‘Jerusalem’ on Gaza TV set is as close as many Palestinians will get to real thing

Middle East
on 39 Comments

Amid the quiet of Gaza’s white sand dunes covering the site of Israeli settlements evacuated more than a decade ago, palm trees and military training sites off in the distance, a tussle breaks out. The fight that pierces the silences emanates from inside of a hexagonal building where Palestinian actors portraying ultra-orthodox Israelis are arguing on set.

Filming for the dramatic series “Heaven’s Gate” is located in Gaza, but the show is set in Jerusalem, a city that is recreated inside of the besieged strip. The program will air this summer during Ramadan, on the Hamas-owned Al Aqsa TV network. The set spans 5 acres and looks like a version of Jerusalem’s Old City. Cafes, shops houses, and streets are recreated in Gaza with accents of bowed stone walls.

Yards away from the actors’ brawl, other Palestinians are costumed as Israeli soldiers. They prevent passers-by, women and children,  from entering the “Old City,” in this case a Jewish holy site.

Dozens of Palestinians in their twenties gathered behind a camera mounted on a crane that was filming footage of the fight scene. The group said they are curious about Jerusalem.  This is as close to visiting the holy city as any of them have come.

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

For Gazans, visiting Jerusalem is like a dream. The coastal enclave has been under siege for the last ten years, but there are travel exceptions granted in the form of special permits issued by the Israeli authorities. The two exceptions are as follows: Either these Palestinian 20-somethings must wait another 30 years to for their 50th birthday, at which time they automatically become eligible for a daytime permit to pray on Friday in the al-Aqsa Mosque, or they must become seriously ill or injured in order to receive an urgent humanitarian transfer to an Arab hospital in Jerusalem.

And even if these youths win entry permits, they are forced to ride in locked buses with tinted windows and windshields.

For the elderly in Gaza, up to 300 are allowed in at a time for Friday prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Or the elderly parents of prisoners in Israeli jails (and children under 12) say those tinted windows are meant to prevent them from seeing the geographical features on the road to Jerusalem, so as to not arouse emotions about their displacement from the land of the Nakba, the 1947-49 war between Israel and Arab nations that made nearly 800,000 Palestinians refugees. Many of them and their heirs now live in Gaza.

Back to those curious youths at the scene of the series, “Heaven’s Gate.” I met Ra’ed Qandil, 29, who arrived at the site: “I went to a corner of the model city and wept silently…Do you know what it means to a man to shed tears silently? I envisioned everything about old Jerusalem, its people, narrow paths and arches, and even vendors of the city’s famous rings of sesame bread.”

Qandil, who had never left Gaza, asked the actor dressed as an Israeli soldier to beat his face with an M-16 prop gun. He told me he wanted to experience the pain of Jerusalemites who have been roughed up by the Israeli police.

The actor obliged and clocked Qandil in the face. “You really kicked my ass man,” Qandil exclaimed. 

His 62-year-old friend Saeid Zuhdi, who has been twice to Jerusalem to pray, said that this model city inspires him to have a spiritual passion and inflames feelings, as what happens to pilgrims to Saudi Arabia’s Mecca.

“But there is a big difference between a free holy city like Mecca and another that is captive by people who occupy everything in your city, who even try to steal names, and prevent you from performing religious rites,” Zuhdi told Mondoweiss. “I remember on my previous visit to Jerusalem that even the air changes once I leave Gaza and becomes pure in Jerusalem, so the oxygen of Jerusalem has a distinctive smell,” he added.

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

In October 2015, violence in Jerusalem sparked again. The city’s status is part of the basis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since the establishment of Israel almost seven decades ago, Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem view the holy city as subjected to a daily campaign of severe oppression against the Jerusalemite Palestinians, in a process of Judaization of its Arab and Islamic heritage, architecture and history.

That Judaization included the names of places, using a Hebrew name for streets and also changing archaeological sites, by ignoring one identity of a place and celebrating the concepts and names solely associated with Judaism.

Rawan Suhail. (Photo: Mohammed Assad)

Ra’ed Qandil. (Photo: Mohammed Assad)

At the bottom of a sign that reads “Ha-Malakh Rd.,” Rawan Suhail said that this place evokes feelings of passionate patriotism towards a city that will someday be the capital of Palestine, either by diplomatic means or armed conflict.

