Over the wall: One Palestinian’s journey to Al-Aqsa Mosque | Sunday Observer

Over the wall: One Palestinian’s journey to Al-Aqsa Mosque

1 May, 2022

Occupied East Jerusalem – Ahmad’s day started early.

If he wanted to get in to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the last Friday of Ramadan, he would have to wait for more than 11 hours overnight, and then find an opportunity to jump over Israel’s separation wall.

The wall divides the occupied West Bank, where Ahmad lives in the Aqabet Jaber refugee camp in Jericho, from occupied East Jerusalem.

But 20-year-old Ahmad does not consider the barrier to be insurmountable – he’d made the jump before, successfully.

Because of his age, and the fact that he is a Palestinian from the West Bank, Ahmad is unable to enter East Jerusalem. He would have to be over 50, or under 12, to get in on Fridays in Ramadan without a difficult-to-obtain Israeli army permit. Women of all ages are also allowed in on the same days. For the rest of the year, they are all also excluded.

Despite those restrictions, Ahmad and his friends will try to sneak in.

“[Going to Al-Aqsa is] deeply embedded in our hearts – it’s something that I can’t explain,” Ahmad told Al Jazeera. “This is holy land, and it is occupied. We go to pray, and the presence of the occupation itself is a reason for us to go,” he told Al Jazeera.

Ahmad and his friends left their homes in the camp in the eastern occupied West Bank just after midnight on Friday, and made it to the wall at 1am.

“We use a ladder to go up and we check out the other side. We throw down a rope and we go down slowly. When we get down to more than half, we jump,” Ahmad said.

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

Ahmad and his friends had planned to be at Al-Aqsa at around 3am before dawn prayers, but they faced a problem – Israeli border police forces happened to be stationed at the other side of the wall from where they were planning to jump.

The Israelis confiscated two of the group’s ladders, according to Ahmad. But several hours later, they had another one.

By the morning, most of the young Palestinians attempting to make the jump had given up, and gone back home but Ahmad and his close friends spent a sleepless night waiting, and had their pre-dawn meal in a nearby restaurant, before starting their fast, and waiting for an opportunity.

“We’re tired because we haven’t slept since yesterday,” Ahmad said in the morning. “The army [police] won’t budge. We’ve been trying all night – we go up every once in a while to check.”

“We just want to break our fast at Al-Aqsa, even if we don’t make it for Friday prayers. We want to experience that moment. The shabab [youth] are adamant to go – they’re saying, ‘We don’t want to go back.”