Then, in [East] Jerusalem two nights later

Following the clashes shpwn in the video in our previous post, Israeli forces made a number of arrests in East Jerusalem during the post-midnight to 5 am early hours on 29 May, , as Ma’an News Agency reported here

In the Old City:

“Twelve Palestinian teenagers and young men were arrested from their homes in the al-Sadiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem’s Old City. Police broke the doors of several homes in the raids and stayed in the area until 5 a.m.   A Ma’an correspondent said police arrested 13-year-old Issa Mteb, Aboud al-Jabari, 16, Muhanad Eid, 17, Abdullah Abu Diab 18, Hamoudeh al-Baytouni, 19, Mohammad Halawani, 19, Alaa Makieh,19, Maher al-Baytouni, 20, Mahmud al-Khatib, 20, Mohammad Ghousheh, 21, Anas Afghani, 21, and Mahmud al-Tiryaki.   Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said some arrests were made in the last 24 hours but could not immediately say how many”.

In Eizariya [Bethany] + in Abu Dis:
Arrests were also made by Israeli forces in the early hours of the 29th in Eizariya and in Abu Dis, two suburbs of East Jerusalem which are now located on the “other” or [West Bank] side of The Wall being constructed [since 2003] by the Israeli Army to separate Palestinians from Israelis…

Continue reading Then, in [East] Jerusalem two nights later

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem [last night]

“The absence of peace is, in fact, perpetual war, even if it’s low intensity. Are we ready? Do we want to live with a permanent intifada?” — John Kerry on 26 May 2013

Not long after John Kerry said these words at the World Economic Forum meeting on the Jordanian coast of the Dead Sea, this video was taken of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is very visually-striking photography, beautiful –with the night lighting and the narrow alleys between stone walls, double-story green arches, and the clear plexiglass shields of the soldiers:

It seems to have been filmed and uploaded to Youtube here by Abdelafo Ba, and it was Tweeted this morning by @PalestinianVideo:  Palestine Video @PalestineVideo — #Palestine #Video Arrests and confrontation in occupied #Jerusalem  #Palestinian


U.S. Statement on Palestinian position on "Al-Buraq Wall" – the exposed part of the Western or Wailing Wall – is itself insensitive + unhelpful

A few days ago, while still in Paris, I wrote a post about reports on the just-published Palestinian document about the “Al-Buraq” Wall.

This is the name used by Palestinians (Muslims) for what Israelis and Jews call the Western or Wailing Wall — the most sacred site in Judaism — which is part of the retaining wall for the plateau or esplanade that for the past 1,400 years has housed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of East Jerusalem. It is believed, however, that the Second Jewish Temple (destroyed by Roman troops in 70 A.D.) and probably also the First Jewish Temple (destroyed by Babylonian forces some 586 years B.C.) were previously located on the same site.

The Palestinian document was reportedly written by the Deputy Minister of Information, Mutawwakal Taha. It was posted in Arabic on the website of the Palestinian Ministry of Information. I have not seen any full translation of this Palestinian document.

It reportedly claimed that the Buraq Wall is Waqf property (held in Islamic trust) — which it was, before the Israeli conquest in 1967. And, it reportedly said something to the effect that this Wall was not sacred to Jews.

UPDATE: AFP and Ma’an News Agency (apparently relying on AFP) have just reported that Mutawwakal Taha said that he does not know who is responsible for removing the document from the PA website. He also said he does not know who posted the document in the first place. Taha says he still stands behind this document, which represents his personal views. [There are many Palestinians who support this view, which takes the arrival of Islam — meaning the specific message transmitted by the Prophet Muhammad — after 610 – 622 A.D., as the starting point for their legal analysis…]

Our earlier post, put online last week, appealed for outside help…

Over the weekend, U.S. officials commented that the report by Mutawwakal Taha is “factually incorrect, insensitive, and highly provocative”.

While that may be true, this U.S. comment is not — NOT— the kind of help I had in mind.