Rawan refuses to visit Jerusalem until it is liberated. “I will not go to a part of my country that is under occupation where there are arrests, murders, and residents are forced to demolish their own homes.”

Ensaf Habib, 23, said she was proud when her friend once wrote her name with the Dome of the Rock in the background in a cellphone photo. “A feeling that urges you to weep due to our powerless to go there, but our names are there.”

An actor in an Israeli soldier’s uniform Tamer Sahloub, 24, says he knows nothing about the holy city except what he sees in television news. “I am eager to go there and I will not think of any retaliatory action. I will only walk in the alleys, touch the rough walls and tell the residents of Jerusalem that I am from Gaza. I am from the other part of the country”.

Tamer, who works as a teacher, believes that the case of Gaza and Jerusalem case is similar to the situation of North and South Korea. “Both [peoples] are forbidden to meet with each other.”

Ibrahim al-Madhoun, director of the Hamas-affiliated Future Research Center in Gaza, confirmed that preventing Palestinians from reaching Jerusalem is a systematic Israeli policy to push them to forget their holy sites.

“The Israeli authorities deliberately insult and arrest people who try to reach Jerusalem or al-Aqsa Mosque and impose conditions to make it difficult for them to return, and thus forget,”  Al-Madhoun told Mondoweiss.

Outside of the TV set of Jerusalem in Gaza’s streets, pedestrians drew attention to a road sign that reads “Jerusalem 81.44 km” (about 50 miles) despite the fact that no cars can go there. For many, it is an emotional reminder that Jerusalem is the future capital of a Palestinian state in waiting.

Palestinian actor Tamer Sahloub playing the role of an Israeli soldier in the program “Heaven’s Gate.” (Photo: Mohammed Assad)

Saeid Zuhdi. (Photo: Mohammed Assad)

(Photo: Ahmad Kabariti)

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

(Photo: Mohammed Assad)

About Ahmad Kabariti

Ahmad Kabariti is a freelance journalist based in Gaza.

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39 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    March 30, 2017, 4:41 pm

    heartbreaking read. great photos. thank you Ahmad Kabariti.

    • just
      March 30, 2017, 5:48 pm

      It did bring tears to my eyes and also tore a bit more from my heart. I hope that Ahmad and Mohammed continue to document the truth via words and photos.

      This absolutely gave me chills:

      “For Gazans, visiting Jerusalem is like a dream. The coastal enclave has been under siege for the last ten years, but there are travel exceptions granted in the form of special permits issued by the Israeli authorities. The two exceptions are as follows: Either these Palestinian 20-somethings must wait another 30 years to for their 50th birthday, at which time they automatically become eligible for a daytime permit to pray on Friday in the al-Aqsa Mosque, or they must become seriously ill or injured in order to receive an urgent humanitarian transfer to an Arab hospital in Jerusalem.

      And even if these youths win entry permits, they are forced to ride in locked buses with tinted windows and windshields.

      For the elderly in Gaza, up to 300 are allowed in at a time for Friday prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Or the elderly parents of prisoners in Israeli jails (and children under 12) say those tinted windows are meant to prevent them from seeing the geographical features on the road to Jerusalem, so as to not arouse emotions about their displacement from the land of the Nakba, the 1947-49 war between Israel and Arab nations that made nearly 800,000 Palestinians refugees. Many of them and their heirs now live in Gaza.”

      They might be “eligible” to enter Jerusalem @ 50, but it depends on the whim of the IOF. They might be “seriously ill or injured”, but perhaps not enough for the IOF thugs or their whims. They might be killed on the spot and remain imprisoned while dead while the GOI cruelly holds the body hostage alleging everything “terror”, proving nothing, and depriving the body of respect and burial and prolonging the family’s and community’s mourning and exacerbating their collective grief.

      All in all, to deprive Gazans and all/any Palestinians access to Al- Aqsa is an illegal and supreme theft of enormous proportions.

      “…I met Ra’ed Qandil, 29, who arrived at the site: “I went to a corner of the model city and wept silently…Do you know what it means to a man to shed tears silently? I envisioned everything about old Jerusalem, its people, narrow paths and arches, and even vendors of the city’s famous rings of sesame bread.”

      Qandil, who had never left Gaza, asked the actor dressed as an Israeli soldier to beat his face with an M-16 prop gun. He told me he wanted to experience the pain of Jerusalemites who have been roughed up by the Israeli police.

