Today we went to Jeruselum to visit the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third most sacred site in Islam. We travelled from Abu Dis through a check point and we had to loose some of our group due to them not having the ‘right’ I.D cards.
We went through a large check point, which was more like a cage. It was surrounded with barbed wire and cameras, and had a large queue to get through the revolving gates and metal detectors, before presenting I.Ds to the person in the booth. There were also a lot of heavily armed military on watch.
There was a lady in front of us with a little girl, she couldn’t have been older than 3, and the mother was obviously quite nervous and ensuring her daughter was right by her side the whole time. One of our group dropped a bottle of water and the sound made the woman flinch and she seemed panicky. Once I had been given the go ahead to pass, I collected my bag from the metal detector and had to wait to go through the second revolving gate. Whilst waiting, I heard the metal detector go off behind me and turned around to see a lady carrying her son, who was about 6. He was motionless. She had to prop him on the metal detector so her bag could be searched and you could see a needle sticking out from his tummy (presumably from a drip). He clearly needed urgent medical attention but the mother still had to be searched and didn’t receive any assistance. I really tried to keep it together. I just couldn’t. I unsuccessfully fought back tears and quickly became hysterical as I heard the little girl in front of me start screaming as her arm got caught in the revolving gate. I kept thinking, “stop it, hold it together”, whilst burying my face in my scarf, because we were being watched… but it was just too much. I found myself shaking and felt my heart break for these poor people. This is something the Palestinians have to experience daily. It is dangerous, intimidating and completely inhumane.
Although a little traumatised, after a few hours I tried to appreciate the beautiful holy land that we were walking on. We were taken to the Saraya Centre, Set up 1991 in the old city for woman and children. The center helps raise awareness of human rights and social issues and also teaches how to raise self esteem, and learn life skills in order to cope with daily challenges.
We took a walk through the market, which was heavily monitored by CCTV. There were armed military patrolling streets and you couldn’t ignore the settlements situated in the city center, surrounded with Israeli flags and more CCTV. We briefly visited the beautiful Al Aksar Mosque, and also visited the incredible Church of the Holy Schepture, supposedly home to the tomb of Jesus, before going to visit an Aunt of one of our Palestinian friends.
This woman was 68. She was telling us how her home may be knocked down in 4 days because she cannot prove the planning permission (The building is over 60 years old, before the state of Israel was declared). Israelis have stopped her pension so she does not have any money.
She told us about her children:
- Her son was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier at a Peaceful Demonstration, on his 17th Birthday
- Israelis let her daughter (a lawyer) into the prisons to provide advice on Human Rights. She was then taken as a prisoner and got sentenced to 8 years.
- One son has been released from prison
- The other 3 are in prison under ‘Administrative Detention’ (for no reason) and are in there indefinitely.
She has respiratory problems due to tear gas so is unable to make the long journey to the prison to visit her children. She was with her granddaughter, who was 3, and whose father is in prison. She was telling us how the Israelis do not let the daughter in to the prison, so she hugs the soldiers and tells them that she loves them in the hope that they will let her see her daddy. It was very emotional seeing the pain in this woman eyes, and the innocence of this beautiful little girl.
We offered her money for legal assistance in fighting the demolition of her house. She said that she didn’t want money. She just wants the world to know the truth.
Afterward, our Palestinian friend took us to buy sweets to cheer us up and she kept asking us if we were OK. Despite trying to keep brave faces, we had all broken.
Please join me over the next two weeks when I shall be documenting life in Palestine, under the Israeli Occupation, with daily blog posts and video diaries on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ptparent/).
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