While we have not discussed Al-Aqsa Mosque by name in class, we have discussed that there are several religious sites that Muhammad is said to have visited in his lifetime. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of these sacred sites, sitting next to the Dome of the Rock, but frequently the pictures around the internet are of the building at the Dome of the Rock and not Al-Aqsa. This mosque is mentioned in the Qur’an as being “the farthest temple” and the Dome of the Rock is where Muhammad is said to have ascended into heaven on the magic human-faced horse Buraq. However the location, in Jerusalem, is also sacred to the Jewish community. So, naturally there is an abundance of tension. The Jewish community wants their own temple on the site while, as mentioned, this is an important location of the story of the Isra and Mi’raj.
There was more congestion than normal due to several Jewish holidays occurring in mid to late September and early October (here is a list), most notably Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and their coinciding with big events on the Islamic calendar (here is a list), most notably the Hajj. The confrontations were over Israeli’s wanting more access to the site, there being heavier patrols, and the Palestinians want to make sure that the laws to access the sites were not changed. The Palestinians that were protesting were fired on by Border Patrol and some were injured.
There continues to be debate over who should control, have access to, and protect the historic sites of the Old City (the sacred walled in part of Jerusalem). Since reading this article late in December it appears Israel has closed off access, possibly entirely, to Palestinians attempting to access the area and there has been a death. With such high tension between religious groups I personally cannot say whether there is a right or wrong side to the argument, but as a lover of history and a believer that all should be able to practice their faith I believe that equal access should be allowed. It would be foolish of me to assume that the government, as they have already displayed, would provide unbiased protection to the people visiting these sites or to expect no one to defile the mosque. Should a third party be responsible for protecting historical and religiously significant sites? Al-Aqsa has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, but should that mean it is without its history? Why would it be so irrational to have a Jewish temple around this location too? Also, if these two religious groups could carry on well before could equal access not help ease the current tensions? Not knowing much of the legacies beyond our textbooks, yet, or to the history of the tensions between Palestine and Israel; therefore, I certainly do not have the answers to those questions- nor am I an expert on international relations. Any input would be welcome and enlightening.
The pictures I have provided are from the Wikipedia pages of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The links to the articles I read are below, starting with the earliest.