On Sunday 11 August, Muslims across the globe began their Eid al-Adha celebrations. This festival commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son in the name of God. The festival traditionally begins at the end of Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Eid al-Adha is one of the most important few days in the Muslim calendar, with whole communities visiting their local mosque to pray and celebrate with friends and family.
In East Jerusalem, the traditions are no different. Thousands of Palestinians made their way to al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday to pray at Islam’s third holiest site. There are beautiful images of people praying together outside the mosque, with the glow of the dome shining in the sun. A truly spiritual experience. Sadly, these events ended in violence, when the Israeli Defence Force entered the compound and set off tear gas and fired rubber bullets at praying Palestinians. The heart wrenching video of a child running for his life and screaming out has been echoing through the Arab news outlets, and the Red Crescent has reported 61 Palestinians wounded.
The contentious issue of the al-Aqsa compound has existed for years. A longstanding agreement between Israel and Muslim authorities prevents Jews from praying in the compound, but in the last few years there has been increased backlash from certain groups. The first day of Eid this year also fell on a Jewish holiday, a day that traditionally more Jews will visit Temple Mount which is the same site as al-Aqsa compound. The events on Sunday allegedly came to a head when huge numbers of Palestinians gathered at the entrance, believing that the police would be allowing non Muslims into the compound. According to Israeli authorities, the IDF was then deployed to end the standoff.
After the security forces cleared the compound, and after pressure from far right Israeli politicians, Jewish visitors were allowed access to the site. This has sparked outrage amongst the Palestinian community and wider international coverage, due to the harsh contradiction between the protocol on Muslim festivals and that during Jewish celebrations. In general, during Jewish holidays, the Israeli government restricts the movement of all Palestinians, preventing them from travelling around or into Jerusalem, and completely shutting down the West Bank.
These events have been widely condemned by the PLO, liberal Jewish-Israeli groups and by the country of Jordan, the independent custodian of the al-Aqsa/Temple Mount site. Many have argued that the deployment of the IDF has simply provoked further religious divides, and increased the tension between Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem. This situation also plays a greater role in the continued dismissal of Palestinian human rights by the Israeli government, and is just one more example of the troubling nature of occupation.
Words by Emma Penney