Mosque gets new breath of life after 90 years

Residents of Jaffa were surprised when workers turned up one night a few weeks ago and began clearing up the grounds of the long-disused 120-year-old Siksik mosque in Rehov Beit Haeshel in apparent preparation for its renewal as a place of worship, reports The move to revive the old mosque, which has not been used for prayer in 90 years, is reportedly part of a power struggle between two competing factions in the Islamic Movement and is not a protest against the increasing Jewish presence in the city. According to the report, the sandstone mosque was constructed in the 1880s by the Siksik family, of which current Tel Aviv city councilor Omar Siksik is a prominent member. The mosque stopped being used for worship in 1919, and in recent decades has been managed and maintained by the local Wakf (a Muslim religious or charitable trust), the Tel Aviv city council and the adjoining Keter plastics factory, although the Siksik family still retains full ownership of it. The report said that local residents were surprised to see workers arrive at the mosque during the night several weeks ago and begin clearing up the grounds and preparing some 250 square meters of floor space for renewed worship there. Since then, guards have been stationed at the mosque every night. The report said the southern section of the Islamic Movement was working to revive the mosque in an effort to increase its strength against the more powerful northern section. "We have no problem with the mosque opening here, but the way in which it has been done is peculiar," one Jewish resident of the area said. "They come in the middle of the night and change the status quo that has been preserved for years. Did they get permission from anyone to do this?" A municipal spokesman said no permit for renewed worship at the mosque had been issued. But city councilor Omar Siksik said the mosque was simply being returned to the family that owned it and no permit was needed. "This mosque was managed up to the end of the 1960s by the family, and now we are returning it to them," Siksik said. "I do not need permission from anyone. Inspectors from the city checked the matter and it is clear that we are not speaking about any incursion."