Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (left) and Bishop Munib Younan posed for a photo after sharing an iftar meal in Ramallah on Aug. 26. Carter was in the region with The Elders, an independent group of eminent global leaders seeking to use their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.
Their Aug. 25-28 visit to Israel-Palestine was intended to allow the group to listen to the people affected by the conflict here and to offer their support to all those working for peace.
For more about The Elders, go to their website at www.theelders.org.
Despite the statement referred to in this ad by Israeli organization Machsom Watch that the State of Israel will guarantee freedom of religion and access to holy sites, Palestinian Muslims and Christians are routinely deprived of their right to pray at their holy places, even – especially – during the most holy times. Friday, Oct 20, was the last Friday during the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast and come to pray in Jerusalem more frequently, especially on Fridays.
Every Friday in Jerusalem, they keep out Muslim men from about 15-45. Hundreds of Israeli army and police set up barricades in East Jerusalem and around the Old City gates that allow them to carefully screen all those who attempt to come in. At the checkpoints into Jerusalem, Muslim men of certain ages (usually 15-45 or so) are not allowed to enter Jerusalem or the Old City. Twenty-five people were put into the hospital Friday when tear gas and stun grenades were used to dispel the crowd of families gathered to try to enter Jerusalem at the Bethlehem checkpoint. Pictured here are the men praying at the Bethlehem checkpoint after being denied entry into Jerusalem.
The Oriental Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican Churches invited the higher Islamic council, Chief Islamic Justice Sheikh al Tamimi, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, Islamic Awqaf Adnan Hussein, Jerusalem PLC members and about 100 other dignitaries and civil society leaders both Christian and Muslim to celebrate a traditional “iftar” meal Tuesday after the Ramadan fasting day ended. Bishop Younan welcomed the group, and PA President Abu Mazen’s Chief of Staff Mr. Rafik Husseini gave the President’s regrets that he couldn’t be there since these community-building events are so important.
The speakers called for an end to recent tensions between Muslims and Christians, with Sheikh Tamimi recalling the Covenant of Omar in the 7th century which calls for good relations between Muslims and Christians. He recalled that the majority of Christians and Muslims have lived together in peace since then. The speakers agreed that they should work together to see that statements and events outside of this area not affect relations here. All the speakers emphasized the importance of the Holy City of Jerusalem for all, and His Beatitude Michel Sabbah reiterated their common belief that Jerusalem must be shared among Christian, Muslim and Jew and between Palestinian and Israeli. He said these kinds of events are important and must be continued to strengthen community. They also called for unity not only between Muslim and Christian but also among all the Palestinian factions, and urged an end to violence of all kinds.