29 December 2023 | International Solidarity Movement | East Jerusalem
On Friday, December 29th, streets surrounding the Al Aqsa Mosque compound were filled with the sight of Muslim worshipers prostrate in prayer. Arbitrary access restrictions by occupation forces were amplified through the erecting of barricades to the Old City, allowing only some elders to trickle through the makeshift checkpoint to access their holy site. Enduring violence and Israeli army blockades to the Mosque, Palestinians knelt in the streets for prayer, surrounded by heavily armed occupation soldiers and Israeli police.
In the nearby Wadi al-Joz neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, faithful Muslims were attacked through the use of putrid pressurized “skunk truck” water by occupation forces who regularly brutally beat Palestinians as they make their way to the holy site for Friday prayers. Projectile rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas were also fired indiscriminately at unarmed Palestinians with dozens of injuries reported including many in respiratory distress from tear gas exposure.
Brutal crackdowns on Palestinian Muslims attempting to access the Holy site to pray has resulted in the Mosque only having a fraction of the worshippers it usually has for going on three months. Impromptu, ever-widening checkpoints around the Mosque have exposed the faithful, week after week, to interrogation, ID checks, verbal abuse and physical violence.
Despite knowing they will in all likelihood experience physical assault, tear-gas, being charged by police on horses, sewage water sprayed at them, or some combination of the above, the Al Aqsa’s faithful have not been deterred from returning as close to the original qibla (holy site Muslims pray towards) week after week. Their bodies folded in prayerful defiance, surrounded by armed guards, are a living testament to the Palestinian’s perseverance, determination, and conviction that (in the words of a Palestinian artist on the apartheid wall) “the rockets may be above us, but they have forgotten that Allah is above them.”