It did, however, have an effect. Today, it was reported that the Palestinian document has been removed from the website.

The U.S. statement, however influential, was not balanced — a word that successive American administrations have so loved to use.

Among its defects, the U.S. statement aimed at Muslim religious beliefs, and ignored legitimate Palestinian/Muslim positions.

The U.S. position correctly notes the Palestinian (Muslim) belief that the Western Wall has religious significance in Islam, because it is thought that a correct interpretation of verses in the Quran would indicate that the horse (Al-Buraq) that the Prophet Muhammad rode — in his dream, one night — was tethered at some (unspecified) point along this wall. In this dream. the Prophet Muhammad rode/flew on Al-Buraq from the Arabian peninsula to Jerusalem, tethered his horse Al-Buraq on the Wall, went up to the plateau, went to the rock which was later enclosed in the structure of the Dome of the Rock, and rose to heaven, where he had an experience with the presence of God. He later came back down from heaven, went to his horse, and rode/flew back to the Arabian peninsula, all on the same night, before he awoke from his dream.

Some Muslims and Palestinians are rather uncomfortable with a literal interpretation of this story, but few will say so publicly, or officially, because of the sensitivity of the matter, and of the overall situation, where Jerusalem is one of the main focuses of current attempts to impose an Israeli unilateral narrative.

It would have been better — and it is still perfectly possible — to respect religious traditions, while setting them aside, rather than taking a position either against one, or in favor of another…

The help that is needed here is something like this: continuous deliberations on the respective religious positions — with a massive effort at “public outreach” to help people learn a lot more about the views of both religious traditions. There is a shocking amount of ignorance and intolerance at play here.

There should also be strenuous collective political efforts to develop policies that will treat both positions, and traditions, with respect.

Otherwise, the alternative is nothing other than the ususal show of overwhelming superiority of military force — an unworthy and unjust exhibition of victor’s justice.

The very dangerous context in which this is all playing out is explained in an article published today on the Foreign Policy website (Middle East Channel), by Danny Seidemann, an Israeli-American lawyer who founded Ir Amim and who knows East Jerusalem like the back of his hand. In this article, Seidemann writes that “Settler takeovers in East Jerusalem are generally portrayed as a battle over real estate, but in truth they are much more. For the settlers, they are part of the not-yet-ended skirmishing of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence — a war that, in their eyes, will be won only when Israeli hegemony is imposed in East Jerusalem, with the re-creation of what the settlers themselves refer to as the ‘Realm of Ancient [Jewish] Jerusalem’ — a realm being established in the midst of, and in place of, the existing Palestinian neighborhoods … This mix of Biblical epic, historical role playing and contemporary conflict produces kitsch, but make no mistake: this is kitsch that can kill. These settlers of East Jerusalem — whether patrolling the hills of Jabel Mukabar or displacing Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah — are not marginal. They are deeply embedded in the policies of the Government of Israel, policies that are radically transforming the character of one of the most important religious and cultural sites on the planet. Their endeavors dovetail with official government efforts to incorporate the Old City of Jerusalem and its immediate environs into an untrammeled Israeli sovereignty, informed by the exclusionary settler visions of a pseudo-Biblical past and a mythical war of independence … But the policies unleashed in recent years render Palestinian neighborhoods communities-at-risk, and marginalize the Christian and Muslim equities in the city. In doing so, Israel is contributing to the transformation of a resolvable national-political conflict into an intractable mix of jihad, war of mitzvah, and Armageddon”… Danny Seidemann’s piece can be read in full here.

Total closure of West Bank for Passover holiday

Another Jewish holiday, another total closure of the West Bank (for Palestinians only — Israeli settlers can come and go as they please…)

Early this morning the Israeli Defense Ministry announced a total closure of the West Bank from Sunday through Tuesday, at the beginning of the Jewish Passover holiday which starts at sundown on Monday.

