Palestinian Worshippers Turned Away at Israeli Checkpoints

September 18, 2009
Waiting at Qalandia checkpoint to pray in Al Aqsa in Jerusalem

Waiting at Qalandia checkpoint to pray in Al Aqsa in Jerusalem

During Ramadan, a holy month in Islam where Muslims fast during the day, many Palestinians dream of praying in Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.  This mosque is the third most holy site in Islam.  Since most West Bank Palestinians are not ever allowed to enter Jerusalem, the Israeli policy of allowing Palestinian men over 50 and women over 40 to pray in Al Aqsa Fridays during Ramadan seemed too good to be true.  And it was.

Thousands of Palestinians from all over the West Bank get up before dawn to go to the checkpoints that lead to Jerus alem….and then they wait, for hours, in the HOT sun.  These are elderly people, just trying to pray in Jerusalem.  But the Israelis round them up like cattle, behind barbed wire, and only allow in one out of every 100. 

The rest try to force their way to the front of the crowd to increase their chances of fulfilling their dream of praying in Al Aqsa.  The way the Israelis handle this situation, with no crowd control measures except to make sure that no one passes without their permission, causes injuries and deaths.

Last Friday, an elderly woman died from heat exhaustion while waiting for the chance to go to Jerusalem.  Her friend, crying uncontrollably, told my roommate who was there taking pictures “Tell the world what is happening here, how they treat us like animals.”

And now, on the last and most important Friday of Ramadan, the Israelis have locked down the entire West Bank for the Jewish New Year.  Every Jewish holiday Israeli locks down the West Bank….with only those with permits for serious illness or doctors, and international passport holders allowed to go through.

This means the thousands or tens of thousands of Palestinians who travelled to Ramallah and Bethlehem in an attempt to reach Al Aqsa were made to wait all day in the heat for nothing–despite the fact that Israel assured Palestinians that those with permits would be allowed to go.

 For more pictures, follow this link:  Ramadan Fridays at Qalandia

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hundreds of Palestinians attempting to gain access to Jerusalem were turned away from Israeli military checkpoints on Friday, the last ahead of the end of Ramadan celebration Eid Al-Fitr.

Israeli military personal had assured that despite a closure of the West Bank during the Israeli celebration of the Jewish New Year, men over the age of 50 and women over the age of 45 would be allowed to pass for worship. The last Friday of Ramadan is traditionally the busiest day of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, followed by Laylat Al-Qader, where Palestinians spend the night at the mosque’s compound. An estimated 300,000 were at the mosque for the 27th night of Ramadan, and an even greater number were expected Friday.

Large crowds at the principal checkpoints, Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem and Qalandiya near Ramallah, clogged regular checkpoint infrastructure and hours long delays saw lines of several hundred in Bethlehem and more than a thousand in Ramallah. The Israeli lockdown said provisions had been made to ensure passage for “eligible Palestinians” for prayer, but the checkpoints were locked down with no Palestinians able to pass by one o’clock. A military spokesperson said she was looking into the report.

According to an Israeli report on Thursday, provisions were being made to ensure men over fifty and women over 45 would still be able to access Jerusalem. A report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affiars (UN-OCHA) noted that last week at least 60 percent of Palestinians were denied entry to East Jerusalem on Fridays, and noted that entry of eligible Palestinians “proved difficult due to physical obstacles and lack of adequate arrangements on the checkpoints.” The usually hectic and overcrowded Bethlehem checkpoint at Rachel’s Tomb was almost silent in the early hours of the morning.



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