As the final leg of Ramadan is soon to begin, the group of South Africans who has travelled to Al-Aqsa to perform I’tikaaf in the Masjid has managed to successfully access the holy land. Speaking to VOC, a member of the delegation Ayoob Dadabhay explains that while they entered with relative ease, only being detained for six hours, two members of the delegation were not allowed entry and are subsequently enroute back to South Africa.
As numbers for umrah is expected to reach a record six million, he says that the number of visitors to Al-Aqsa is surprisingly few.
Dadabhay says that the numbers is impacted by the recent removal of 85 000 Palestinian permits following the Tel Aviv attack. The permits allow entry into Jerusalem.
“Inshallah, tomorrow being Jumuah, we may see a bigger crowd,” Dadabhay notes.
In preparation for I’tikaaf, which officially begins on Saturday, the delegation is completing all the final arrangements.
While Palestinians are periodically barred from entering the sacred site, Ayoob affirmed that foreigners are generally allowed free access and are, therefore, able to observe I’tikaaf and sleep in the compound relatively undisturbed.
“They [Israeli authorities] allow us to make I’tikaaf. So, irrespective of what problems they are having, that part of the programme still stands.”
In anticipation of eating the infamous Palestinian cuisine and meeting their Palestinian “brothers”, Dadabhay says that the delegation is excited to mingle with more Palestinian locals as more enter for the final days of Ramadan.
“We are never short of food in this place, so part of the journey is the amazing food and company.”
Dadabhay, encouraged South African Muslims to make the trip for I’tikaaf in Masjid al-Aqsa and experience the month of Ramadan with Palestinians.
Travellers will not require a visa, but will require a flight ticket, and while those who sit for nafl I’tikaaf book rooms for their luggage and basic travelling requirements, the entire group sleeps in the haram.
“When you go to Makkah and Madina you go for yourself, but when you go for I’tikaaf in Palestine, you go for the people,” Dadabhay continued.