A photograph of a Christian man among thousands of Muslims during Friday prayers in Jerusalem last week serves as a touching example of interfaith cooperation amid conflict and religious tensions.
The photo, taken by CNN, shows Nidal Aboud, holding the Bible with a cross draped around his neck, as he stood alongside Muslims for midday prayers in the Wadi el-Joz neighborhood, outside the Old City of Jerusalem, last Friday. He was the only Christian there, according to CNN.
As the Muslims around him bowed down for prayers, Aboud made the sign of the cross. As they chanted, he read the Bible to himself. And as they said “Allahu Akbar,” God is greatest in Arabic, he stood silently and respectfully. It was the first time Aboud, a 24-year-old Palestinian, ever joined the midday Muslim prayers. Aboud told CNN he wanted to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Muslims as they worshiped. “I had a dream since I was a child. I wanted to spread the world with love. I wanted to be the one who plants love in people’s hearts,” he told CNN in a recent interview.
A Christian man prays alongside Muslims outside the Old City of Jerusalem during mid-day prayers on Friday. pic.twitter.com/ixvdcpkNIY
— Oren Liebermann (@OrenCNN) July 23, 2017
The prayers took place after Israel restricted access to the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The mosque is located in a compound in the Old City near one of world’s most religious sites, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif and known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Following last week’s attack at the Lion’s Gate entrance to the compound that left two Israeli police officers dead, Israeli authorities have installed metal detectors and security cameras and are limiting entry to men over 50 and women. All three assailants were Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin from the northern city of Um al-Fahm, one of the largest Arab towns in Israel, according to ABC News.
The security measures in response to the attack have sparked widespread demonstrations and violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, who view these measures as a unilateral attempt by Jewish majority Israel to control the holy site. While attending Muslim prayers last Friday, Aboud told CNN he didn’t feel out of place. “I asked my Muslim friends for their permission to pray between them. They were asking me to stand beside them,” he said. “My motivation was to stand in solidarity with my Muslim brothers and in solidarity with our Palestinian issue against the (Israeli) occupation and its policies against our holy sites, whether it’s the mosque or the church.”