RAMADAN IN JERUSALEM
Our guide and bus driver said, "I can't get you any closer to the Damascus Gate. You'll need to walk from here." We piled out into stationary traffic, the consequence of the unexpected road closure. It's Ramadan in Jerusalem. Muslims from around the world flock to their second most holiest site - Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, not far from our comfortable accommodation at Ecce Homo Convent on the Via Dolorosa. Hundreds of police are marshalling in an enclosure 300 metres beside the ancient wall. Three days before we arrived in Jerusalem, two separate incidents near the Damascus Gate resulted in the death of an Israeli policewoman. Two Palestinian Arabs were shot dead. Tourists were emptied from The Old City as a security measure.
We approach the Damascus Gate and confront chaos. A sea of Muslims spread from the road on our left, the artery into East Jerusalem, to the Damascus Gate on our right. The Damascus Gate is the most impressive of the gates in the Old City but the entrance is narrow. Crowds press towards the funnel but it appears blocked. A quick democratic decision sends us ten minutes further to Herod's Gate, the least impressive. "At least it's moving," someone says.
We join the jostling, excited crowd as they pour into the Old City, women chattering, men shouting. BBQs and food stalls cram the narrow road. Chicken, Shawarma, Falafel, and Arabic sweets are for sale.
At last we reach our oasis - Ecce Homo. "It's a special night of prayer at the Mosque for the end of Ramadan," we're told. 300,000 Muslims are expected and police will close the Gates to the Old City at 2am.
It's Ramadan in Jerusalem.