Last year as in my post Jerusalem, One Checkpoint Away! , I had a very rough time entering the city of Jerusalem through the checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, however; this time it was easier.
My grandmother, mother and I had to pass through the checkpoint which I call (Cage) – as it smells, feels, and looks like one-, I passed, my mother did but the electronic security door kept ringing every time my grandmother walks through, she took off her shoes, emptied her pockets and made sure she was carrying no metal, yet it kept roaring. Sitti (grandmother) remembered she was wearing her medical pneumatic vest; we tried to explain to the two Isreali women soldiers behind their shiny window that it’s nearly impossible for her to take the vest off. The two soldiers were sitting in their heated room while it was freezing outside, they were eating nuts and drinking Pepsi, they ignored us few times by repeating (Go back and walk through again) in such a terrible Arabic accent, after 15minutes, they finally got it, SHE HAS A MEDICAL VEST ON! So they checked her with another machine then let us all through.
So this time it took us 15minutes to go in comparing to the hours last time, but this was the first bump on the road.
We finally reached the walls of Al-aqsa mosque after a smooth ride compared to the rocky one in Ramallah, we were thrilled to enter and pray, but we saw people walking away from the walls although it was time to pray, we asked they said all entrances to the mosque were closed, I couldn’t believe it. I saw an ambulance leaving, and a group of gloomy school children, few steps forward and there I saw about 20 soldiers closing an entrance of the city not allowing people to enter and pray.
According to the Palestinian residents there, this is the first time that this scenario happens, they never close the mosque and forbid Palestinians from entering specially when it’s praying time. Women were trying to push their way through the soldiers, but were pushed back roughly, and men were not allowed even to come close to the gate. It was praying time, so the men and women stood in perfect lines and started praying despite all the guns surrounding them. We all finished praying, I started taking photos afterwards, Isrealis hated it, it wasn’t only me, there were around 7 journalists, while I was the only one taking photos for personal uses. School kids were forbidden entrance to their houses after school, the only people who would enter: Anyone that does not look like an Arab, nor wears hijab, and they must carry a non-Arab passport. (Three strikes for me)
(Detailed photos of the incident will be added in another post soon)
After 4 hours, the gate was finally opened, people were asked to stand in lines and hand their IDs before entering, when It was my turn, the soldier denied me entrance with my camera just because he felt annoyed I was snapping photos before. A little boy maybe 3rd grader smuggled in the camera for me, and finally there I was inside right beside the Dome of the Rock, with my camera J My tripod however, was too big to hide, a young girl from her bedroom window heard my conversation with the soldier over my tripod, and offered to keep it at her place until I leave, and that’s what I did.
Before heading to Jerusalem, many friends wanted their names to be associated somehow with the city, and The Dome of the Rock in particular, so the night before I wrote about 100 cards of my actual/FB friends’ names (With a vey bad handwriting ) and took them with me. That was one of the main reasons why I had to find a way to let my camera in. (Below in photos are the names, find your name if you had asked me to write it for you)
While taking the photos, one of the soldiers from before walked towards me asking (So how did you manage to enter with your camera?), I told him I wasn’t a journalist and didn’t add much to that. He spoke perfect Arabic, and it seems he felt like practicing some more He asked me where I was from, but in my head I was like “ Äm I talking to an Israeli soldier – Aka war criminal ?”, I told him I have a tight schedule since you soldiers will be closing the area soon and I must takeoff, and I walked away.
(As I mentioned above, more photos and their stories will be added in another post soon. I hope your name in down there, I tried my best not to forget anyone)
وترجع الحمائم المهاجرة..
إلى السقوف الطاهره
ويرجع الأطفال يلعبون
ويلتقي الآباء والبنون على رباك الزاهرة..
يا بلدي.. يا بلد السلام والزيتون
يا قدس – نزار قباني