      The actor obliged and clocked Qandil in the face. “You really kicked my ass man,” Qandil exclaimed. ”

      Take away hope, and grown men weep in silence…

      Shame on Israel. Shame on both the silent and vociferous supporters of the rigidly and cruel Apartheid State.

      • Maghlawatan
        March 31, 2017, 12:08 pm

        It isn’t even vaguely sustainable. They had to break judaism to get to this point.

  2. MHughes976
    March 30, 2017, 6:40 pm

    On Jerusalem and on the diplomatic front another major Israeli victory according to Ynet news, cited on the Bible and Interpretation site. Unesco resolutions referring to Jerusalem, over which there was much trouble, are withdrawn!
    The forthcoming Unesco meeting will discuss something about the tombs of the Patriarchs, which for the outside world will be of no interest at all. Who says that accusations of anti-Semitism, skilfully wielded, are losing their former power?

  3. Citizen
    March 30, 2017, 9:03 pm

    Some Seinfeld show, this.

  4. Maghlawatan
    March 31, 2017, 11:58 am

    The Zionist control of space is a sign of paranoia. Palestinians are subdivided into 5 different groups- 1948, East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza and Refugees and all have spatial restrictions. It is the price of the fantasy that is the Jewish state. Future generations will look back on Israel now and ask WTF.

  5. Maghlawatan
    March 31, 2017, 4:30 pm

    I had a friend in a refugee camp in the West Bank when I lived there. She told me one day she had never been to the coast. It’s less than 50 miles from the camp. We went to Jaffa. Something so banal in a normal context, to take 2 buses to the sea, but impossible in Zionistan under the junta unless with a foreigner.
    We spoke arabic in West Jerusalem on the way back and it was the strangest feeling, like we were doing something illegal.
    Hitler is still winning.

    • just
      March 31, 2017, 5:05 pm

      Thanks for sharing that poignant memory, Maghlawatan.

      You said so much with a few words.

  6. Maghlawatan
    April 1, 2017, 4:27 pm

    Israel controls every aspect of life in Eretz Israel hashlemah which is why ghazzawis can’t go to Al quds.

    However Israel has lost the war on social media. Most posters are not hate-filled Hebrew speakers.

  7. echinococcus
    April 1, 2017, 5:22 pm

    Maghlawatan,

    Most posters are not Biblical or Modern Hebrew or Arabic speakers. Peppering your posts with abundant Arabic and Hebrew is nice for couleur locale but a lot gets lost in the reading.

    • Annie Robbins
      April 1, 2017, 6:14 pm

      google is your friend. ghazzawis is a family name meaning people from gaza and “Eretz Yisrael Hashlemah” is a fantasy land meaning ‘all the land of israel’ or greater israel.

      • gamal
        April 1, 2017, 10:43 pm

        “ghazzawis is a family name”

        yes it is do you remember Izzat Ghazzawi, you remember that fearless man.
        they gave him the Sakharov prize for the freedom of his thought, its what they are like,ghazzawi, can’t make them do shit.

        google Izzat you will be glad you did.

    • RoHa
      April 2, 2017, 1:16 am

      We could do without unnecessary French phrases as well.

      • Maghlawatan
        April 2, 2017, 3:34 pm

        Pourquoi ?

      • RoHa
        April 2, 2017, 9:39 pm

        If you write the question in English*, I might be able to answer it.

        (*Or Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, German, Welsh, Japanese, Chinese, or Spanish. But then other MW readers might not understand it.)

      • echinococcus
        April 3, 2017, 1:11 am

        RoHa, why do you think the French phrase got in?

    • Maghlawatan
      April 2, 2017, 5:31 am

      Echi, Eretz Israel hashlemah is very important. You should get to know it.
      It means the perfect land of Israel. And implies that there are no Palestinians, in line with Zionist logic.

      Even Ha’aretz is named after “the land”. The land is a Zionist fetish.

      • echinococcus
        April 3, 2017, 1:12 am

        When writing in English, translate whatever is not a set borrowing already in standard use in English. Avoids fetishism

      • echinococcus
        April 3, 2017, 1:25 am

        PS: “Eretz Yisrael” my a$$. It’s Palestine, period.

