Events in the Al-Aqsa mosque during the month of Ramadan
This year, Ramadan took place during March 22 to April 20, it ended with the Eid al-Fitr holiday on April 22 - April 24. The following is a summary of events that took place in Jerusalem and the surrounding area during the month of the Ramadan.
Ramadan is a month of self-reflection and deepening of ones' faith. For this purpose, Muslims fast every day from sunrise to sunset. In the evening, the Iftar dinner is held, which is a festive meal and guests are often invited. Muslims often visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Lastly, it is customary to sleep in a mosque, this is known as the "Ataqaf". The 27th night of the Ramadan is "Laylat al Qadr" (The "Night of Power"), this is the holiest event in the Islamic calendar. According to tradition on this night, the angel Jibril revealed the holy surahs to the Prophet Muhammad, at the end of which the Qur'An included 114 surahs. At the end of the month, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated, which is a holiday of forgiveness, peace and brotherhood. Palestinians come to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and visit friends and family.
This year, in preparation for Ramadan, the Israeli security forces came to an agreement with the heads of the Muslim Waqf, who are in charge of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, that staying overnight would take place only during the last ten days of the month.
The first few days of the month passed in relative peace. In the evenings, residents of the Old City were able to spend time in the plaza at the entrance to Damascus Gate, Bab El Amoud. Food and entertainment stalls were set up. On March 24, many people gathered in the plaza, the evening began in a pleasant atmosphere. However, after a few hours had passed the security forces entered the area, attacked the people present, ordering them to evacuate the place and detained one person.
On the March 26, several young men stayed in the mosque intending to sleep there. The security forces broke in and evacuated them. Some of the entrances to the mosque were closed even when worshipers arrived for dawn prayers.
On the April 1, Muhammad al-'Usibi, from the Bedouin town of Houra, came to Al-Aqsa to pray. He had completed his medical studies in Romania a few days before and was preparing for his final qualification exams. He was shot and killed by policemen at the Chain Gate at the entrance to the mosque. Eyewitnesses testified that he tried to help a young woman who was attacked by a policeman. However, the police claim that Usibi attacked a policeman, stole his gun and using it to shoot. The area is surrounded by cameras, policemen have body cameras, yet no footage of the incident has been found. The lack of documentation caused suspicions regarding the credibility of the police and great anger among Arab and Bedouin communities in Israel. The next day a general strike was declared in all the Arab communities.
On the 5th and 6th of April, the Jewish Passover began. Several Jews wanted to come to the Al-Aqsa compound to sacrifice a goat as was customary when the Temple existed. The police prevented this, but the intention and idea that the event might take place caused great anger and many Muslims barricaded themselves inside the mosque at night. Security forces broke in, smashed windows, shot stun grenades and rubber bullets and attacked those present with great violence while closing the exit gates. More than 400 detainees were arrested that night. Some of the wounded were taken into custody without receiving medical
treatment. The videos filmed during the attack caused outrage in the Arab world and internationally. In response, rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza in the south and from Lebanon in the north. The next night, youths barricaded themselves in the mosque and the security forces attacked them. During the day, families were expelled from the mosque and were also attacked by the security forces while fleeing.
Journalists and photojournalists who came to document the events were expelled by the security forces. Ambulances and medical teams were prevented from providing medical care to the wounded.
On the April 7, worshipers who were waiting by the gates of the mosque to be opened for morning prayer. They wanted to film the event but were attacked with beating and clubs by the Border Police soldiers.
In the days that followed, the security forces refrained from entering the mosque or attacking worshipers, even when they remained in the mosque at night in violation of the agreement. These nights and days of prayer passed quietly and without any incident. On the night of al-Qader, 280,000 worshipers came to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the plaza around it, and again the night passed without any disturbances. On the last Friday of Ramadan, 250,000 worshipers arrived for noon prayers and 200,000 for the evening prayers. No disruptions were noted.
After the end of the month of fasting, many worshipers wanted to attend Eid al-Fitr prayers and visit family and friends. The exits from the main cities, Jericho and Bethlehem region were blocked by the Israeli forces and traffic was at a standstill. After spending many hours in the car, some people returned to Jericho. Families spent the night on the streets and the following day they spent many more hours in traffic jams. Worshipers who were unable to arrive for dawn prayers at the mosque prayed on the roadside.
In summary, Ramadan ended with one fatality, many were injured and detained, and with considerable tension. It is evident that when the security forces refrain from entering the prayer areas, prayers are held quietly and in absolute order. Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The security forces incite the violence, not the Muslim worshipers. Freedom of religion and movement are a cornerstone of human dignity and human rights. Preventing these leads to feelings of unnecessary anger and humiliation.