World Bulletin / News Desk
With prayers and religious lessons for Muslim worshippers, East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque is providing Palestinians with a special taste of Ramadan this year.
"Daily religious and jurisprudence lessons are being delivered in the Dome of the Rock Mosque and the Al-Aqsa courtyards," Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of the Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, told Anadolu Agency.
Hundreds of Palestinians converged on the Al-Aqsa Mosque to perform daily prayers and Tarawih (special nighttime Ramadan prayers). Some also engage in I'tikaf (religious retreat) inside the mosque.
"At least 350 tents have been set up for prayers, let alone water resources and medical services," al-Khatib said. "The Al-Aqsa Mosque is fully ready to welcome Ramadan."
During Ramadan, which began last weekend, Muslims must abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset.
Throughout the course of the fasting month, Muslims are urged to perform extra prayers, especially at night; recite the Quran; give to the poor; and generally refrain from misbehavior.
Al-Khatib's organization, in collaboration with several other institutions, is preparing to provide iftar (Ramadan fast-breaking meals) for mosque visitors and poor people during the fasting month.
"Today we prepared more than 2000 iftar meals for people inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque," Mohamed Abu Arafeh, a volunteer, told AA.
"We start cooking after noon prayers. We put each meal in a bag and deliver it 20 minutes before the Ramadan cannon is fired," he said.
"In the last ten days of Ramadan, we deliver more than 100,000 meals – all of them cooked," he added.
Israeli restrictions, however, often prevent Palestinians from enjoying Ramadan festivities.
"I wait for Ramadan every year to be able to enter Jerusalem," Abu Mahmud Tarifi, who hails from the West Bank city of Ramallah, told AA.
"This Ramadan, Israel did not allow me to pray inside Al-Aqsa," he said. "They want to deprive us of our holy places."
The Israeli authorities have imposed strict restrictions on Palestinians in Jerusalem as part of their efforts to locate three Jewish settlers who went missing from a West Bank settlement in mid-June.
The trio, however, was found dead late Monday near the West Bank city of Hebron.
Despite the Israeli measures, some Muslim institutions, such as the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage, send buses to ferry visitors to the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.
"I came from Umm al-Fahm [inside Israel] with my family and friends," Ahmad al-Sa'ad told AA. "We spent the day praying inside Al-Aqsa and taking religious lessons."
For Muslims, the Al-Aqsa Mosque represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It unilaterally annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
Palestinians accuse Israel of waging an aggressive campaign to "Judaize" the city with the aim of effacing its Arab and Islamic identity and ultimately driving out its Palestinian inhabitants.Last Mod: 02 Temmuz 2014, 09:54