      • Mooser
        April 3, 2017, 11:50 am

        “Avoids fetishism”

        Oh, poo. Can’t a guy have a harmless fetish or two? Some Playboy Philosopher you are.

      • Maghlawatan
        April 6, 2017, 11:28 pm

        Echi, that is a style choice. Articles about Italian football will use words such as catenaccio (the lock) to describe how teams play. Foreign words enhance understanding. Voilà.

  8. catalan
    April 1, 2017, 7:31 pm

    Peppering your posts with abundant Arabic and Hebrew is nice for couleur locale but a lot gets lost in the reading. – Echino
    Surely you don’t think that the purpose of posts is to convince anyone. Minds do not change. I think people post for vanity, we like to see our words out there. And what is vanity? It is the fear of the great emptiness. When you put something out there you are unconsciously “fooling” fate, as if there is something permanent about you. That’s probably the source of all art and artifice.

    • oldgeezer
      April 2, 2017, 12:10 am

      @catalan

      Of course minds change. You say some really naive and juvenile things but that takes the cake. Yours may not change. Some others may not change. Normal people adjust their opinions/minds as they gain additional information.
      Really catalan, regardless of your other mindless posts this one that you made is mind boggling stupid. Monkees amd even rats learn but apparently you seem to think humans can’t. Maybe not you but that’s your call.

    • echinococcus
      April 2, 2017, 1:45 am

      While “Catalan”, unlike others, imagines, not unconsciously, that he is fooling everybody.

    • Maghlawatan
      April 2, 2017, 5:37 am

      Catalan, minds do change. Things fall apart. Systems have finite lives.

      “One way of looking at the history of the human group is that it has been a continuing struggle against the veneration of “crap.””―Neil Postman

      Zionism is a fine specimen

      If you take a Christian angle, John the Baptists precede Jesuses. John the Baptists prepare the arguments. Around 10% of people need to know something for it to become common sense.
      Palestine may be at 7%.

      • catalan
        April 2, 2017, 10:04 am

        “Catalan, minds do change. Things fall apart. Systems have finite lives”. – mag
        Minds change when interests change. When I was a young, with nothing, from a poor place, I believed in equality and free travel (cause I kept getting visa rejections). Now that I became rich, I voted for Trump because I want to keep my capitalist gains. It’s not what we tell each other, it’s what we do. And that is always self interest. That’s why “movements” based on solidarity like BDS always fail.
        Plus, the only thing that falls apart is the individual being. The universe keeps going indifferent, and according to modern physics with no end (I know, beginning but no end… Weird)

      • Mooser
        April 2, 2017, 12:33 pm

        “catalan”, you live in New Mexico? I could have sworn you come from PA.

        “Plus, the only thing that falls apart is the individual being. The universe keeps going indifferent, and according to modern physics with no end”

        So, is that good for the Jews, or bad for the Jews?

      • Maghlawatan
        April 2, 2017, 2:03 pm

        Neoliberalism only has a few more years left, Catalan. Most financial wealth has no inherent value. Its value depends on there being someone to sell it to. When debt based systems such as ours collapse, debt is subject to negative real interest rates. Negative real rates reduce the value of debt via inflation. The alternative is the Detroit version where debt is just written off.

        You can read Brideshead Revisisted for a preview if you are interested.
        Jewish power in the US is in large part based on debt. Most people on Wall St are not interested in economic history.
        Israel should cut a deal now. While it still has time.

        BDS is fed by injustice so it should last

      • Keith
        April 2, 2017, 5:08 pm

        MAGHLAWATAN- “Most financial wealth has no inherent value.”

        The distinctive feature of capitalism is the monetization of power. Our entire political economy is money driven. The nature of neoliberal globalization is to create interdependencies in which people/nations are dependent upon the financial system for survival. A total collapse of the global financial system will be catastrophic, as was intended by those who designed the system to be escape proof. Inherent value? What is the value of all you purchase? What value do you place upon food, clothing and shelter? In capitalism, money is power. What is the inherent value of power? Capitalist economic theory is mostly thinly disguised ideology. Putting your faith in economic theory is like praying to a false god. Good luck with that.

      • Keith
        April 2, 2017, 5:27 pm

        CATALAN- “Now that I became rich, I voted for Trump because I want to keep my capitalist gains.”

