Al Quds

October 16, 2007 at 9:41 pm | Posted in moraiman | 1 Comment
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Holy Quran 22:46 Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts.

Salaam/Shalom(Peace) to all from Al Quds – The holy lands of Jerusalem.

I arrived in Jerusalem on the afternoon of Monday 9th October 07 – finally! Just about a year on from when I first made attempts. (notice the plural – blerry Jordanians!)

Jerusalem – What a city! Some 3000 odd years old. A land that has been sought and fought over many a time; that has seen many different kings, leaders, empires and dynasties. A land in which many a prophet preached, resided and was laid to rest. Each empire, prophet, ruler and society leaving its mark on the city which can still be seen, and felt today. The city in which King David ruled over, King Solomon spoke with animals, Queen Sheba was invited to, in which the blood ran through the streets during the crusades, the City in which Abraham resided and Muhammad ( s.a.w) visited on his night journey. The history of this place is unbelievable! The present disputed; and the future uncertain.

I travelled the one hour journey from Tel aviv to Jerusalem by bus. Security is tight with alot of checks and stops. Its common to see soldiers, in full army gear, armed with kalashnikovs roaming the street, in buses, in malls, everywhere. Most are young Israelis probably in their late teens and early twenties – conscripted into the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) (Israeli Offensive Forces (IOF) is more apt) once they are out of school. One wonders how much training these kids have had and how liable they are to act inappropriately. Its always an abnormal situation when children have to join the army and fire assault rifles rather than go to university and get their neurons firing. A strange thing I noticed though, was the number of foreign jewish youngsters who come over to “the Promised Land” to join the IDF and become incorporated into the jewish, israeli community.
A particular chap I met in the hostel in Tel aviv (as i wrote my 1st email) stands out and warrants a mention – a Canadian – his name was not worth asking – a lil younger than me, he had come over from Canada and wanted to join the army and be a Israeli and “kill me some arabs” – he didnt say the last part – not verbally anyways. This brutish, testosterone filled numbskull made me wonder about the future of our planet.

I have also met quite a few South Africans already. Some who are just travelling through, some who have come on pilgramage, church tours, some who have come to volunteer in the kibbutz. The kibbutz is an interesting concept.. a self sustained, agrarian community “dedicated to mutual aid and social justice”  – reminds me of the village concept encouraged by some Islamic scholars like Imran N Hossein and that punted by the hippy presentation I was taken to in Johannesburg about a month ago – looking to address issues of Peak power, sustainable living etc. Many youngsters come from all over the world, to volunteer in these communities. Sounds like a good concept..Perhaps We should perfect it?!

Jerusalem is awash with holy folk. Or holy looking folk rather. Lots of people wearing their religious garb.. the muslims in the kurthas and hats, the christians in their robes and the jews in their black suits and either the wide brimmed black hat or the yarmulke. There are alot of these traditionally dressed jews around the city – Prompted a brilliant business idea in fact.. I am yet to see one store which sells these black suits and hats. Surely we can import chinese and open up a chain store here! 😉 Whos in? They actually look quite funny to be honest… cos they even grow their side burns or side curls of hair like REALLY long – called the peyot i think.

Al Quds – The old City
The Old city of Al Quds is awesome! Enclosed by walls on all four sides, most recently fortified by Ottoman Ruler, Sulayman the Magnificent, in the 16th Century; the old city is only accessible through 6 or 7 gates. The city itself is not big, and quite densely populated. It is divided into Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian Quarters. The Old city has the haram sharif (Temple mount as it is referred to by the non muslim) on the south east corner. The Quarters (especially that between the muslim and jewish quarters) are distinct and one can clearly know when one has walked into a different part of the city. Narrow alleys and stone paved pathways with various businesses lining them and homes overhead make up the bulk of the city. The Jewish Quarter is newer, cleaner and more organised, less densely populated  but also more bland. It is the newest part of the old City having been reconstructed in 1967 after the 6 day war when Israel “reclaimed” East Jerusalem and most of the West bank from Jordan. There are advertisements all over the new city celebrating the 40 years since “reunification” of the city.

The first time i entered the old city, just after Asr salaah on the 26th of Ramadaan, through the Damascus gate, which is the main gate from East Jerusalem. The Muslim Quarter was extremely busy, with people coming to Al Aqsa for The night of Destiny (laylatul Qadr) and others purchasing things for Eid and iftaar preparations. The smell of freshly baked bread merging with that of kahwa (arabic coffee), the businessman shouting out their bargains, the decorations of Ramadaan that light up the muslim quarter and the excitement within me as i meandered my way to Al Aqsa all made for an unforgettable experience!
Al Aqsa
The haram sharif complex has a strong security presence – it not uncommon in fact to walk past 3 or 4 israeli soldiers and policeman every 50metres in the old city but particularly in the muslim quarter. To enter the complex, because i probably stood out as a foreigner, i had to prove that I was in fact Muslim by reciting some verses of the Quran. Once passed that security check, you walk onto the courtyard and the beautiful gold dome of the Dome of the Rock imposes its presence and dominates your vision. The courtyard was bustling with people and the atmosphere was awesome. Al Aqsa mosque itself was smaller than I had expected. The outside of the mosque does not really compare to the mosaics that decorate the Dome of the Rock. The large gold dome also seems to overshadow the more modest grey dome of Al Aqsa mosque. I entered Al Aqsa and the all the anticipation within me, the atmosphere surrounding me and the spirit of the occasion, made for a unforgettable and almost overwhelming experience. My first prayer in Al Aqsa was special – I prostrated where many great men have, many prophets, many rulers, where many long to but cannot. The Prophet Muhammad ( S.A.w) has said something to the effect that the me’raj of the believer is his prayer.
Holy Quran 17:1 “Glory to ((Allah)) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things)..”

I spent my 1st week in the Holy Lands just wandering around Jerusalem, venturing only a couple of times into the modern West Jerusalem to find a place to watch the Rugby. In and around the Old city, there are alot of sites of historical and religious significance to all 3 monotheistic religions. Came across the Via Dolorosa – the Path of the cross – through which Jesus ( A.S) is believed to have received judgement, torture and then carried the cross through the streets. It ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, over Golgotha or CalvaryHill, which is believed to be the place where he was crucified and then resurrected. The Western, Wailing Wall which is sacred to the jews as the remnant of the Temple of Solomon ( A.S) where I spent some time in prayer and discussion with a Rabbi.Visited Mary (A.S) tomb, King David (A.s) tomb, Zechariah (A.S), then the tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron where the tombs of Abraham(A.s), Sara (A.s), Isaac and wife Rifqa ( A.S), Jacob (A.S) and Joseph (A.s) are to be found. The latter 2 cannot be visited by muslims as they lie on the jewish side – the Ibrahimi mosque was split into a synagogue and mosque in Ramadaan 1994 after a jewish settler barged into the mosque and opened fire on muslims during prayer killing 49.
Theres so much to speak off and write about..

My time in Al Quds was largely spent trying to imbibe the atmosphere, culture and overall vibe of the City – wandering around and visiting places of significance and trying to engage people in discussion. The people here seem to have so much in common and culture overlaps somewhat, and even religion; yet they seem to use these as barriers and points of contention. Its saddens me somewhat, speaking to people, religious people who have taken common beliefs and made them radical to exert their divine rites to this holy real estate.
My spirituality had heightened but my pessimism for the future of this land has deepend. And I am yet to enter the Occupied territories and experience the occupation…

Mohamed

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  1. dude- where are the updates?


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