Lonely Jerusalem - KEMAL ÖZTÜRK

Lonely Jerusalem


It's early in the morning as we enter Jerusalem through the Zahra door, the door through which Salahuddin al-Ayyubi entered the city. I touch the walls as I walk by to feel the history that this ancient city has accumulated over thousands of years.

There is sorrow, heartache, longing, excitement and holiness.

There is no one in the streets of the old city. Solitude has taken over the streets.

There is desolateness in the streets that lead to Al-Aqsa.

The shops are just opening. Students are tired and unwillingly walking to school. Tired faces, thoughtful eyes and deep lines walk past me.

With the recent Israeli security policies going into effect, trade, religious life and visits to East Jerusalem have decreased.

You can feel this change in the streets.

How does it feel to come face-to-face with occupation soldiers?

I am on Salahuddin Street.

Looking at the masjids, marketplaces, street taps and fountains and pulpits you can see the importance the Ottomans attached to Jerusalem and the respect they had for Jerusalem. The crescent star engravings, sultan signatures, writing engraved on ceramic tiles, stained glasses and mosaics are all proof of this.

They all seemed sorrowful to me. Sorrowful and lonely.

I break off an olive leaf. I grab a handful of soil from the ground.

It smells of Jerusalem, it smells of history, it smells Muslim.

My heart races as we enter the main courtyard of the mosque. I see the magnificent Dome of the Rock and Israeli soldiers in sight.

You couldn't begin to understand how hard it is to accept occupation soldiers waiting at the gates of your holy shrine.

Every Turk that comes to visit for the first time must quarrel with the soldiers.

I had quarreled with a soldier who wanted to see my identity during my first visit in 1998, they had pointed their guns at me.

I don't know why, but no Turk has ever been scared of that pointed gun.

Lonely Jerusalem

Finally I stand across the Dome of the Rock beautified with blue and yellow tiles.

It is so lonely.

The courtyard is empty. I sit on a rock and watch the desolateness of Jerusalem while I cringe in sorrow.

I feel like hugging it and saying, “Don't worry you aren't alone." But unfortunately it is alone. It is isolated.

While I walk toward Al-Aqsa Mosque I came across another group of Israeli soldiers. I changed my route, turned my head away, closed my eyes, but they were always there. The occupation soldiers are there, right in front of the mosque.

Israel's tyranny

Whether you evaluate it according to the U.N., the rules of the three religions or according to universal human rights, Israel's actions in Jerusalem and Palestine are illegal, it is committing a crime, a sin.

But no one seems to be doing anything about it. When you go only 15 kilometers away from the masjid you see how nobody, not even the U.N. can stop this state from separating the people with a wall of shame. Moreover, by opening new settlement lots, Israel continues to occupy since the very start in 1948. No one says anything.

You have to go through a line of soldiers in al-Khalil, who search you before you can get inside the mosque. If you want to go to the bazaar or the bakery you have to go through those degrading searches and x-ray devices.

Therefore, the streets, the bazaars and marketplaces are all quiet.

Jerusalem becomes even lonelier if Turkey isn't there

They ask me about the results of the Turkey-Israel agreement and Hamas's latest declarations. They wonder whether it made it in to Turkey's agenda. I can't tell them that Turkey's agenda was about the comments Erdoğan made about the media.

Obviously their problem is different from the rest of the world.

Turkey doesn't deal with the Palestine issue or the Gaza blockade on a daily basis; Jerusalem becomes more and more lonely.

This is what the people here feel.

I ask how the situation is in the world's biggest open-air prison and concentration camp. They tell me that Gaza has never been this bad before. Egypt has closed its doors, shut down the tunnels and increased the pressure. Israel has increased the blockade, making it harder for basic necessities to come through and also it has increased the murders of innocent people.

Gaza is grasping for breath as it is stuck in a clamp like blockade. Eighteen-hour-long electricity cuts, no gas, bad infrastructure has further irked the people. The Palestinians who have been resisting for years are at the verge of exhaustion.

Obviously this reality, the difficulties and the problems have forced Hamas to make such a statement. This is the sad truth about realpolitik. Hamas has accepted to go back to the 1967 borders, it has declared it has no ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, that it doesn't see the Jewish people as enemies and that it is only fighting Zionism.

I believe making such a statement must have been very hard for Hamas. But this statement means that it has foregone some of its previous theories and that it accepts to live together with Israel. Jerusalem's loneliness is the common shame of the Muslim world that is at each other's throats, that has become divided and enemies to one another.

Don't leave Jerusalem alone

Don't leave this city alone. Malatya's Yeşilyurt Municipality holds a poem contest every year and rewards its winners by taking them to Jerusalem. Everyone that comes along sees how lonely this occupied city is and how disconnected the ummah is. If only every municipality did something similar.

Whenever I come here I am filled with sorrow. The expectations they have from Turkey crush me. Every time I come I see how the Muslim world is divided and degenerated. Then I look at the issues discussed in Turkey, at the things my friends do and the way people stigmatize each other. My sorrow and loneliness increases. Just like Jerusalem's.


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