THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION
Today was indescribable. I woke up this morning with a sense of peace, despite the heaviness that had descended last night. Today was a Friday like no other. The doors of Al Aqsa were opened, but men under the age of 50 were not allowed in, and were forced to pray Friday prayer in the streets outside of the mosque's gates - including members of our delegation. This is just part of a global system that criminalizes young Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian men and paints them as inherently violent.
Christian and Jewish members of our delegation joined a large demonstration outside of the Lion's gate in solidarity and as witnesses. In spite of the many checkpoints we had to go through, walking into the courtyard of Al Aqsa and seeing the Dome of the Rock sent chills through my body. 9 years later - and especially after the events of the last two weeks - being at the third holiest mosque and the first qibla was nothing less than awe-inspiring.
This evening they opened the doors for everyone of all ages, so *everyone* went to the mosque and it was a celebration even bigger than Eid. After Isha prayer, as people flooded out of the masjid they chanted takbeerat al Eid (God is greater, God is greater, there is no god but God) and I was overwhelmed with emotion.
All that being said, the people of Gaza and many in the West Bank are deliberately prevented from ever coming close to this sacred place, and yet, I can come from the other side of the world and celebrate with the people of Jerusalem, simply because I hold an American passport.
This is injustice. It is beyond ridiculous that a foreign, occupying army has any say in who can and can't enter a mosque. That visiting a mosque means potentially putting your very life in danger.
The fact that Israeli police firing just a few tear gas canisters at the crowds outside of the gate is considered a calm Friday - that everyone expected it to be much much worse - is WILD.
This is religious oppression, state violence, and systemic racism all rolled into one.
We have allowed this to happen for far too long. There is no justification.