Rami prepared the group for the experience. “We will be going through the area where Muslims gather and pray,” he explained. “We must be respectful of their customs so I will ask both men and women to cover up their arms and legs. Stay close together,” he warned. “And please, don’t make any sudden moves.”
Theresa placed the shawl on her head and wrapped it around her bare shoulders. The group waited.
Then, a young man with a film crew approached the soldiers and asked permission to enter.
“Who is that?” Theresa asked Rami.
“That film director,” Rami said “is General Moshe Dayan’s grandson.” Rami’s eyes grew wide with alarm.
“Is that a problem?” Theresa asked.
“Moshe Dayan,” Rami said, “you know, the general with the black patch over his left eye?” Theresa nodded. “Well, during the Six-Day War in 1967, Dayan oversaw the capture of East Jerusalem, which included the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.”
“So the area fell into Israeli’s hands?”
“Yes and no,” said Rami. “You see, when Dayan saw rabbis flocking to the Dome of the Rock, he couldn’t understand why. He thought the area was nothing more than a historical site. So he ordered his soldiers to take down the Israeli flag,” Rami said, “and handed control over to a Muslim council. The Orthodox Jews were angry.”
“So if the film crew goes in—?”
“The Muslims will be very upset,” he said. “And I will not take the group inside.”
Theresa stood behind David and watched as the Israeli soldiers yelled and punched the air with their hands. The film crew stood their ground. But not for long. The soldiers denied them access and pushed them aside to allow the tour group passage.
Theresa walked alongside Rami. She felt cold in the hot sun.
“You are now at a security checkpoint,” Rami told the group. “You’ll have to show your passports and open your bags to let the Israeli and Muslim authorities inspect them.”
Once inside, and under an olive tree, Rami ran through a quick history of the Mosque, the Dome and the Muslims who made the Mount their place of worship. Theresa ogled the shimmering gold Dome of the Rock and marveled at its exquisite blue-tiled walls.
Out of the corner of her eye, Theresa witnessed hundreds of Muslim women in black head scarves and robes rush to surround the Al-Aqsa mosque. Then they began to ululate, a high-pitched trilling sound that hurt her ears.
The women pointed at a group of five Orthodox Jews with black hats and tzitzit who had entered the compound surrounded by an escort of ten Israeli soldiers armed with Uzi machine guns.
Rami gathered the group close and urged them to be quiet. Her heart ticked fast against her ribs as she watched the Jewish contingent make its way across the Mount, their hands laced behind their backs. She grabbed her husband’s arm and squeezed.
“If these Jews make the slightest gesture of prayer,” Rami said, “a riot will erupt.”
“Oh my God!” she whispered to her husband. “I want to get the hell out of here!”