As many Palestinians attempt to journey to the Al-Aqsa Holy Mosque in Jerusalem for their Ramadan and Friday prayers this year, they face opposition from the Israeli Civil Administration that has limited the number of visiting permits distributed to the Gaza residents.
According to Al-Jazeera, the Israeli state is releasing only 300 permits during the holy month, and only to individuals who meet the stringent criteria–such as being older than 50 and working for a trade union or global company. An additional 100 Palestinians ages 55 and up will have the opportunity to enter Jerusalem every week for Friday prayer.
The mosque holds major religious merit: The Prophet (PBUH) was taken to Al-Aqsa on his passage to Israa and Miraaj; this is the location where all the prophets unionized for a joint prayer behind the Muhammad (PBUH), and several other Prophets are most likely buried there, MuslimMatters reported.
Drastic changes to daily life have occurred in Gaza as well. Retired Journalist Mohammed al-Bazz, who recently ventured to Al-Aqsa, told Al Jazeera life isn’t easy in Gaza city.
“We only have three to four hours of electricity each day and also it is a very tough blockade imposed on Gaza,” al-Bazz said. “Life there is miserable and difficult, so when we come here it means a lot for us.”
This sparks major turmoil for the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs, as they receive all the applications and ultimately choose who gets one of the “golden tickets” or permits.
Mohammed Maqamadeh is a spokesperson for the PA Ministry of Civil Affairs in Gaza and also traveled to the historic city along with the fellow Gaza residents. The application process reached an all-time level high, he told Al Jazeera.
“There are 16,000-17,000 residents in Gaza who registered for these permits [and] they all met the conditions and wanted to come and pray in Jerusalem,” Maqamadeh said.
Mamaqadeh compared getting a precious permit to winning the lottery: “Every week, we select 100 different people. A very small number of people are allowed to pray during Ramadan.”
Tania Hary, writer and executive director for Gisha, has noted an effort to distance interaction between Israelis and the Palestinians of Gaza.
“We know from our own cases that many requests are denied or they simply remain pending for long periods of time,” Hary told Al Jazeera. “This prevention of people being able to travel freely or move to the West Bank [shows] there is definitely an interest in keeping the populations separated and isolated.”
“I believe that there are some people from Gaza who have not been to Jerusalem for 17 years,” Maqamadeh said. “Now it is like a different world. It feels far away, as far away as Mecca.”