A few hours later, the total closure was extended until the end of the Passover holiday – on 6 April …

Strict restrictions are being enforced by Israeli police against Palestinians trying to enter not only the Haram ash-Sharif mosque esplanade (the Temple Mount) where Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock are situated — but also against Palestinian entry into the entire Old City.

Meanwhile, Palestinian protesters marched through the main Bethlehem checkpoint after surprising the Israeli Border Police, but were stopped and blocked a little bit further up the road to Jerusalem.  It had been previously announced that Palestinian Christians would attempt to reach Christian churches and institutions in Jerusalem — without applying for an Israeli permit.

Some of the arrested Palestinians remain in detention on Sunday night…

This is the Hurva Synagogue – a very significant place

It is actually very beautiful. It is a restoration of the Ottoman-era synagogue, built in 1864 on the ruins (“hurva”) of the structure built in 1700 and destroyed by arson in 1721. The Ottoman-era structure was destroyed by explosives just after the Jordanian army overran the position which was being used by the Haganah on 27 May 1948. See our previous post here .

The Hurva Synagogue in the Old City of East Jerusalem - Jewish Quarter - Monday 15 March 2010

The Israeli government approved its reconstruction in the fateful millennial year 2000, and restoration work began in 2005. It was triumphantly and “joyously” reopened by Israel on 15 March 2010, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of East Jerusalem.

As we reported yesterday, just below, the Jerusalem Post write in an editorial yesterday that “From the time it was finished in 1864 until it was blown up by the Jordanian Legion during the 1948 War of Independence, the Hurva was undoubtedly the most impressive synagogue in the land of Israel … Twice destroyed and twice rebuilt, the Hurva is a symbol of the Jewish people’s tenacious insistence on returning to its rightful land against all odds” …

Haaretz reported that the Hurva Synagogue, “considered the most important synagogue in the country for many years”, has been restored over the last five years.

The Wikipedia entry for the Hurva Synagogue here, says that when built under the Ottomans, it was one of the tallest structures in the Old City of Jerusalem, and “visible for miles”, and that “From 1864 onwards, the Hurva Synagogue was considered the most beautiful and most important synagogue in the Land of Israel”.

Citing a reference in a book on Jerusalem: The Future of the Past, written by Haifa-born architect Moshe Safdie [now a Canadian national – Safdie left Israel at the age of 15, five years after its creation], the Wikipedia entry reports that the Haganah made a last stand in the Hurva Synagogue on 25-27 May 1948 — and noted that “The question of whether responsibility for its destruction should rest on the shoulders of the Arab Legion or on the Haganah who had turned it into their last stronghold is debatable. What is for certain is that the building was deliberately mined and blown up after the Arabs [n.b. – specifically, Jordanian troops] had captured the area”.

It is interesting that, actually, the involvement of Jordanian forces is receiving minimal play in the Israeli media coverage of this event … which is being described as totally non-political.

A light show is projected onto the outside walls of the Hurva Synagogue during ceremony - 15 March 2010

There was reportedly at least one Jewish wedding celebrated during today’s ceremony at the Hurva Synagogue.

Total closure of West Bank extended – linked to security for re-opening of synagogue in East Jerusalem's Old City

This is from the Jerusalem Post: “Following a weekend of sporadic clashes between Arab youths and security forces in and around the capital, Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco decided to extend heightened security measures put into place in the Old City and east Jerusalem for an additional day. Franco’s decision, made following a security assessment on Saturday night, came before the scheduled rededication of the historic Hurva synagogue in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter on Monday. The rededication of the synagogue, which dates back to 1700 and has been razed and rebuilt twice – it was last destroyed by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948 – is expected to draw large crowds and has been the source of rising tensions and circulating rumors regarding the Temple Mount [n.b. — this is what Israel calls the plateau where the Second and also the earlier First Jewish Temples are believed to have stood, and which Muslims call the Haram ash-Sharif, housing both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third most revered site in Islam, built nearly 600 years after the destruction of the Second Temple — the plateau itself is supported in part by the Western or Wailing Wall, the most revered site in Judaism]…

Continue reading Total closure of West Bank extended – linked to security for re-opening of synagogue in East Jerusalem's Old City

A Journalist (find her) looks at excavations with new finds from 10th century B.C.

