Al-Aqsa Mosque: The crown jewel of Palestine
Al Mayadeen English interviews "Al-Aqsa Mosque neighbor" and other Al-Quds residents who stressed that Al-Aqsa Mosque is engraved in their hearts and is more valuable than their souls.
For Mariam, "the house means a lot to us. It is located inside Al-Aqsa compound, which means that we cannot enter it unless we pass through one of its gates."
The proud Al-Quds resident and her siblings inherited the house from their father, Naji, who used to work as an Al-Aqsa Mosque guard. He was detained in 1968 by the Israeli occupation forces and was sentenced to more than 100 years in Israeli prisons. He spent the rest of his life in prison, and he passed away there.
After Naji's death, Mariam and her family kept the priceless house and took care of it till now.
"I love to spend my time at home; it means a lot to me. First, because I was born and raised in this house, and second, because it reminds me of my father and mother," she expressed.
"We have memories with each part of this Mosque. We used to play, eat, and study in its courtyards," Mariam told Al Mayadeen English, adding that "This house holds beautiful memories we can never forget."
Why is "Israel" trying hard to acquire the Abu Nijmeh house?
For years, the Israeli occupation has tried to tempt Mariam and her family to sell the house as part of the Israeli project to Judaize the city of Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa Mosque surroundings and forcefully displace its Palestinian residents. However, Mariam rejected a $3 million offer for her 20 square meters home.
Al-Aqsa is a 35-acre compound that is located in the Old City of Al-Quds, which the United Nations cultural agency (UNESCO) has designated as a World Heritage site for its importance to the three Abrahamic religions.
When the UN approved a plan to partition Palestine in 1947, Al-Quds - where Al-Aqsa is located - was given to the international community under the UN administration.
When “Israel” ethnically cleansed Palestinians and declared its so-called state in 1948, it occupied 78% of Palestine, as the remaining land of the West Bank, East Al-Quds, and Gaza came under Egypt and Jordan’s control.
In 1967, the Israeli occupation annexed East Al-Quds, including Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to international law, “Israel’s” control of East Al-Quds is illegal.
Jews believe that the Biblical Jewish temples were once located in the compound.
In 2000, the Second Palestinian Intifada erupted after then-Israeli politician, Ariel Sharon, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of more than 1,000 Israeli police officers. More than 3,000 Palestinians were martyred during the Intifada.
It is noteworthy that in May 2017, the Israeli occupation government held one of its weekly meetings in tunnels below Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of East Al-Quds.
“Israel” already restricts the entry of Palestinians from the West Bank into Al-Quds through its illegal separation barrier.
Only some Palestinians from the occupied West Bank are granted access to Al-Quds on Fridays. Others are required to apply for a permit from Israeli occupation authorities. Tens of thousands of Palestinians must walk through Israeli checkpoints between the West Bank and Al-Quds in order to perform their prayers.
In 1967, Jordan and "Israel" agreed to the Waqf, or Islamic Endowment, controlling the compound while "Israel" was in charge of alleged "security" outside the compound. Non-Muslims are allowed into the compound during visiting hours, but they can't pray there.
However, Israeli occupation forces routinely allow settlers to storm Al-Aqsa compound under their protection, provoking Palestinians.
The "Temple Mount Faithful" movement announced in 1990 that it would lay a cornerstone for the "Third Temple" in place of the Dome of the Rock, resulting in riots and a massacre during which Israeli police killed 20 Palestinians.
In October 2016, UNESCO’s resolution condemning and criticizing “the Israeli illegal archeological excavations and works conducted by the Israeli occupation authorities and settler groups in the Old City” of Al-Quds - which used Muslim and Arabic terms to describe parts of the holy site - angered the Israeli occupation authorities.
Why is Al-Aqsa Mosque important to Muslims?
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa Mosque is the first of the two qiblas, the third of the two holy mosques, and the place to where Prophet Mohammad made his Night Journey followed by his miraculous ascension to the heavens, as well as being the second mosque built in Islam after the Kaaba in Mecca.
