Fire under Al-Aqsa mosque at same time as Paris’s Notre Dame fire

Just World Admin Blog, Jerusalem, Palestine

On April 15, the same day that a massive fire gutted much of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, a much smaller fire broke out in the Al-Marwani prayer room located under Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.

The Jerusalem Waqf (endowment) that administers the numerous great sites in occupied East Jerusalem considered very holy by Muslims and Christians, reported that its firefighters were able to bring the fire under control fairly speedily.

Waqf firefighters extinguishing the Al-Marwani fire

The Al-Marwani prayer room is located in a very large arched space that is part of the foundation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, considered the third holiest site in Muslim history. News of the recent fire aroused some fears among Palestinians that an anti-Muslim extremist might have set it. But Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director general of the Jerusalem Waqf and the Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs Department downplayed those fears.

(In July 1969, an Australian Christian-Evangelical extremist called Denis Michael Rohan set fire to the pulpit of Al-Aqsa itself, claiming that he was doing so to further God’s plan to ingather all the world’s Jews into Israel.)

The broad esplanade above the Al-Marwani Room, in which Al-Aqsa and the more ornate “Dome of the Rock” Mosque are both located, is known by Palestinians as the Haram al-Sharif, “The Noble Sanctuary” and is known in Jewish tradition as the “Temple Mount”. Since Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem began in 1967, this whole area has been the epicenter of repeated attempts by Zionist extremists to seize control of as much of the territory (and its numerous subterranean and above-ground structures) as possible.

For now, the administration of the Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem is in the hands of the Jerusalem Waqf–which reports not to the Palestinian Authority but to the government of Jordan.

In this recent article in JWE’s “Story/Backstory” project, JWE President Helena Cobban placed this seemingly anomalous fact of Jordan playing such a key role in Jerusalem in the context of the longer history of Zionism’s assaults on Palestinian Jerusalem.

In the podcast episode that accompanied the article, Nora Lester Murad explained how Palestinian Jerusalem was now “in the front-line of the ongoing Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe).”

Other recent articles on Jerusalem on our blog can be found here.