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The hoary land of Palestine has been home to prophets and men of god. It has also been the most fiercely contested piece of earth. Palestine means something delicious or beautiful.

A Sacred Land

Palestine is a sacred land to Muslims because of its association with Abraham, the father of all prophets, and with the Islamic vocation of the Prophet Muhammad. The references and events in Islamic religious scriptures, as well as the history of the land itself, attest to the holiness of the land of Palestine. Today, Islam is the religion of 97% of the population. Many of the Palestinians trace their descent to the 7th century when Muslims came to the country. Jerusalem is a holy city mentioned in the Qur’an as the blessed holy place, in which the Prophet experienced Al-Isra Al-Mi’raj. Jerusalem was the first city, before Makah, to which the Prophet asked his followers to turn in prayers.

Al-Sakhra Mosque: It is believed to have come from paradise and angels visited the site 2,000 years before the creation of Adam; it is closer to heaven than any other spot on earth and guarded by angles; all sweet waters of the earth have their source under it; Noah’s ark rested on the Rock after the flood had subsided, and here the angel will blow the last trumpet on the Day of Judgment; it is the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven in Lailat Al-Miraj (‘Night of the Ascent’). Various momentoes of the Prophet’s Nocturnal Journey — a handprint, a footprint, the spot from which he ascended — are found on the Rock. Al-Sakhra, like Al-Aqsa Mosque, was built in the 7th century by the Ummayad Caliph Abd Al-Malik Ibn Marwan. The golden-domed octagonal oratory is still much the same in its architectural splendor as when its was completed in 691.

Al-Aqsa Mosque: The name is derived from the Quranic verse of the Prophet’s Nocturnal Journey or Isra: “Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant Place of Worship, the neighborhood where of We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He is the Hearer, the Seer”, (Quran, 17:1). Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest mosque in Islam after those in Makkah and Medina.

Christian-Muslim relations have been traditionally excellent as they were influenced by the attitudes and actions of Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, the caliph who, when he came to Jerusalem in CE638 to accept the surrender of the city, offered the Arab Patriarch, Sophronius, Al-Uhdah Al-Omariyah, i.e., guarantee for the safety of the Christians and their holy places. Omar preferred not to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher when the call for prayers was heard fearing that believers would attempt to transform the Church into a mosque, and prayed at a nearby site (today’s Mosque of Omar).

The Jewish Orthodox community Neturei Karta in Jerusalem, mostly concentrated in the area of Mea Shearim, consider themselves Palestinian Jews. They have expressed in many ways their wish not to live under the sovereignty of the State of Israel, which they do not accept. From July 1949 to February 1950, for example, they repeatedly urged the president of the UN Trusteeship Council to include their religious anti-Zionist community in the international zone of administration, i.e., under the international protection of the UN or in any international scheme of supervision, which may be created in accordance with UN Resolution 181 of 1947.

In 1994, the head of Neturei Karta, Rabbi Moshe Hirsh, was appointed by President Yasser Arafat to be the head of Jewish Affairs within the newly established PNA.

The 550-strong Samaritan community, of which approx. 300 live on Mt. Gerizim in Nablus and the rest in Holon near Tel Aviv, stem from one of the 12 biblical Israeli tribes, speak and pray in Hebrew and believe in the writings of the Torah.

The Nabulsi Samaritans, led by Farouk Samri, consider themselves Palestinians and are fully integrated in the daily life of the Palestinian society, go to Palestinian schools and universities, and work together in Nablus and surrounding areas. Following the Palestinian elections of January 1996, PNA President Yasser Arafat granted the community specially one of the 88 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, where they are represented by the preacher Salum Imran Ishaq Al-Samiri. (Source PASSIA)

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