Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Way To Jerusalem is always Long

Strangely I was planning a post about the Egyptian Orthodox Christians who broke the orders of late Pope Shenouda III and decided to visit East Jerusalem aka Al Quds in the time of pilgrimage , in last Easter but instead yesterday I was writing a post about the surprise visit of Egypt’s current grand Mufti Ali Gomaa to the Holy City.
Gomaa and prince Ghazi praying at the Dome of the Rock
Sheikh Ali Gomaa was invited to visit the Holy places in East Jerusalem by the Royal Jordanian family which till this day is supervising the Islamic Holy sites in Jerusalem. “An information I have not known before that day”. He was accompanied by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad , King Abdullah’s cousin and his chief religious advisor. They were inaugurating the renovation of the Mughrabi Bridge, which leads into the courtyard of al-Aqsa mosque as well The Ghazli seat. “I do not know it is except it is some sort of academic seat ” 
He went He did not have an Israeli visa or permit directly but of course the Jordanian delegation had an Israeli permit. He considered it unofficial visit insisting that he still refuses all sorts of neutralization of relations with the Israel.
The visit was a surprising one to everybody in Egypt including Gomaa adviser who was astonished and had to defend him on TV channels throughout the day. We only knew it from his official twitter account and his photos there.
Sheikh Ali Gomaa arrived today to Al Quds in an unofficial visit to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
I think Gomaa is the second Egyptian Mufti to visit Jerusalem if I am not mistaken since the historical visit of late President Sadat in late 1970s.
Among all the jazz we are having currently in Egypt from on going daily political drama , we are having this discussion about the Mufti  and hundreds of students at Al Azhar university’s dorms rejecting the Mufti’s visit and demanding his resignation. Sheikh Al Azhar Ahmed El Tayib also slammed the visit.
You can imagine the uproar in the Egyptian political scene after few hours of knowing this visit. The nationalists , leftists and Islamists suddenly found something to agree upon at last.
Potential Presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abu El Fotoh criticized the visit on his official twitter account
Al Quds needs strong Egypt that supports its people and fight back the Judaization of the city , we reject visits from outside the national consensus. 
Potential presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi also attacked the visit asking Gomaa to resign Freedom and Justice Party , the political arm of MB also criticized the visit and announced in a statement issued last night that the Grand Mufti needs to be questioned regarding this visit.
MP Essam Sultan of Al Wasat Party tweeted on his official twitter account that the visit of Mufti is going to divide the nation and that the communications the Palestinians need is their support against the judaization of the city. 
Gomaa at Al Aqsa Mosque "Ali Gomaa's official twitter
It is worth to mention that Gomaa is regarded another employee of the old regime appointed by Mubarak that should go, revolutionaries do not like him that much especially that he did not react strangely as expected after the murder of his chief of staff late Sheikh Emad Effat at Cabinet HQ clashes in late November 2011. “May Allah bless his soul”
Sheikh Safwat Hegazy has announced that he will start a sit in till Gomaa resigns. Of course the radical and ultra-conservative sheikhs will find it a good opportunity to attack the Mufti whose views are considered open. Al Nour party already slammed him and issued a statement where it claimed that Gomaa polluted the chair of the grand mufti. We do not need this now.
Arab activists also slammed the visit like for instance the famous Palestinian Poet Mourid Barghouti.
At the same time Israel bans us from visiting Al Quds to attend the Friday prayer , it allows the visit of Egypt’s grand Mufti , his visit blesses how Israel denies us from Al Quds.
In nutshell those against the visit consider it a dangerous attempt to neutralize the relations between Egyptian Muslims and Israelis as well an attempt to recognize the Israeli occupation to East Jerusalem.
At the same time some Egyptians are debating that visit and cursing Ali Gomaa , Some Egyptians , Palestinians and Arabs welcomed this visit.
Yemeni Islamist preacher El Habib Ali praised the visit and prayed to God to bless Gomaa for visiting Al Quds on his twitter account. Of course El Habib is not popular among Salafists and conservatives because he is a Sufi.
El Habib later mentioned that in the time of crusaders’ occupation to the city , a Muslim cleric visited the city after taking a permission from
Some Egyptians did not find a problem in the visit online and think that it was a positive way to fight back the Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem and West Bank. Some even suggested that we take the route of the East Jerusalem Palestinians to show the world how they are not let in to the city.
Dear friend and blogger Mohamed El Dahshan is among that team and he already visited the West Bank and spoke at TEDex Ramallah in 2011.
Some Palestinians believe that this visit was an important defense tactic against the continuing Judaization of the city like for instance the Mufti of Al Quds Mohamed Hussein who asked the Arabs and Muslims to visit the Al Quds in order to protect the city and Al Aqsa in an interview to MENA last month.
Blogger Hanadi from Jerusalem asked the Arabs and Muslims to visit Al Quds because as she said in her blog in last February 2012 that “Visiting the prisoner does not mean that you recognize the warden” in reference to the dilemma facing the Arabs or rather the Egyptians and Jordanians when it comes to visit the occupied city.
Tweep Ola Anan from Gaza also published a group of tweets she posted in her account defending the idea about visiting the old city.
Those who think visiting Jerusalem while it is under the occupation is a neutralization with the Jews , should sit and wait till all its Arab residents extinct then cry 
A 1960s ad from Lebanese newspaper about
3 daily flights to Al Quds
At the same time the Arab world is having its Arab spring , East Jerusalem seems to have its own on going autumn with the constant threats of radical orthodox Jews or the raids of the IDF inside the Al Aqsa and its mosques.
By the way regarding the Egyptian Orthodox Christians’ visit to Jerusalem, well the Church still bans the visitations and according to news reports the representative of the Egyptian Orthodox Church at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre refused to receive them there by the orders of the Church in Cairo.  
For me personally this is unneeded visit in a very critical time in Egypt , we do not need this debate and I think Ali Gomaa got friendships with the Royal Jordanian Family and can visit Al Quds personally not officially.
Regarding visiting , well to be honest after reading Hanadi’s post as well Ola’s tweets and looking to the foreign activists’ visits to occupied territories as well this feeling I have as a Muslim when I see one of the most scared Holy sites facing huge constant danger , I believe we need a real rationale realistic dialogue without the old school of nationalism to see if our visits as Arabs and Muslims can help the Palestinian cause or will harm it without stupid treason charges to the end of that talk.
It is a short visit but it has created a long debate and its impact will not end , it has just started.
Here are more photos from the visit :
In front of the Dome of the Rock "Getty"
At the Yard of the Al Aqsa mosque
"Ali Gamaa's official twitter account"


