13.05.18 | Jerusalem, Old City | Settlers walk in front of Al Aqsa Mosque with armed guard on Jerusalem Day

Jerusalem Day at Al Aqsa

The Noble Sanctuary, the compound containing the Dome of The Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, is the heart of Palestinian Muslims. After years of increased division – East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Fatah and Hamas, those inside and outside The Wall – preserving the sanctity of the site, and access to it, has survived as the one cause with the power to unite and mobilise Palestinians. Any perceived Israeli interference with the Noble Sanctuary has the potential to cause mass peaceful protests, as seen in 2017 following Israeli attempts to install metal detectors, but also terrible violence. Misbah Abu Sbeih, a 39-year old father of five, was banned from accessing Al Aqsa by the Israeli security forces. His friends say he would weep when stopped at the gates. Before he killed two Israelis, he posted on Facebook; “How I yearn for my love and wish it would be the last thing I see, to kiss and kneel on its soil to pray.” Levana Mahili (60) was a grandmother of six. Yosef Kirma (29), a Police officer, was newly married.

23.05.18 – Jerusalem, Old City. Architecture detail inside the Dome of the Rock.


23.05.18 – Jerusalem, Old City. Muslims pray under the Rock inside the Dome of the Rock.


Every day, groups of settlers are escorted through the compound by the military and police. They are there to venerate what they call the Temple Mount, the raised area upon which the Dome of The Rock stands now but where they hope the Third Temple will stand in the future. Their presence is unfailingly seen as a provocation by the Muslim worshippers, who greet them with hard stares and sporadic shouts of Allahu Akbar. On Jerusalem Day 2018, Jews celebrated the capture of East Jerusalem in 1967 by gathering at the gates of the Sanctuary, raucously singing and jumping in unison. Some continued their triumphalism inside the walls, chanting in front of the stone-faced Muslim worshippers. One Waqf guard lashed out at a policeman and was quickly beaten to the ground. He was later dragged in handcuffs, with blood on his face, through the same group of Jewish teenagers who had so enraged him. One leaned in to laugh in his face. For Palestinians, Jerusalem Day celebrates the beginning of their subjugation – and the loss of control over their beating heart.

13.05.18 – Settlers inside the Al Aqsa compound photograph on-looking Palestinian worshipers.


13.05.18 – Jerusalem, Old City. Israeli security forces arrest a Waqf guard after fighting in the Al Aqsa compound on Jerusalem Day.


13.05.18 – Jerusalem, Old City. Armed settlers gather in Old City on Jerusalem Day.

13.05.18 – Jerusalem, Old City. Settler youth chanting and gesturing on Jerusalem Day.
The video shows Border Police clearing Damascus Gate and the surrounding area of Palestinians. The nationalist rally to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967 would begin at Damascus Gate, the entrance to the Muslim Quarter, and no Palestinians would be allowed to remain. You may think you are witnessing a heavy-handed reaction to a protest, but aside from a small group spontaneously chanting at one point, there was no protest. The Palestinians attacked were simply there, and that could not be tolerated. Not on this day. Border Police moved outwards from Damascus Gate, expanding a metal barrier perimeter as they went, assaulting and arresting any Palestinian who did not move quickly enough out of the cultural and social centre of Palestinian life in Jerusalem. At no point did I, nor anyone else I spoke to, witness any violence or threat towards the security forces.