The caption for this AP photo reads: “A journalist looks over newly excavated fortifications outside the Old City walls in Jerusalem, Monday, Feb. 22 2010. An Israeli archaeologist says the ancient fortifications date back 3,000 years to the time of the Bible’s King Solomon and offer evidence for the accuracy of the biblical narrative”.

A Journalist looks at newly-announced excavation - AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill

Continue reading A Journalist (find her) looks at excavations with new finds from 10th century B.C.

A wonderful 360 degree view of Al-Aqsa Mosque

There is a beautiful 360 degree tour of the interior of Al-Aqsa Mosque here in the Old City of East Jerusalem.

I first spotted it on the website of the Dajani family, who have played an important role in Jerusalem history, here

UPDATE: As the comments note below, this tour is originally taken from a the website of a Turkish media company, here: here.

It's Friday – protests in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem + West Bank

Today is Friday. Palestinian television will normally be show the Friday prayers from Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, located in the Old City of East Jerusalem, but this Friday Palestinian TV will broadcast live from Burrin, a village in the northern West Bank, near Nablus, where a mosque under construction, the Suliman al-Pharisee Mosque, was served a demolition order, just five days ago — last Sunday, the day on which the Palestinian presidential and legislative elections were supposed to have been held, before they were postponed.  The mosque has been entirely built (on Burrin land classified as Arab B), and it’s all finished, except for the minaret…

And, at 3:00 in the afternoon, as they have for nearly four months, a new and growing coalition of Israeli anti-occupation activists will meet to demonstrate their opposition to Jewish settlers replacing Palestinian families in East Jerusalem homes built for them by the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, in Sheikh Jarrah, in the early 1950s under the Jordanian administration. The police have refused to give the activists a permit. But a judge has ruled on Thursday that no permit is needed, as long as the activists don’t block the streets, or make political speeches.

UPDATE: Here is a photo just posted by Didi Remez on Facebook, showing the Israeli author David Grossman – in center of photo below – attending this week’s protest at Sheikh Jarrah just before 3:00pm – (photo apparently taken by Itamar Broderson). Grossman is one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists, and is also a supporter of the Geneva Initiative between Palestinian and Israeli “civil society”, and bereaved father of an IDF soldier who was killed just hours before the end of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon.

David Grossman at Sheikh Jarrah just before 3pm this Friday 29 Jan 2010 - via Didi Remez

UPDATE: Bernard Avishai reported later on his blog (here) that Dr. Ron Pundak of the Peres Peace Center, and another supporter of the Geneva Initiative, was also present.

UPDATE: IPCRI’s co-director Gershon Baskin reported via Facebook before sunset that the Sheikh Jarrah demonstration is over — “and no one was arrested this week”.

HOWEVER, in the West Bank, it was different. The IDF spokespersons unit reported via Twitter that:
– “120 rioters, hurling rocks @ violent protest @ Bi’lin, security forces responding w riot dispersal mean”
– “100 rioters hurling rocks @ violent protest @Nil’in, security forces responding w riot dispersal means”
– “100 rioters hurling rocks @ violent protest @ Dir Hidhan N of Ramallah, security forces responding w riot dispersal means”

Continue reading It's Friday – protests in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem + West Bank

Jerusalem tensions persist

Tensions continue — among Palestinians, at least — after disturbances the mosque esplanade in the Old City of East Jerusalem on Sunday, despite the imposed calm for the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur observed this year from Sunday night through Monday night.

There were minor disturbances reported in several East Jerusalem neighborhoods and in Bethlehem.

UPDATE: TV reports showed young — very young, perhaps underage — Palestinian men in handcuffs being processed by Israeli authorities after about 50 persons were reportedly detained in and around East Jerusalem’s Old City in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Continue reading Jerusalem tensions persist