Al-Aqsa Mosque Complex, Jerusalem

by Leslie Hossack

“Write down! I am an Arab…”

Al-Aqsa Mosque Complex, Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

In the Islamic and Jewish religions, Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) is believed to be the area on Mount Moriah where Abraham went to sacrifice his son. Muslims identify this site as the furthermost sanctuary; from here Mohammed, accompanied by the angel Gabriel, made his night journey to the throne of God. The Al-Aqsa Mosque complex is the third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina.

The men in this photograph are walking along the western side of Haram al-Sharif, above the Western Wall. Each man is wearing a keffiyeh, the traditional Arab headdress made from a square of white cotton and held in place by a rope. The keffiyeh became a symbol of Palestinian nationalism during the Arab Revolt in the 1930s. In the 1960s, it became associated with the Palestinian resistance movement; Yasser Arafat was rarely seen without his black-and-white keffiyeh.

Celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish was a member of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization. Darwish became famous with his poem Identity Card. Occupied Palestine is divided into three sections, and residents need identity cards: blue cards for Palestinians living in Jerusalem, and green cards for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Write down!
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks …

Write down!
I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks …

excerpt from Identity Card by Mahmoud Darwish

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