An Attack on Al Aqsa

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We survived an Israeli attack on Masjid Al Aqsa today.

I was excited to attend Jummah prayers at Masjid Al Aqsa. 

Access to the masjid is ordinarily restricted so that everyday Palestinians cannot attend prayers, but those restrictions are lighter for Jummah prayers. So after several days of praying in a mosque that is mostly empty because of the Israeli terror and checkpoints, today would be full. 

We would need to get there at least an hour in advance to find space to pray. 

We walked up excitedly in 90 F heat, hoping we would make it in time to pray inside. 

As we approached Masjid Al Qibali, we were turned back. For Jummah prayer, because the reward is the same everywhere in the compound and the crowds are large, men pray in Masjid Al Qibali and women pray in the Dome of the Rock.

We went back, found space inside, and made ourselves comfortable. There was another hour before prayer.

Prayer is next level here. To know that we’re praying where the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) led all of the other prophets in prayer? There are no words. 

We finished Jummah prayer and then prayed a Janazah prayer. As we finished, I got up to pray Asr on my own. While praying, I thought I heard gun shots. 

There was a murmur among the women.

No, why would there be gun shots at the masjid? It must be fireworks. But it’s the middle of the day, who would set off fireworks right now.

Bang, bang, bang.

They kept ringing out. Do I finish my prayer? Yes, I’ll keep praying unless the frenzy among the women picks up. 

I finished and the shots continued. At this point, some women were trying to leave and others were holding them back. No one wanted to go outside without additional information about what was going on.

The women in our group huddled together. One of them pulled up a prayer for protection and began reciting it for us. I have cell phone data so I texted the men in our group, who had been praying at Masjid Al Qibali.

They asked us to account for each other and stay indoors. They reported the bangs were gun shots and snipers had scaled Al Aqsa, positioned now all over the roof of the mosque. 

The sounds of shots continued.

What felt like hours was just 20 minutes or so. All of the men had found each other and the assault outside had slowed, though not quieted.

Bang, bang, bang.

The men came to get us, looking shaken but also relieved. As we walked to exit the masjid compound the shots continued.

Bang, bang, bang.

The men had been in greater danger than us. As they finished praying and exited Masjid Al Aqsa, they were greeted by the sight of more than 100 Israeli police in riot gear. 

Unprovoked they had stormed the mosque compound as prayers were wrapping up and had been shooting rubber bullet and flash bang grenades into the crowd. 

They continued shooting into the crowd to keep their attention away from the two snipers and their two accompanying officers who had scaled the roof.

The Palestinians crowded together to protect the mosque. They chanted, their blood and souls would protect the mosque. 

The Israeli police continued shooting into an unarmed crowd of prayer attendees.

This is what the Israeli police did today, they shot into an unarmed crowd of prayer attendees and we survived. Several Palestinians were injured. 

I keep thinking about the women and why there wasn’t more panic in the Dome of the Rock. It must be that this is routine here. 

We walked away. We needed food and had to get to our next tour, but it was one of the harder walks I have done recently. To leave Islam’s third holiest site, knowing that Israeli soldiers had scaled it, were shooting at unarmed prayer attendees outside, and I was just walking away.

What could I do if I stayed? I am personally no physical match for an Israeli police officer. I could hold space? I could sit and ensure that it was clear that this is holy site and racist terrorists aren’t welcome here. How long could I stay though?

My heart is here but my work isn’t. I needed to keep moving today so that I could tell you about this. I wanted to make sure that you would join me and bear witness, that Israeli police today, as they do on so many days, shot into a crowd of unarmed prayer attendees.