border policeman old city 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
As police worked Sunday to prevent a return of the morning's violence outside the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, the rumor that had sparked the clashes - that " the Jews" were plotting to take over the Temple Mount - spread like wildfire.
"They've always wanted it," said Abdul Rahim, who stood outside the police barricade watching the action. "And we believe that they are going to try and take it from us - that is something no one will allow to happen."
As he spoke, scores of young and middle-aged Arab men continued to approach a police barricade that had been set up at one of the few entrances to the Temple Mount that had been opened, and tried to enter the compound, with little success.
In the wake of the morning's rioting, when a crowd of Muslims threw rocks and bottles at police officers just outside the Old City walls, security forces were restricting Temple Mount access to men over the age of 50, and many were turned away in anger.
Pushing and shoving between those denied access and police broke out continuously, lending to the feeling that another wave of violence was on the cusp. Scores of black-clad anti-riot police officers stood, or sat, nearby, entering the fray any time the confrontations threatened to become serious.
A peak in the uneasiness came with a crowd of some two-dozen men, who approached the entrance before the mid-afternoon prayer, decidedly intent on making their way to the Aksa Mosque for the service.
They, too, were turned back, and after arguing with police, the men set up prayer mats in the cobblestone alleyway facing the entrance and began to pray as officers and bystanders looked on.
"Allahu Akhbar," they chanted in unison, as their imam, a man named Ahmed from the southeast Sur Bahir neighborhood, led them in their supplications. Raising their hands to their faces and calling out to God, their presence made security personnel more than a little jittery.
Officers watched the men closely while awaiting their next move.
Children ran by, a bottle broke, giving everyone a small jolt, and the tension was so thick, a knife would not have begun to cut it.
But the men soon finished their prayer and after airing out their grievances to one another, most of them simply left.