Over the wall: One Palestinian’s journey to Al-Aqsa Mosque | Israel-Palestine conflict

Occupied East Jerusalem – Ahmad’s day began early.

If he wished to get in to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the final Friday of Ramadan, he must look ahead to greater than 11 hours in a single day, after which discover a possibility to leap over Israel’s separation wall.

The wall divides the occupied West Financial institution, the place Ahmad lives within the Aqabet Jaber refugee camp in Jericho, from the occupied East Jerusalem.

However the 20-year-old Ahmad doesn’t contemplate the barrier to be insurmountable – he’d made the leap earlier than, efficiently.

Due to his age, and the truth that he’s a Palestinian from the West Financial institution, Ahmad is unable to enter East Jerusalem. He must be over 50, or beneath 12, to get in on Fridays in Ramadan with out a difficult-to-obtain Israeli military allow. Ladies of all ages are additionally allowed in on the identical days. For the remainder of the yr, they’re all additionally excluded.

Regardless of these restrictions, Ahmad and his buddies will attempt to sneak in.

“[Going to Al-Aqsa is] deeply embedded in our hearts – it’s one thing that I can’t clarify,” Ahmad advised Al Jazeera. “That is holy land, and it’s occupied. We go to hope, and the presence of the occupation itself is a cause for us to go,” he advised Al Jazeera.

Ahmad and his buddies left their properties within the camp within the japanese occupied West Financial institution simply after midnight on Friday, and made it to the wall at 1am.

“We use a ladder to go up and we try the opposite facet. We throw down a rope and we go down slowly. Once we get all the way down to greater than half, we leap,” Ahmad defined.

Palestinians scale Israel's separation wall
Palestinian youth scale Israel’s separation wall [File: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Al Jazeera]

Ahmad and his buddies had deliberate to be at Al-Aqsa at round 3am earlier than daybreak prayers, however they confronted an issue – Israeli border police forces occurred to be stationed on the different facet of the wall from the place they had been planning to leap.

The Israelis confiscated two of the group’s ladders, in accordance with Ahmad. However a number of hours later, they’d one other one.

By the morning, a lot of the younger Palestinians making an attempt to make the leap had given up, and gone again house.

However Ahmad and his shut buddies spent a sleepless evening ready, and had their pre-dawn meal in a close-by restaurant, earlier than beginning their quick, and ready for a possibility.

“We’re drained as a result of we haven’t slept since yesterday,” Ahmad stated within the morning. “The military [police] gained’t budge. We’ve been making an attempt all evening – we go up each occasionally to verify.”

“We simply wish to break our quick at Al-Aqsa, even when we don’t make it for Friday prayers. We wish to expertise that second. The shabab [youth] are adamant to go – they’re saying, ‘We don’t wish to return.’”

‘Stroll with confidence’

Lots of of Palestinians have jumped over Israel’s Separation Wall since its development started in 2002 throughout the Second Palestinian Intifada. The eight-metre-high concrete wall is lined with navy checkpoints, surveillance cameras and barbed wire.

Israel has claimed that the wall is for safety causes, and that it has diminished the variety of assaults in Israel, however 85 p.c of it falls deep contained in the occupied West Financial institution and annexes with it giant chunks of Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, together with East Jerusalem.

Rights teams have categorized Israel’s wall and the separation of the West Financial institution from East Jerusalem as a component of the extreme restrictions imposed on the motion of Palestinians within the occupied territories.

For Palestinians like Ahmad, these restrictions imply that they’re normally unable to go to Al-Aqsa, one in all Islam’s holiest websites, and a nationwide Palestinian image.

Thousands pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, occupied East Jersualem
Tens of hundreds prayed on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the ultimate Friday of Ramadan, April 29, 2022 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Al Jazeera]

Ahmad was 17 earlier than he noticed Jerusalem for the primary time, on a faculty journey with a allow. His visits since have all concerned having to leap the wall.

However Ahmad stated he had by no means been stopped. One approach to mix in: carrying a silver chain necklace on the skin of his shirt, which he stated is the style amongst younger Palestinian males in Jerusalem.

“I additionally attempt to copy the best way that Jerusalemites discuss – they’re city individuals,” he stated between laughs, and talked about that it was necessary to “stroll with confidence”.

“The Previous Metropolis is stuffed with troopers – after all, in the event that they see you nervous, they might ask you about your ID. I stroll like I’m a son of the town,” remarked Ahmad.

“This manner, you mainly don’t present.”

‘Safety ban’

When Al Jazeera contacted Ahmad simply earlier than noon, most of his buddies had made the leap, however he had hung again, ready for his flip with one different good friend.

Within the meantime, Ahmad defined that his household, like hundreds of different Palestinians, have what is named a “safety ban”, and are usually not eligible for permits to enter Jerusalem or Israel.

Such military-issued orders are at occasions given to people who’ve served jail time or had been concerned in “safety offences’” in addition to their members of the family.

Regardless of not with the ability to journey into Israel legally, Ahmad nonetheless encounters Israeli forces, once they frequently raid the camp he lives in and arrest youths.

Ahmad additionally claimed that his eldest brother was as soon as shot within the thigh with dwell ammunition throughout confrontations with the Israeli navy.

All of which means that, for Ahmad, the concept of making use of for a navy allow, with such a low probability of success, is unpalatable.

“To be sincere, I’m ashamed to go and apply for a navy allow,” stated Ahmad. “It’s our land, I don’t perceive why I’ve to use for a navy allow … That is shameful and it feels horrible that we will’t go anytime.”

A man reads the Quran in Al -Aqsa Mosque, occupied East Jerusalem
Ahmad contained in the Qibli Mosque in Jerusalem on April 29, 2022 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Al Jazeera]

However leaping over the wall just isn’t straightforward. On Wednesday, which many Muslims believed to be “Laylat al-Qadr”, the holiest evening in Ramadan, the Palestinian Crimson Crescent stated it needed to take care of a number of accidents because of individuals leaping over the wall.

For some time, Ahmad’s buddies who had reached Al-Aqsa had not heard from him, and thought that he could haven’t made it throughout.

However, within the mid-afternoon, he arrived, glad, and relieved, to have made it by way of.

“It’s a really good feeling to have entered in spite of everything that effort – I’m glad and I really feel glad. I’m going to remain right here till iftar,” Ahmad advised Al Jazeera, from contained in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

“It was very value it – I might have carried out extra to enter,” Ahmad added.

“Something we will do for Al-Aqsa, we do it. If I hadn’t gotten in, I might’ve saved making an attempt – and I’ll preserve coming again.”

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