Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Arabs upset that non-Muslims tour the Old City

An interesting, and telling, article in Palestine Today (Arabic):
Israel is preparing to launch tourist activities in the walled Old City of Jerusalem, which goes back to the reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the legal and under a lot of effects and its holy places, Islamic and Arab Umayyad to the days of the first and entrusted warrior Saladin and the Mamelukes.

It appears that Israel wants to weave their own story about the history of Jerusalem and ignore the facts of history about the place of the city in the hearts of Muslims around the world, and the importance of Al-Aqsa mosque to them.

It is clear that Israel wants to interest Jewish, Christian and Western tourists and to marginalize the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and their contribution to the preservation of the heritage of the old city with distinction.
The article goes on to quote the press release about this tour, which I am reproducing here in the original English:

Visitors to Jerusalem can now experience the holy city's remarkable sites in a whole new light with "Autumn Evenings in the Old City." The guided nighttime tours, combining live musical performances, stories and meetings with Jerusalem's fascinating inhabitants, take participants through the Muristan neighborhood, David's Citadel, Tekuma Park and the ancient "Jewish" and "Christian" Quarters on Mondays and Thursdays through October 30th.

Visitors are able to select from two tours- "The Storytelling Tour," featuring encounters with characters from the city's past and present, such as a British soldier and an "Effendi" and his followers; and "The City & A Song," a musical tour of the Old City including visits to the Cardo and Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue. Each tour culminates with a special musical performance with acts ranging in style from New Orleans jazz and Turkish folk to traditional Jewish and Arab songs.

"This is the very first time this kind of nighttime activity is taking place in the Old City," says Jerusalem Development Authority Director Reuven Pinsky. "I have no doubt that the awareness of the Old City as a place that can be enjoyed after dark will grow, bringing in many more visitors each and every day."

"Autumn Evenings in the Old City" is an initiative of the Jerusalem Development Authority in cooperation with the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ariel Company. The tours begin at 6:30 p.m., free of charge.
It takes a bit of a stretch to imagine this night-time tour as being offensive to Muslims or Arabs. In fact, it includes mentions of Arab history and culture during the tour.

It is quite possible that the reason the Muslim quarter is not included in the tour is because there is additional danger to tourists at nighttime there.

Muslims often accuse Israel of "Judaizing" Jerusalem and of attempting to erase the history of Muslims there, but it simply isn't true. Archaeological sites as well as tours and history mention the Arab presence and history there prominently. To complain that the Al Aqsa mosque is not on the tour, when the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are not either, is ridiculous.

The only people who are trying to erase history from Jerusalem are the many Muslims who categorically deny any Jewish connection to the city. Here we have yet another example of Elder's First Rule of Arab Projection, where Arabs accuse Jews of doing something that Arabs are much more guilty of.