chapter  2
Sacred space in modern times: Jerusalem paradoxes
Pages 21

Sacred/secular On several consecutive Fridays, an elderly Palestinian man in kafiyyeh and traditional dress stands just outside Damascus Gate at midday holding a large banner that entreats passers by to contribute to funding a new mosque (Figure 2.1).1 At his feet, is a box with many coins and a few paper notes. He is there to catch worshippers on their way to, or returning from prayers, in the Haram al-Sharif, and presumably hopes that the sanctity of the visit will inspire donors to be generous. Nearby, it is not unusual to see a small cluster of Israeli soldiers, joking with each other and seemingly oblivious to the activity around them. They appear to be inattentive and bored with guard duty at the gate, with no interest in the Palestinian and his banner (and whether they understand what is written in Arabic is questionable). In a location that, throughout the occupation, has been a flashpoint for violence, often on Fridays at prayer time, it is a relatively benign scene. Nonetheless, the general ongoing tensions in the area mean that palpable conflict could arise given any slight cause.