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Saturday, December 3, 2016
Holy Land: reflection on Friday prayers
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 Friday noon prayers (Jumuah) are particularly important for Muslims, and many hundreds attend the Ibrahimi Mosque at noon prayer time. The Israeli military often detains Muslim worshippers for long periods before, during and after noon prayers so CPTers monitor the mosque checkpoint every Friday at this time. Last Friday, as usual, the Israeli military took IDs from many Palestinians as they entered the mosque at around noon. I did not observe the military making any calls on their radios to check the IDs during prayers. When the Palestinian men came out of the mosque at 1.15pm, the Israeli military ordered approximately 100 of them to stand and wait for their IDs. As we waited, a Palestinian man told me "They don't want peace," indicating the Border Police at the checkpoint. Over the next few hours, as I observed the behaviour of the Israeli military, his words echoed in my head. At about 1:45pm, after waiting for half an hour, an elderly Palestinian man asked the Israelis why they were not returning his ID. A Border Policeman laughingly said "Perhaps the computer is broken," and the small group of Border Police beside him laughed too. I approached the checkpoint and asked a different Border Policeman why they had not checked the IDs while the men were in the mosque. He simply shrugged his shoulders and said "I am checking them now." At 1.50pm it appeared that the Israeli military were ready to return the IDs to the waiting Palestinians. The crowd surged forward in anticipation, but only a few men received their IDs, enabling them to leave. The Israeli military personnel returned to the shade of the checkpoint where they stood laughing, smoking and drinking water. They commanded the Palestinians to return to an area opposite the checkpoint where there was little shade from the 85°-90°F heat. By 2.20pm the Israeli radios were silent. The military were standing, smoking and laughing, flicking through the Palestinian IDs. I again approached the checkpoint. A Palestinian woman followed me, anxious to know when her husband could return home with her. I politely informed the Israeli Border Policeman that the Palestinians had been waiting for an hour and were eager to return to their homes. He retorted "I know it's an hour. They will go when I say they can go." He then shouted something at the Palestinian woman. Eventually, at 2.50pm, the Israeli military returned all but one of the IDs. I watched the elderly Palestinian man finally receive his ID and slowly make his way towards his home. I saw the Palestinian woman and her husband hurriedly go on their way. I remained with an 18 year old man who was made to wait for another 45 minutes before his ID was finally returned to him. Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, visit www.cpt.org
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