‎Stained glass pieces in Al-Aqsa Mosque tell the story of conflict‎

‎Stained glass pieces in Al-Aqsa Mosque tell the story of conflict‎

‎The artisans of jerusalem’s holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, complain of Israeli interference in their work and face constant struggle to continue repairs after violence erupts.‎

‎Jerusalem: At a workshop on the side of the Aqsa Mosque compound, Mohamed Ruidi displays geometric designs with white plaster hanging on glass glass for several hours. When he works, an idea comes that he can’t move.‎

‎”You see that,” he said, pausing and leaning back, “it takes months to finish, and in a minute, in a kick, all this hard work is over.”‎

‎Mr. Roidi and dozens of other Palestinian artisans and activists maintain and restore historic mosques and other structures in the compound of the 35-acre Al-Aqsa Mosque, which Muslims remember as the Holy Site and the Jewish Temple Mount. They are preparing for more unrest.‎

‎The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins wednesday and is celebrated with the Jewish holiday passover in early April, raising fears that large numbers of worshippers and visitors to the disputed site will increase the chances of clashes.‎

‎The artisans there – including gold leaf experts, copper blacksmiths and woodmakers – fear their meticulous work will be destroyed, as has happened in the past. Israel’s tight control of the compound in recent years has added to their frustrations, making repairs more difficult.‎

‎According to workers, site organizers and Israeli human rights organizations, mosque workers need approval from Israeli authorities for repairs or replacements, up to every broken window or broken tile.‎

‎Jews believe that this compound is the site of two ancient temples and consider it to be the holiest place of Judaism. In recent years, Worshippers have ‎‎prayed inside the compound‎‎ in violation of a 1967 agreement.‎

‎With holidays this year, there are concerns that increased visits and unauthorised prayers could spark more clashes between Israeli police and ‎‎Palestinians, as has been the case in previous years‎‎.‎

‎The atmosphere in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is already tense due to the increase in violence. It has been the deadliest start to a year for Palestinians in more than two decades as settler violence increases and Israel ramps up deadly attacks in response to a series of attacks by Palestinian armed groups.‎

‎In recent years, clashes between police firing tear gas and sponges at al-Aqsa mosque and palestinian stone-pelting and fireworks have broken windows and caused other damage. After the violence, Mr. Roedy and his colleagues are left to pick up the pieces.‎

‎One of the two main buildings within the aqsa mosque compound has broken glass windows on top of the Qibla Mosque, as well as the Dome of the Rock, a prayer hall with a gold dome.‎

‎Artisans say sometimes it can take years to get approval for repairs.‎

‎Bassam al-Halaq, an architect who has worked at al-Aqsa Mosque for more than 40 years, says he was detained and handcuffed by Israeli police in 2019 when he ‎‎tried to change tiles‎‎ without approval. He keeps tapping into the filing cabinet in his office as a reminder of newspaper clippings about his experience.‎

‎”The occupation wants to prove that it has control and nothing happens without their approval,” Al-Halaq said, referring to Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem. He added that they were not working as per the agreement.‎

‎Israeli police say it is not the responsibility of officers to look after the scene. But, to maintain security and law and order, the police said, “Coordination and security is needed. Events in the compound have often served as a spark in the wider Palestinian-Israeli conflict.‎

‎In 2000, Ariel Sharon, who later became Israel’s prime minister, visited the site, surrounded by hundreds of police ‎‎officers, which launched the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising‎‎. More recently, Israel’s right-wing security minister, Itimar bin Goyer‎‎, visited the compound‎‎ and angered Palestinians and regional Muslim states.‎

‎Mr Halaq said relations between compound workers and police began to deteriorate after Sharon’s visit. But workers said the situation has become particularly difficult in the last few years. ‎‎The police did not respond to a question as to why all the windows of the Qibla Mosque were not approved to be repaired‎‎. The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to requests for comment. ‎

‎The compound is overseen by an Islamic trust called ‎‎Wakf‎‎, which is controlled and funded by Jordan under an unwritten agreement with Israel, which has overall security authority and a small police station inside it.‎

‎Israel says the situation at East Jerusalem, including the Old City and al-Aqsa Mosque, has not changed since it seized it in 1967. The majority of the world considers this annexation illegal and does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem.‎

‎Yitzhak Reiter, president of the non-profit Middle East and Islamic Studies Association of Israel, which specializes in conflict resolution at holy sites, said police have increased their presence inside the compound over the past few years, including overseeing the work of artisans and protecting jewish worshippers. ‎‎Mr Reiter said the relationship between the police, waqf administrators and artisans working on the premises has turned into a give-and-take. ‎

‎”So they discuss every small piece of work and they expect to get something in return,” he said of Israeli officials. Such as reviewing Friday sermons before giving them.‎

‎According to witnesses and videos, during police raids and clashes last year, authorities blocked Palestinian worshippers throwing stones at the Qibla mosque and locked doors, damaging handles and wood. The policemen then climbed on to the roof and broke the windows and fired tear gas and sponges at the people inside. The Palestinians threw the stones back‎

41 سالہ مسٹر روئیڈی نے کہا کہ یہ بتانا آسان ہے کہ کس طرف سے کون س‎The windows are broken. He said those who were completely destroyed were targeted with sticks by Israeli police. ‎‎In a video posted on Facebook during the‎‎ unrest, a window can be seen broken from the outside roof. ‎‎In comparison, he said, the Stone-throwing Palestinians had made large holes in the windows. ‎

‎At the workshop, 42-year-old Bassam Ash saw Mr. Roidi working on a semi-round window from Qiblai. Rudy said the glass was initially damaged by Palestinians last year, but it was completely destroyed by Israeli authorities, who used it to fire tear gas and sponge-fired bullets into the mosque.‎

‎”When we work on it, we say to each other, ‘How long will it last? Five minutes?” said Mr. Ash, who draws geometric designs for each window. Mr. Al-Halaq, an architect, studied in Greece and returned to work in the mosque in which he grew up praying. Mr. Roidi said that most of the workers learn their business inside the compound as older generations go through knowledge and technology. After Ramadan last year, the artisans removed the wooden window frame, removed broken glass and plaster, and began careful reconstruction. First, they placed a new sheet of glass and poured plaster on both sides. Mr. Ash then made a geometric design on plaster in soft coal.‎

‎ Using a small selection, Mr. Roeddy slowly proceeded with the outline and removed the plaster slightly to reveal the glass below. In the workshop, only the sound of puck scratches, fans and recitation of the Quran in the background could be heard on the plaster.‎

‎Outside, in the courtyard next to the Dome of the Rock, some of his colleagues worked to fix an underground pipe. Two police officers were monitoring. ‎‎Nearby, heavily armed police surrounded the synagogues around the compound. Some of them prayed openly. ‎

‎Taking a break from working on the window, Mr. Roidi entered the Qibla Mosque and examined the broken windows, some of which belong to the Ottoman Empire, which he hopes to repair one day. ‎‎”When such a window breaks, God, it breaks my heart,” he said, pointing to a large pink-and-blue window. “I am worried about the coming days. ”‎

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