        Hard to tell if you are serious or merely trying to get a rise out of your fellow commenters. If you really were serious about keeping your capitalist gains, you would be much more concerned about maintaining at least some semblance of systemic balance. Massive concentrations of wealth and power are disruptive to productive economic functioning, and anti-democratic to boot! And then there is the question of community and shared welfare. And as much as I feared Hillary, I did not vote for The Donald. Unfortunately, my fellow citizens are psychologically incapable of protesting at the polls by voting Third Party. As a consequence, we are once again forced to endure one of the two Republicrat disasters. One can argue that it makes little difference in any event, the Deep State more-or-less calling the shots in any event.

      • talknic
        April 2, 2017, 8:46 pm

        Watching people move the goal posts is entertaining.

        @ catalan April 2, 2017, 10:04 am

        “Minds change when interests change.”

        1st they don’t change/. Then when shown to be an idiotic notion, minds do change

        “That’s why “movements” based on solidarity like BDS always fail

        I wonder if Charles Boycott realized

        Montgomery Bus Boycott
        South Africa
        G4S ending its Israeli prison contracts
        Veolia ending settlement its bus services, selling its stakes in the Jerusalem light railway
        Soda Stream left the West Bank. Closed its flagship eco-store in Brighton UK
        Flannels fashion chain stopped selling fur products
        Nestlé now has a zero deforestation policy
        Fruit of the Loom 2010
        De Beers forced out of Gope
        etc … all boycott failures according to ZioPoop theory

        ” the only thing that falls apart is the individual being.” … AND idiotic theories and Zionist crappolla

        ” The universe keeps going indifferent…”

        LIke a ZioBot, never ending. Ignoring inconvenient facts, logic and any previous conflicting ZionBot statements.

    • talknic
      April 2, 2017, 6:18 am

      @ catalan April 1, 2017, 7:31 pm

      “Surely you don’t think that the purpose of posts is to convince anyone. Minds do not change.”

      Uh? So the world is still flat. Interesting theory.

      ” I think people post for vanity, we like to see our words out there. And what is vanity? It is the fear of the great emptiness. When you put something out there you are unconsciously “fooling” fate, as if there is something permanent about you. That’s probably the source of all art and artifice.”

      Another interesting theory

    • RoHa
      April 2, 2017, 9:41 pm

      “Minds do not change.”

      Minds do change. My mind is being changed about how much of a racist Trump is.

      • Mooser
        April 3, 2017, 11:29 am

        “Minds do change. My mind is being changed about how much of a racist Trump is.”

        And I thought the Age of Miracles was long past.

      • RoHa
        April 5, 2017, 2:40 am

        I suppose that it does seem miraculous that a mind can be changed. That is one of the results of thinking philosophically and scientifically rather than just following closed-minded politically correct fashion. I did, indeed, think that the accusation of being racist was just a standard insult being thrown by those who do not like him, but now I see that there is evidence for some racism.

      • Mooser
        April 5, 2017, 1:10 pm

        Well, “RoHa” it’s perfectly understandable, since the day Trump emerged, dripping and naked from the sea to coast into politics on the half-shell, with no past, at 70, nothing has been the same.

  9. Maghlawatan
    April 2, 2017, 5:27 am

    Israel controls everything in Eretz Israel hashlemah but is having serious problems on social media which has quite a large goy majority.

    http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.780152

  10. Misterioso
    April 2, 2017, 1:16 pm

    For the record:

    Late 1947:
    The total population of West Jerusalem (the New City) and East Jerusalem (the Old City) and their environs was about 200,000 with a slight Arab majority. (Professor Walid Khalidi, Harvard, “Plan Dalet,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Autumn, 1988, p. 17)

    The total land area of West Jerusalem (the New City) in 1947 was 19,331 dunams (about 4,833 acres) of which 40 per cent was owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians, 26.12 per cent by Jews and 13.86 per cent by others, including Christian communities. Government and municipal land made up 2.90 per cent and roads and railways 17.12 per cent.

    East Jerusalem (the Old City) consisted of 800 dunams (about 240 acres) of which five dunams (just over one acre) were Jewish owned and the remaining 795 dunams were owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians. (“Assessing Palestinian Property in the City,” by Dalia Habash and Terry Rempel, Jerusalem 1948: The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War, edited by Salim Tamari, The Institute of Jerusalem Studies, 1999, map, pp. 184-85)

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