AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Unequal equality at Il Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah


6 August 2013
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Unequal equality at Il Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah

  Palestinians waiting to go through mosque checkpoint

According to Israeli civil administration policy, Jews and
Muslims may use the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah exclusively on their
holiest days; on paper, the Israeli authorities allot each group an equal
number of these days.  But the
realities on the ground show the severe inequality of this policy’s

August 4 was Laylat-al-Qadr, the holiest night of the year
for Muslims—the night God revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad.  Muslims believe prayers are most potent
and that God forgives all sins that night.  Laylat-al-Qadr used to be the busiest time of the year for
the Ibrahimi Mosque.  Thousands of
Palestinians came to the tomb to pray throughout the night.  In accordance with Israel’s policy, the
whole mosque (divided when settler Baruch Goldstein massacred Muslim
worshippers in February 1994) is open to Muslims only for twenty-four hours.

This year, the mosque was open for only part of the night,
until 3:00 a.m.  Although Muslims
had full access inside the Mosque at night, they still did not have access to
the park or road in front of the Mosque.  The military took every measure to ensure that the Muslim
holiday settler life would not disturb settler life.

At one point, the Israeli soldiers at the surrounding checkpoints did not allow any men between the ages of 18 and 35 to enter the area; at
another point, they permitted no men to enter at all.  The restrictions seemed to change by the
minute and even the soldiers at different posts were inconsistent about who was
allowed into the area.

These changing restrictions intimidated Palestinians.  That night, when the area is usually
teaming with worshippers, fewer arrived than usual.  In addition, on 23 July, Israeli military authorities
announced that the Mosque would be closed to Muslims on the night of
Laylat-al-Qadr in order for Jews to have exclusive access to it.  The next day they decided that Muslims
could have the building for the night before the soldiers turned it over to the
settlers.  The announcement and
decision change also resulted in fewer numbers attending on 4 August.  The Jewish holiday which originally
trumped Laylat-al-Qadr was Rosh Chodesh Elul, which is not one of the holidays
for which they are supposed to have full access to the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of

Starting at 7:00 a.m., Jews had full access to the Ibrahimi
Mosque/Cave of Machpelah.  During
this time, the settlers hosted other Israelis as a parade

Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah  

with hundreds of
people marched down Shuhada Street blaring music and waving Israeli flags.  The parade resulted in a restriction of
Palestinian freedom of movement.  Instead
of closing just the entrance to tomb, soldiers closed the checkpoint in front
of the entrance.  The area
surrounding the tomb is the main passage from the Old City to the east or the
south.  When the military closes
that entrance, non-settlers must walk over a mile to avoid the impasse.  Due to the summer heat and Ramadan fast
an extra mile makes any journey unbearable for Muslims in the city.

According to international law, the Israeli settlements
should not be in this city.  Under Israeli
policy, Jews and Muslims should share the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah
equally, with both getting days for exclusive use.  The Israeli military in reality allows the settlers far more
exclusive days, far longer exclusive days, and far more disruptive exclusive

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