Saturday, June 20

The "Siksik" Mosque as a point of reference

The old sandstone Siksik mosque in Jaffa's flea market area has recently become the center of a new struggle.
The mosque, constructed in the 1880-ies, consists of a room, an elegant minaret and a lovely sabil. It's located on Siksik street (today's Beyt HaEshel street) .
It was constructed by the Siksik family, still living in Jaffa, next to the ancient khan they owned and operated. Traders on their way to the Jaffa market would stay there during the night, after the walled city's gates had been locked for its citizens' peace, quiet and security.
Up to this very day the mosque is owned by the Siksik family's "waqef" (non profit organization) and under their responsibility. Omar Siksik functions as the mosque's moutawali (caretaker), elected by the family to take care of the mosque.
The family has engaged in legal battles over the years, in order to prevent its demolition and its being taken over by the "Keter" plastic factory located just behind it on what, perhaps, once upon a time, were storage rooms of the mosque and khan. Paperwork possessed by the Siksik family indicates the existence of those storage rooms but does not exactly state their location.

The mosque has not functioned as a place of prayer for many years, but is being maintained and safeguarded by the family, until last week.
The southern section of the Islamic movement entered the mosque, cleaned it and exchanged the locks without the Siksik family's permission.
Jaffa has several active mosques and in the flea-market area has become a predominantly Jewish over the years. The problem is not a lack of prayer space. Moreover, the large "Mouhmoudiyeh", Jaffa's main mosque, is a short walk away.

So why did the southern section of the Islamic movement decide to undertake its self appointed and not very necessary mission right now?

One needs to look at the bigger picture: the construction of a hotel on top of the Jaffa "Kishle" (the old Turkish police station and jail), next door to the Mahmoudiyeh mosque.
The whole area of the clocktowersquare, kishle and mosque included, are protected buildings. When the Nakash brothers bought the Kishle building for some 38.000.000 NIS three years ago, they bought it in order to construct a hotel, and apparently they bought it with very generous building rights. Building rights that allow them to build a huge block on top of the old structures, dwarfing them and the lovely surroundings.
The construction will change the Jaffa skyline and the whole area for ever. A barbarous act of destroying cultural heritage for us and the next generations. Something carried out by money hungry, but very blind, people with no respect for another culture, architecture and art. And also lacking all respect for another religion, Islam.
The planned hotel's royal suite has a swimming pool on its balcony, overlooking the mosque's courtyard where prayers take place. How callous can you get?

Constructing a hotel next to a mosque demands a lot of respect and thoughtfulness on the side of those planning the hotel. However, thoughtfulness concerning the mosque's attendees feelings is NOT something the hotel's architects took into consideration (and i went to the city planning office to have a look at the actual plans). The fight against the hotel's construction has been taken up by the northern section of the Islamic movement.
The southern section kept quiet. Although they, as members of the Muslim council (something like the city rabbinate) should have been the first to take up the fight. So the next question should be: why didn't they? How come they did not oppose the building permits actively?
This is where the rumors start: some suggest money was handed over, or in less nice words, bribes were paid.
The southern section kept quiet. But now they must show they DO care about mosques and religion, which may be the reason why they targeted the Siksik mosque for their activity.

Yesterday some 100 people came to pray at the mosque, in order to express their support for the Siksik family's fight to keep it what it is, a mosque, a peaceful place of prayer.

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