Our visit to Palestine 2018

A friend sent me this hadith which got me all excited and inspired to visit Al-Quds (aka Jerusalem).

Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “When Solomon son of David, peace and blessings be upon him, built the Sacred House, he asked Allah Almighty for the three things throughout. Solomon asked Allah Almighty for judgment coinciding with His judgment, and he was given it. Solomon asked Allah Almighty for a kingdom none should have after him, and he was given it. And Solomon asked Allah Almighty when he finished the foundations of the Mosque that none should come to it, intending only to pray, but that his sins would be expunged like the day he was born from his mother.”

For our 6 day trip to Palestine we travelled through Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, and took a $16 sherut (shared taxi) to Jerusalem. Even though I wear hijab, we had no trouble at all getting into Israel, I think it's because we had our baby! Below are some of our favorite tips and things we did during our trip.

Jerusalem

Al-Aqsa

-Use this guide to make sure you hit all the major spots of Al-Aqsa. This site is also useful, as there are so many different parts of the complex it's easy to miss stuff in it!

-Fajr is the most beautiful time to visit the mosque. Generally the mosque gets filled up and elders serve coffees and candy to anyone who passes by. On Fridays after Fajr especially there are several talks going on in the masjid, and there is a small mawlid that happens too if you can find it!

-Try to make as many prayers as possible!

-Make sure to go under the Dome of the Rock (there are stairs leading under the rock), make sure to see the places where Zakariyyah alayhi salam made du’a for a son (inside masjid al-qibla) and where Maryam alayha salam gave birth to Isa alayhi salam (under masjid al-qibla).

Mount of Olives

Hiking up the Mount of Olives for sunrise or sunset is beautiful, and there you can find the Church/Mosque of Ascension, where Isa was believed to have ascended to heaven.

Masjid Umar

This is the mosque where Umar R. A. prayed rather than in the Church of the Sepulchre, because he said if he prayed in the church he feared it would be transformed into a mosque!

Also in Jerusalem are the Tomb of Maryam, the Maqams of Dawud and of Salman Al Farisi, the Khanqah of Salahuddin Ayyubi. We didn't get to visit but wish we did! 

Palestinian-owned hotels in Jerusalem:

Hashimi Hotel: It's Palestinian-owned and very close to Al-Aqsa, which makes it easy to make it to every prayer. It's a bare-bones hotel, but has a beautiful view of the city from its rooftop and also has good breakfast included.

Jerusalem Hotel and Golden Walls Hotel: Both these were other Palestinian-owned hotels we were recommended to. These options seemed a little fancier, but we went with Hashimi because it was cheaper and closer to Al-Aqsa.

Where to eat

Jafar Sweets

Abu Shukri

Bethlehem

We were able to see what we wanted to see of Bethlehem in about 3 hours. We visited the Church of the Nativity, the Mosque of Umar, and the Walled of Hotel (Banksy hotel -- make sure to check out the museum!). You can also easily visit a refugee camp from there, but we didn't get the chance! We took a bus there from Jerusalem.

Nablus

We loved Nablus because its Old City seemed so alive and less *occupied* than most of the other cities in Palestine. To get there, we took a 1 hr bus to Ramallah and a 1.5 hr bus to Nablus. We ate *the most amazing knafeh in the world* at Halwiyat al Aqsa, we visited the soap factory, walked around the old city, and took a taxi to the top of Mt. Gerizim to see the temple that the Samartians believe to be Temple Mount. The highlight of Nablus for us was really just to see a vibrant Palestinian city and that knafeh. It was also recommended to us to visit the Balata refugee camp, but we didn't get the chance.

Ramallah

The highlight of Ramallah for us was to visit the Yasser Arafat Museum (he's also buried there). The museum is super well done! Other than that we walked around the old city and fruit market a little bit and ate ice cream at a place called Baladna. Ramallah is the 'NYC of Palestine' but overall Nablus' old city is more enjoyable to walk around.

