Due to a Facebook page, a mass prayer held at a Beersheba mosque on Friday drew thousands, from all over the country, who also stayed for a protest rally, demanding that the ancient structure be used as a place of worship.
The protesters' demands come in reaction for the High Court of Justice's decision that the structure operate as a museum for Muslim and Eastern cultures, but will not serve as a place of worship.
The struggle, led by Muslim elders, demands that Muslims be allowed to pray at the mosque, which, though build in 1906 by the Ottomans, has not served for religious purposes since Israel's establishment and has been made into a museum in the 1950s.
Following renovations in the 1990s, representatives of the Muslim sector called the Beersheba Municipality to reconsider the purpose of the structure, but a Supreme Court settlement determined that the mosque should serve the Muslim community's cultural and social needs, without serving as an official place of worship.
Mass prayer at the mosque (Photo: Sari Abu Saaluq)
Now, the younger generation is joining the struggle, as can be seen in the increasingly growing membership of a Facebook page titled "We will not give up our right to pray at the Beersheba mosque," which boasts more than a thousand members as of Tuesday.
Sari Abu Saaluq, 22, a nursing student at the Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, stands behind the decision to launch a Facebbok page, so as to "incorporate the younger generation into the struggle. I've managed to enlist quite a few Ben Gurion students, as well as students from colleges in the area, for the struggle. We know that this effort is for the long run, and it'll be hard to follow through without the younger generation. The students are a young and strong force, and I felt they were missing."
'This is a mosque, not a bar!' (Photo: Sari Abu Saaluq)
One such student is Suheib al-Amur, 20, also a future nurse, who said that "the mosque was there before the municipality of Beersheba existed. Muslims have been using it. It's unfair and unreasonable to stop the Arab population from praying there. It's a basic right for every Muslim in this city."
Al-Amur insists that "Muslim can't fulfill their religious rights. The museum has nothing to do with Islam. I think that the High Court should revisit the issue. They wanted to hold a wine festival in the courtyard! That reawakened the sector's resistance."
Ali Abu Mdig'm, 20, also a student, said: "When I heard that the city was about to hold a wine festival outside the mosque it stirred harsh emotions. We said we had to do something."
In support of the struggle, Abu Mdig'm showed up at the Friday prayer. "I think that the Facebook page will encourage more people to join the struggle. In Egypt, demonstrations took down the regime. They were using social networks. We do too."
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