By: Baruch Yedid
Jordan is in the final stages of renovating the Sidna Omar mosque in the heart of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and plans to open it to prayers, TPS has learned.
The mosque, situated just feet away from the famed Hurva synagogue, is undergoing a complete makeover that includes the refurbishing of the interior, restoration of the outer walls and stonework, all conducted under the supervision of the Waqf.
The Jerusalem Waqf is an Islamic religious trust, controlled by Jordan and responsible for managing the Islamic structures on and around the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
In about two weeks, the mosque, also known as the “Jewish Mosque,” which has been closed for decades, will open to the Muslim worshipers. The Waqf has already appointed Sheikh Aassem Jodeh as the mosque’s Imam.
Jodeh told TPS on Tuesday that “the renovation of the mosque is coordinated with the Waqf administration in Jordan, and with Israeli officials and the representatives of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Jerusalem Police.”
The coordination is overseen by Sheikh Yasser Abu Ghazallah, who is responsible for the Waqf’s mosque reconstruction project in the Old City.
Jodeh added that the Hashemite family in Jordan is paying for the renovations, “as they have the religious authority in eastern Jerusalem.”
The Waqf told the TPS on Tuesday that they do not intend to install a sound system on the mosque’s minaret, due to its proximity to the Hurva Synagogue.
However, residents of the Jewish Quarter report that prayers have already been held in the mosque in recent days, and expressed fear that Muslim prayers in the heart of the Jewish Quarter and in close proximity to the Hurva synagogue will increase religious tension in the Old City, and especially if an amplification system is installed in the mosque.
Sources in eastern Jerusalem spoke to TPS on condition of anonymity and noted that Jordan is worried by Turkey’s actions in Jerusalem, which include the renovation of mosques, the purchase of buildings, and the financial support for Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the area. Therefore, Jordan has begun to work to increase its presence in the Old City in the past year, the sources explained.
Similar sentiments were conveyed to Israeli officials a few months ago in a meeting with a Waqf representative who expressed concern over Turkish activity “that could increase tensions in the city.”
The Waqf member said that Jordan is keeping an eye on the developments and is also monitoring the funding for Turkish activities.
“Some of Turkey’s funds, which are allocated to various Muslim Brotherhood associations and flowing into private pockets of interested parties, are increasing the tension in the Old City,” an eastern Jerusalem source said.
There are some 30 mosques in the Old City area, along with hundreds of other prayer houses, all under Jordanian control.
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 Al Quds Commission also intends to acquire and renovate historic buildings such as the “Morocco House,” a large building very close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. When the works are completed, the building will be returned to the Waqf.
A few months ago, the Waqf renovated the Dissi mosque in the Jewish Quarter, and only after mediation efforts did the Waqf agree not to install an amplification system and remove the green lighting from the mosque’s minaret.
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.