Gaza Call for Prayer Defies Israeli Bombs

By Ola Attallah – Gaza

"Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)," the Muslim call to prayer, ranged from the bombed-out minaret of Al-Taqwa mosque.

Though hardly heard amid the thundering buzz of Israeli warplanes, people flocked to the mosque from across the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in western Gaza.

In just a few minutes, it was teaming with worshippers unfazed by the Israeli bombing.

"Once the people hear the call to prayers, they come in droves," said the imam of the small mosque.

Like many mosques, Al-Taqwa mosque was almost destroyed after being targeted by the Israeli forces.

"Everyday we pray over the rubbles of our mosque," says the imam.

More than 50 mosques were destroyed by Israel during its deadly offensive on the heavily-populated strip.

The worst of the attacks was the strike on Ibrahim Al-Maqadma mosque during prayer time, leaving 16 dead and scores wounded.

But across Gaza, the bombed-out mosques are bursting at the seams five times a day.

"The day Israeli strikes destroyed our mosque people were stricken with grief," says Awad Al-Sha`er, the imam of Kholafa Rashedeen mosque in northern Gaza.

"But hearing the call for prayer raised the next morning buoyed their spirits.

"Our mosques will remain full no matter what. We will not let the occupation empty them," said a defiant Al-Sha`er.

Abu Anas Al-Zaharna, like many in his neighborhood, braves the Israeli shells and bullets everyday to make it to the mosque.

"Staying at homes will not save our lives," Zaharna, 50, told IOL.

"If it’s our time to die then it’s our time to die."

Healing Pains

The bombed mosques are defying the Israeli war machine not only with congregation prayers but also by helping heal the pains of the community.

"Since the start of the war, mosques have intensified their work to help out our people," Mohammed Ashour, Imam of Al-Bukhari Mosque, told IOL.

Just like many other mosques in the impoverished territory of 1.6 million, his mosque has launched a campaign to reach out to needy families.

Volunteers visit the houses in the neighborhood to offer food and water to people struggling to feed their families under a chocking Israeli siege and now killer attacks.

"Not only food, we try to provide them with medicine and money too," said Ashour.

More than 1070 Palestinians, including some 400 children and women, have been killed and nearly 5000 injured since Israel began its air, sea and ground offensive on December 27.

The Yarmuk mosque in central Gaza City launched a donation campaign to help people whose homes and lives have been destroyed by the offensive.

Responding to the cries for help ringing out from the mosque, Ahmed, 8, donated all in his money box for peers displaced by the Israeli blitz.

Abu Ammar, a trader, donated clothes and blankets to the families who fled their homes to take shelter in UNRWA-run schools.

At Palestine mosque, donations are dedicated for building shelters and providing food and medicine to poor families.

"We shall always stand united and our mosques will always demonstrate this unity," one worshipper said after donating a large sum of money.

"Such spirits are simply undefeatable."


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