arrangements haven’t come near the point of removing altogether the difficulties, stress, uncertainties and humiliation of having to go through the ordeal of struggling to deal with the crowd and conditions to pass through this military checkpoint into an unknown [the Jerusalem area, cut off by The Wall and Israeli military checkpoints for more than a decade] — all while fasting [including not drinking even water] in the high sun and heat of summer.
Here are some photos published here by the privately-owned Maan News Agency in Bethlehem. The photos are in a group of shots taken by Mohamad Torokman /Ammar Awad of Reuters:
This second Friday of Ramadan, the Israeli women [veteran observers of the checkpoint scene, and Jewish] from Machsom Watch were there, as were observers from the World Council of Churches’ Eccumenical Accompaniement Program in Palestine + Israel, EAPPI.
But, for the first time, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was absent from the scene — following the Israeli Government’s recent decision to question their activities, and their staff, as we have previously reported here.
The Israeli campaign is working.
- UPDATE: Meanwhile, Phil Weiss, founder of the Mondoweiss blog, wrote yesterday: “I flew into Ben Guiron from Newark and my flight was mostly Jewish… The shuttle I rode into Jerusalem had ten passengers, mostly American Jews, two binational Israeli American girls, a Christian tourist and an international aid type. This last passenger was dropped at Qalandiya checkpoint to go on to Ramallah. ‘Is this a hospital?’ the orthodox girl in the front row asked. A reminder that the Palestinian reality is sealed off from Israelis, and also that Qalandiya is a vast bureaucratic complex in benign disguise, a border crossing that keeps the subject population Over There. ‘A lot of the Arabs throw rocks, that is why they put this up’, an older Jew who fought in the 48 war explained to his wife as we passed along the wall … I have been through Qalandiya twice in the last day and cannot convey what a dreary oppressive experience this is. Long lines of people made to walk in a wide muddy circle past the neverending re-arranged concrete walls, one of which has Fuck You as an eloquent graffiti. The soldiers stand at huge concrete cubes that the bulldozers have placed just so, a couple-hips’-width apart, and stop us at three points on our way in. Women and men are separated, in a fashion that has ghoulish echoes of the worst moments of Jewish history … While in the Old City, in the Ramadan crowds that inch packed and dangerous toward the mosque, there are always men at the side spraying water on as you walk by. Tossing it from bottles, spraying it with sprayers, to cool you down. A lovely gesture of community, in which I am included…” Phil posted this here