In the waning days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Islam’s third holiest site has become one of injury and violence, with hundreds of Palestinians sent to Jerusalem hospitals after Israeli police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Palestinians hurling rocks in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Monday.
Al-Aqsa is behind only the mosques in Mecca and Medina – the Kaaba and the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) – in terms of its importance in Islam, and is believed to be where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
United Nations envoys called on Israeli authorities to avoid escalating the situation during Muslim holy days: “We call on all sides to uphold and respect the status quo at the holy sites.”
Many photos – some taken days, some only hours, apart – show the contradictory experiences of peace and pain experienced here.
Bathed in light, clouded in tear gas
Muslims rest above, run below, the crimson carpet obscured by gas and debris.
Two nighttime views
Prayers on May 8. Islamic authorities estimated 90,000 people gathered for nighttime prayers at Al-Aqsa for Laylat al-Qadr:
Destruction on May 10:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest U.S. Muslim civil rights organization, says Americans should demand lawmakers condemn the attacks at Al-Aqsa Masjid.
“This is happening as Muslims pray tarawih & tahajud in Palestine. Families who pray all night during Ramadan, the mosque is like home. Palestinians deserve to find refuge in a mosque and peace in Ramadan. Where is the media coverage?”
Quran and clean-up
Worshippers and wounded
Beautiful and broken
The compound is known as Al-Haram al-Sharif or “Noble Shrine” and is also a sacred place for Jews, site of the Western Wall.
“In this microcosm of humanity’s spiritual diversity, different peoples worship the same places, sometimes under different names. The recognition, use of and respect for these names is paramount. The Al Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif, the sacred shrine of Muslims, is also the Har HaBayit – or Temple Mount – whose Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism, a few steps away from the Saint Sepulcher and the Mount of Olives revered by Christians,” Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General said of the site in 2016.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., shared: “I was 7 years old when I first prayed at the Al Aqsa with my city. It’s a sacred site for Muslims. This is equivalent to attacking the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, or the Temple Mount for Jews.”
The mosque, which is more than 1,000 years old, has a long history of being shaken by violence and targeted by both Christian and Jewish extremists, particularly including the larger compound beyond the mosque itself. When Israeli leader Ariel Sharon entered al-Haram in 2000 with more than 1,000 armed guards, Palestinians went to protest and were fired on by police, sparking a five-year Palestinian uprising.
Contributing: Associated Press