They also believe that many prophets and messengers of God lived around the mosque, including Virgin Mary and Jesus.
Historians differ on when Al-Aqsa was built for the first time, as some say Adam was the one who built it, while others say it was Sam, Noah’s son, or Ibrahim (Abraham).
According to Muslims, Al-Aqsa Mosque was their first Qibla – prayer direction – before God changed the Qibla toward the Kaaba in Mecca.
In addition, they believe that Prophet Mohammad was transported from Mecca to Al-Quds, during the Isra and Miraj journey, and that God blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings.
The Quran - Islam's religious textbook - says: “Holy is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque (in Mecca) to the farther Mosque (in Al-Quds) whose surroundings We have blessed that We might show him some of Our Signs. Indeed He alone is All-Hearing, All-Seeing”
"The mosque is engraved in our hearts"
Om Ahmad, an Al-Aqsa resident, believes that Al-Aqsa Mosque to the residents of the city is a place that cannot be described in words.
She expressed to Al Mayadeen English that "the mosque is engraved in our hearts, and it is the first of the two qiblas and the place from where the Prophet ascended to the heavens. It is a blessed place and I cannot describe it or express its greatness."
The Jewel of Palestine
Similarly, Sheikh Shawkat Salah, one of the Mosque's Imams, indicated that "Al-Aqsa Mosque is part of the Islamic belief and means a lot to us."
He explained that Prophet Mohammad once said, “Do not take a traveler except to three mosques: Al-Masjid Al-Haram, this mosque of mine, and Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
"This mosque is the jewel of Palestine," Sheikh Salah confirmed.
"More valuable than our children, soul, and blood"
Mariam, who defines herself as "Al-Aqsa Mosque neighbor," expressed that "Al-Aqsa Mosque is the air that we breathe, which we cannot live without."
I can tell you that the Mosque is more valuable than our children, souls, and blood. We are ready to fight and sacrifice everything, even our souls and children, for the sake of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque," she told Al Mayadeen English.
"As for the month of Ramadan for the residents of Al-Quds, I cannot express how important this month is to us. We eagerly wait for it every year," Mariam stressed, adding that the city economically benefits during the holy month.
Israeli attempts to forcibly displace Al-Quds residents
Last Ramadan, daily confrontations erupted between the IOF and Palestinians. Threats of forcible displacement of residents of the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods, police raids at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and a prohibition on midnight gatherings at the Damascus Gate all led to the May 2021 11-day Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, which led to the martyrdom of 250 Palestinians.
The repeated aggressions of the Israeli occupation, seen through their acts of demolition or forcible displacement in an attempt to take hold of the old neighborhoods of Al-Quds, showcase the extent of the Israeli insistence on Judaizing the Palestinian capital by obliterating its national and religious identities.
According to human rights centers, Palestinians in Al-Quds face great difficulties in obtaining building permits, as they cost tens of thousands of dollars for each apartment. That is why Palestinians often build their homes without a permit because it is almost impossible to get one, and the reason is that the Israeli mayor and city council attempt to keep the city’s Palestinian population at a bare minimum and multiply its Jewish residents by approving the construction of thousands of new housing units in illegal Jewish settlements.
The Palestinian National Information Center said the number of homes demolished since the Israeli occupation in 1967 has reached more than 1,900.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that irrespective of one’s religion or belief, the Palestinian cause should not be confined to religion. In fact, martyr Bassel Al-Araj once said, “Palestine is the moral standard for any person. If you want to see the moral side of any person, know his position on the Palestinian cause and the resistance in Palestine.”
To reiterate this idea, throughout history, we have witnessed several non-Muslim renowned figures who fought for Palestine and supported Palestinians and the Palestinian cause, such as Marxist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, South African leader Nelson Mandela, the US activist Angela Davis, and many more.
Some have also endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which “urges action to pressure ‘Israel’ to comply with international law” and end its settler colonialism, occupation, and apartheid practices.