Very interesting political meeting plus the Dome of the Rock, via very tight Israeli security
by ray goodlass
12 January: a great day today. I met by prior arrangement with the Head of the Australian Office to Palestine, Tom Wilson, over coffee at the nearby Educational Bookshop,then offf I went via the souks and laneways of the Old City to the Temple Mount to finally see the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque.
It was good to talk to Tom, to share with him my thoughts on the Palestine/Israel situation, and to hear his take on it. He’s very personable, quite young, and it was easy to share our backgrounds. He’s, naturally, a career staffer with DFAT, and has previously served in East Asia before specialising in the Middle East and serving in the Australian Embassy in Saudi Arabia before taking up the top job in Ramallah. He also spent time in Jordan learning Arabic. Tom pointed out that Australia is a major donor to Palestine, which is good to hear given that many western countries are witholding donations because the claim Hamas is a terrorist organisation. It really was good to exchange perceptions with him at a level free from bias.
It took me until now to get to the Temple Mount to see the Dome of ther Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque because until today I’ve been quite sick with the flu, the weather has been terrible, and the two times each day when non-Muslims are allowed to visit didn’t necessarilly fit my schedule.
But today I feel considerably better and the weather was beautiful, so after my meeting with Tom, off I went. I was determined to do it myself, rather than to pay to go on a tour, and I’m pleased that I made it, despite a few wrong turns as I navigated the twists and turns of the souks and lanes of the Old City. In fact I really enjoyed my wanderings, by now being relaxed enough not to get stressed.
The Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque are gob-smackingly impressive, with the Dome being exceptionally beautiful. A pity that, as a non-Muslim, I couldn’t go inside either venue, but that’s due to the Israelis, specifically Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit accompanied by hundreds of soldiers in 2000, which sparked the Second Intifada.
The Israelis also have a really tight security grip on the whole area. To get there you have to go via the Western (Wailing) Wall, the Hebrew holy of holies, and its very tight airport style security check, and then to get up to the Temple Mout itself, more of the same. I wonder if it has occurred to them that they caused the situation demanding such tight security in the first place? In a way its a microcosm for the whole of Israel. They have created a situation demanding high security and a bunker-like mentality. Us and them, with a vengeance.