Hebron/Khalil

The tomb of the patriarchs (grave of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob) is in Hebron which is why it's one of the worst points of the occupation, as there's a settlement in the center of the city. For Hebron, we did a tour with Breaking the Silence, which I highly recommend. It gives a much deeper understanding of the occupation, and is led by former IDF soldiers. It took us the whole day. But if you just visit Hebron for the graves you could get there and back in a couple of hours.

Other tour groups recommended to us: Green Olive ToursAbraham Tours

 

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad on technology and other parenting tips

We were at RIS in Toronto over Christmas break and had the blessing of hearing Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad speak a few, short times. I am particularly frightful of how to raise a child in such an iPhone-heavy culture and also a culture where there is such little guidance on how to raise Muslim children, that I loved this answer. I recorded it and transcribed it (though their may be a few mistakes because the recording is bad, disclaimer!)

Question:  How do we protect our children from harmful uses of technology, and can you give any general parenting tips on how to raise Muslim children?

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad: My kids went to a school where they weren't allowed to have phones in the school and where most of the parents don't have televisions at home, and it wasn't a Muslim school, we just had to pick the environment, because it's not just Muslims who are concerned with the spiritual, moral and social impact of children being surrounded by images and screens. Most thoughtful people are worried about what effect this is having on the plasticity of brains of young people and already the indications are that the brain is starting to change. Young people are functioning differently, neurologically, to the way they did 20-30 years ago. Everyone is concerned. So find a community, not necessarily just a Muslim community, of like-minded people. And make sure that your children can deal with that environment, and form their social ties on that basis.

Also give them a lot of beauty. Show them the beauty of Islamic civilization. MashAllah in this city [Toronto] you have a Museum of Islamic Art, which is an amazing place to take young people and to open their hearts to the grandeur and the beauty of our civilization. Make sure there's beauty in your homes, make sure they hear beautiful things, make sure they're surrounded by reminders of the greatness of our own civilization, and that will inshAllah give them a sense of the cultural productivity of Islam.

Help them to sing a lot, if they're willing to do that, because that opens up the hearts, opens up the mind.

Give them a sense that Islam is something bright, beautiful and joyful, and keep them away from the mullah with the stick, because his function is to hit them until Islam leaves them, as if he's kind of, killing their hearts. So avoid anything like the traditional maktab culture, because it's very counterproductive in this environment. Give them access to the beauty of beautiful sounds.

Show them movies, but make sure you choose them carefully.

Expose them to Shakespeare if you possibly can, and I tried with my kids, and sometimes they were patient, sometimes they weren't but still, they absorb it, because the stories were about timeless truths, Islamic truths.

Give them a sense of haqq, of truth. And when they know what truth is, what beauty is, then they'll automatically be attracted to Islam. But don't say, 'we do this because we're Muslims. It's haram to do anything else.' Because after a while they're going to say, well, why? What's the point? Tell them what haqq is, tell them what a dignified human being is, what are honorable decent forms of akhlaq, and behavior.

And then when they come to hear about the seerah and the sunnah, they will go for it spontaneously in sha Allah.

Alhamdulillah there are plenty of examples of parents who have done a wonderful job. The acid bath, the tub, in which modernity is assimilar to young people, particularly migrant countries that geared up to saying 'we'll give you the migrants a job. In exchange, you pay us with the souls of your children, that's the deal. A lot of us come to these cultures without really realizing that's the deal. Eventually they realize, it doesn't have to work that way. If you protect the souls of your children, expose them to beauty, goodness, truth, love, and show them Islam is a solution, a wonderful package of beautiful teachings, then inshAllah they will embrace it wholeheartedly, inshAllah. But Allah is the Director of hearts. The heart is between two of the fingers of the Rahman. He turns them as He wills.  He who prepares for it, makes the intention, does what he or she can, but Allah ultimately is the guide.

So pray to him for protection for our young ones, in sha Allah.