On Sundays back home, I sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast and take a beautiful, ten-minute walk along the lake shore to my local church. A heron perched on a rock often peers at me as I go by. Then I walk through a wonderful field of bluebells, or daffodils, depending on the season. As I walk the rocky path up through the fields I hear the bell toll and pass through a kissing gate before I enter through the grand church doors where the welcomer greets me with a handshake. Then I go and find my place on a pew. After the service the congregation gathers for coffee and biscuits. This ritual helps me keep my day of rest and prayer and reminds me of God’s goodness.
Friday is the Muslim Holy day. The main prayer is at around 11:30 a.m. at the beautiful Ibrahami Mosque. The call to prayer is as holy as the tolling bells in my home church. The journey these worshipers must go through every Friday though is very different from my journey to church.
First of all, worshipers pass through a checkpoint with a turnstile on both side and a metal detector in the middle. Men young and old must take out keys and money from their pockets and remove their belts to go through. Women often have their bags searched. It is not unusual for the Israeli military (IDF) to let only one person through at a time; the queue then stretches to the market. People can be queuing for over an hour.
Even after the checkpoint, the border police can call you over, body search you again and often take your ID.
Armed soldiers and border police are everywhere. They often point their weapons directly at people, including women and children. After the checkpoint and bag and body searches worshipers must pass through yet another checkpoint and metal detector.
Worshipers leaving the Mosque after prayers must retrieve their IDs, which have been taken and checked by the IDF. There is often another queue here as the IDF return the IDs one by one.
Why do worshipers have to go through all of this on their holy day? In the occupied city of Hebron, the victims are often the ones to be punished. In 1994 Baruch Goldstein entered this mosque and killed 29 Muslims whilst they were praying. The Mosque was then closed for several months. When it reopened it had been divided into two parts, a synagogue and a mosque. Now Muslim worshipers pass through two checkpoints and a body search, have their ID checked and wait for its return. On the Synagogue side there are no checkpoints.
There is a metal detector; however, we often see Jewish settlers coming down Worshipers Way, the road to the synagogue, with guns across their shoulders. The guns remain with them as they enter the synagogue gardens. After the massacre this double standard treatment seems unfair.
Can you imagine going through this tiresome ordeal every week to be able to worship?