Al-Aqsa Mosque Complex, Jerusalem

“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

Gazing at the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

“Who is the owner of the language of this land? Who loves it more?

Woman Gazing at the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

Located inside the Old City, the golden Dome of the Rock is situated within the walls of the Temple Mount, a holy place for Muslims and Jews. Covering an area of 35 acres, the Temple Mount remains under the control of Muslim religious authorities; however, responsibility for security was taken over by Israelis after their occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

In this photograph, the woman gazing at the Dome of the Rock is standing near the top of the Mount of Olives, looking out over the Jewish cemetery immediately beneath her. Across the valley, the Yusefiya Muslim Cemetery lies outside the walls of the Old City.

Muslims make up approximately 16% of the Israeli population while Jews make up 75% of the total population currently estimated at 7,746,000. Over 700,000 Palestinians are citizens of Israel, living inside the country’s 1949 armistice borders. About 1.2 million live in the West Bank (including 200,000 in East Jerusalem) and about one million in the Gaza Strip. (Middle East Research and Information Project) Israel is a place of complexities and inequities.

Mahmoud Darwish was widely regarded as the Palestinian national poet. He admired Hebrew poet Yehuda Amichai, but described his poetry as a “challenge to me, because we write about the same place. He wants to use the landscape and history for his own benefit, based on my destroyed identity. So we have a competition: who is the owner of the language of this land? Who loves it more? Who writes it better?”