The Muslim quarter in the Old City: This is the worst time for us

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Tamar Fleishmanף Translator: Tal H.

This is the worst time for us

For many years I visited the Old City often, and I have never seen such a large number of armed men there. They patrol or stand in street corners, alleys and fenced-in posts every few meters. “This is the worst time for us” says a Palestinian who sat with me on the steps in front of the Damascus Gate.

-Come in the evening if you really want to know what they’re doing to us here.

Although it was not evening and reality was just a little bit of what people told me, it could still give me the feeling that this is the worst time for them.

What happens there now are frequent detentions, endless inspections, searches in bags and pockets, body searches and once in a while, leading the victim away to be custody.

I tasted just a fraction of what Palestinian young men go through, when a tourist form Jordan who complained to me that they, the police, where not letting him get into Al Aqsa (I didn’t understand why, especially since the man hurried away), but the policeman who wouldn’t let himi through (a Border Policeman) was cross with me because of my empathy for the tourist, and detained me. He took my ID, checked it with the computer he was holding, stuck his hands deep into my personal bag, messed up everything it contained, and only after a phone call to who knows where in which he asked what to do with this woman, was I released. At least I was spared the body search others underwent who were detained.

Every Border Policeman and woman have a long rifle hanging from their shoulder, a Taser gun in a hip-holster, a club in their backpack, shackles hanging from their belt, a helmet held close to their chest, knee guards on both legs to squat easily and neutralize whoever they face, and on everything and on their body – a ceramic bullet-proof vest.

I entered alleys ending at a gate that leads to the Al Aqsa compound, and at every such opening I heard that I was not allowed through, Jews may only enter the Mughrabi Gate, that here only Muslims are allowed through.

In answer to my question why the religious separation, I heard that “At the Mughrabi Gate the people entering are counted, so that if inside the compound riots or other forms of disorder break out, the police will know how many people are present there and how many it must rescue, people like you.”