  1. There is something weird about this debate. Christians in Jerusalem very much want their Egyptian brethren to come, both to show solidarity and to go to their hotels and shops. Every Friday tens of thousands of Muslims come to the Haram es Sherif for the prayer. Why not? So has anything been gained by barring Copts for the past 45 years? The Jordanians are still coming for private visits (though king Abdullah the first was murdered by an Arab fanatic while visiting Al Aksa).

  2. If I can, I would visit Jerusalem see al masjid Al Aqsa...why people see it as recognition of Israel not breaking siege or proving that we have right to this land.

  3. Few more facts and thoughts:

    1. As Egypt’s current grand Mufti any visit is an official visit. as long as Gomaa holds an very high rank religious position he was invited even if it was by the jordanians an official visit.

    2. The Visit was coordinated with the Israeli Ministry of Defence whose in-charge on the foreign forces Liaison Unit on the border with jordan.

    3. The whole time a special unit of Israeli Police escorted the visit from beginning till end.

    4. this visit was praised and hailed by the Officials and Non Officials in the West Bank and Gaza So why to be so righteous if they think it's an important & significant to them why all this criticism in Egypt against him?

    5. It's not that the Mufti need my defense but Israelis totally didnt perceive it as an act of normalization.

    So i'm handing the ball back to the Egyptian yard and asking you this, Palestinians praising his move and Israelis dont perceive it as an Normalization act so why the egyptian are so pissed and angry?!?

  4. I echo the above comment that if I could go see Al-Aqsa tomorrow I would go in a hearbeat, it's one of my lifelong dreams to pray there! I don't think a personal visit to Jerusalem can be considered normalization if done with the right intentions of course (supporting the palestinian cause, visiting al-aqsa, visiting palestinian shops, etc.) and if done through jordan. Especially in light of the tweets mentioned above, as well as personal Palestinian friends of mine who have told me they wish more Arabs would visit al-Quds.

    However, there is a big difference between a personal visit and Ali Gomaa's visit. That's where I have a problem with his visit, he says it is a personal private visit, but Ali Gomaa never represents himself, he is no longer an individual, as long as he is the Mufti then he is an institution not a person. So he can claim that it is a personal visit as much as he wants, but the reality is that he is always representing his institution which means it is a political position, not a private thing. Before making such a step he should have engaged in dialogue with the people/institutions he is representing with such a step! So I definitely think he made the wrong move.

  5. Orit Perlov - the answer to your Q is that the Egyptian are hatefull bigots.That simple.

  6. God gave the Muslims the right to "Igtihad" in Religious matter and he promised to credit them ( at least) with one "Ajr" if they turn wrong and one if they are right..

    This is not a religious matter after all , it is politics that can stand several ways , people are getting severely back at the old Sheikh...

    Even palestinians in Jerusalem are divided towards external visits , some want to boycott it all while others after 40 years of occupation want a show of solidarity..


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