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Residents of Old City’s Jewish Quarter Fear Unrest Following Opening of Mosque

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Residents of the Jewish Quarter are preparing for widespread protests following the renovation and reopening of the Sidna Omar mosque in the heart of the Quarter and near the Hurva synagogue. Photo by Elron Zabatani/TPS on 25 November, 2019

Residents of the Jewish Quarter are preparing for widespread protests following the renovation and reopening of the Sidna Omar mosque in the heart of the Quarter and near the Hurva synagogue, TPS has learned.

By: Aryeh Savir

The mosque, also known as the “Jewish Mosque,” has been closed for decades and will open to Muslim worshipers in the coming weeks after undergoing renovations paid for by Jordan. This development has become a source of great concern in the Jewish Quarter and among Jewish communities in Jerusalem and abroad.

Over the weekend, representatives of a newly-established action committee and rabbis convened for a meeting in which they concluded that “the evil of decree must be annulled, and efforts should commence to hold a dialogue with Waqf to prevent an outburst.”

Residents of the Jewish Quarter told TPS that they are outraged at the incompetence of the Israeli authorities, and especially the Jerusalem municipality, which they said has known about the renovations but has taken no action. Likewise, the police admitted that they knew about the renovations but did not comment or act on the matter.

Another one of the leading rabbis expressed strong opposition to the government’s silence.

The members of the committee expressed concern over the possible installation of the green lighting on the mosque’s minaret, which is common to mosques and represents Islam. The leaders described it as a ” stab in the eye.”

Authorities have reportedly intervened in the matter and are seeking to ensure that no loudspeaker for the muezzin or green lighting is installed on the mosque.

The mosque is located in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, on the main road to the Western Wall and in close proximity to several yeshivas, and the possibility of Muslim prayers there generating apprehension in the area.

“It is unthinkable that when tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers come to pray at the Jewish Quarter, prayers will be held in the mosque, especially during Ramadan,” committee members told TPS. One member of the committee asked at the meeting “what will happen on Yom Kippur and Ramadan prayers?”

“We cannot accept a muezzin praying at the mosque’s spire which is only 15 meters away from the Hurva. Someone here went crazy and will lead to violence, “said Elhanan Levy, a yeshiva student who lives in the Quarter. “Does anyone think it would be appropriate for us to pray at the al-Aqsa complex?”

Several residents in the Quarter are calling for immediate action against the mosque and against Muslim prayers.

In the meantime, mediation efforts and talks with Muslim public figures and representatives of Waqf have commenced. The action committee hopes that the efforts will bear fruit in the coming days and will prevent the deterioration of the situation in the Quarter and the entire Old City.

“We are good, neighborly, and peaceful people and expect our Muslim neighbors not to hurt the feelings of the Jewish worshipers. We would not have thought of setting up a synagogue right next to the al-Aqsa Mosque,” says Rabbi Ephraim, a member of the action committee.

TPS has learned that Jordan intends to renovate more Muslim sites in the Old City, assisted by the Al Quds Commission, which is sponsored by the King of Morocco, including the Yaaqubi Mosque, and the Omar Ben-Khatab Mosque adjacent to the Holy Sepulcher.

The Sidna Omar mosque was built in the 14th century adjacent to the Ramban synagogue and was instrumental in causing the synagogue’s shutdown.

During the Six-Day War, the mosque’s minaret was hit by gunfire and renovated in 1974. Its structure is typical of the Mamluk period and raises two stories high with a porch to the muezzin. (TPS)

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