With severe restrictions on men to enter Jerusalem and the Holy Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa, Palestinian women are gallantly taking their places in protecting it from extremist Israelis. The extremist routinely and regularly enter Al-Aqsa Sanctuary with the protection of Israeli security services. On occasions these trespassing has resulted in the defiling of the Holy Sanctuary and even physical attacks.
To safeguard the Aqsa Sanctuary, Palestinian women who have become known as the Murabitat (defenders of faith or steadfast) take turns to ensure there is also someone present within the compound. Fatima Khader is one of the Murabitat giving support despite the Israeli obstacles and harassments to reach Al-Aqsa Sanctuary. Ms Khader with her friends keep a vigil around the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary and ensure when Israeli settlers do enter they keep a close watch. “It hurts me to see the occupation soldiers storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque, without reverence while thousands of Palestinians are prevented from entering the mosque” Fatima says. It is in effect the denial by Israel of the right of the Palestinians to travel and practice their faith freely that has moved the women of the Murabitat to challenge the extremist settlers and their armed Israeli guards.
Besides providing protection to the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary, the Murabitat clean the Mosques and the beautiful monuments. They extend their services by feeding the birds and cats that roam the Al-Aqsa Santuary. The Murabitat also participate in the various educational classes within the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary and some qualified women help out students as teacher assistance. Fatima stated, “I was born in Jerusalem and raised inside this mosque. It is my duty to protect and safeguard Al-Aqsa Sanctuary”. The Murabitat consider the role of Palestinian women includes resisting Israeli occupying forces taking over Al-Aqsa Sanctuary and equally important to teach the new generation of its importance.
The Murabitat despite using peaceful means to protect the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary have been subjugated to physical assaults and beatings. Some Murabitat have been summoned with legal exclusion orders not to enter Al-Aqsa. “I was arrested and interrogated for several hours, and I was expelled twice during 2019 and 2020″ sad Fatima Khader. For the Palestinians the relentless struggle to survive under Israeli occupation and protecting the Palestinian heritage, history and culture is taking a tool.
Fatima appeals to the world by stating, “we appreciate the solidarity shown to us from around the world and to continue with the efforts. We are a people who deserve life, and these crimes committed against us must not go unnoticed. We call on the world to look at the issue of Al-Aqsa Sanctuary and the Palestinian women, who are constantly being abused by the Israeli occupation forces.”