If you want to understand Muslim anger toward the West, this picture is helpful, for it shows one of the great griefs of Jerusalem. Taken two Fridays ago, by an astronomer at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, it shows Muslim men, having been barred by Israeli soldiers from entering the Old City of Jerusalem so as to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, simply plunking down in the grass outside the wall of the Old City to pray in the direction of the mosque.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the three holiest sites in the Muslim religion, sacred to 1 billion people who believe the messenger of God came to that place.
Israeli authorities routinely bar Muslim men under the age of 45 from entering the Damascus Gate of the Old City on Fridays to pray at the mosque because they fear terrorist incidents when large crowds enter the Old City. You can understand the Israeli security concerns, arising from the suicide bombers of the second intifadah; and yet the resulting restrictions underscore the resentments created by Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and the Old City, as well as by its occupation of the West Bank: Christians and Muslims often feel discriminated against. Just last Friday angry men clashed with police, and the police employed stun grenades.
By the way, Jordanian rule of Jerusalem, which lasted from 1949 to 1967, was even worse. Jews couldn’t enter the Old City, couldn’t get to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, where the First and Second temple were destroyed (and where some religious nuts now want to build a third temple, and do what with the Al-Aqsa Mosque I don’t know). Here is a famous photo of Israeli soldiers arriving at the Western Wall in 1967:
Jerusalem is truly an international city and one filled with seekers of all description (includng many messianic nutjobs). Lauren Likkel’s picture demonstrates the unfairness of the Israeli occupation, and also why it is so important that the U.S. take a more evenhanded stance in this holy tinderbox, to turn down the temperature across the Arab world. There’s got to be a better way to manage things than depriving religious people of access to a sacred site.