Masjid Al-Aqsa Travel Tips
This section shall cover all essential aspects of travelling to Al Masjid Al Aqsa, including:
- Entry to Israel / Border Procedure
- Transport to Jerusalem from the Borders
- Accommodation in Jerusalem
- Safety in Jerusalem
- Other Misc Points of Interest (Weather, Charity, Shopping, Tours)
1. Entry to Israel / Border Procedure
Access to Jerusalem and the West Bank is controlled by Israel. Therefore in order to visit Jerusalem, one must enter “Israel” via Tel Aviv airport.
- On arrival at the immigration desk, all travellers who look Muslim, have a Muslim name, or whose background is from the Middle East or the Indian subcontinent will inevitably be directed to the “waiting room” and asked to wait for an officer to come and speak to them. It is not uncommon to be in the waiting room for a few hours, and you will most likely be questioned once or twice.
Types of questions asked at the borders:
You will inevitably be questioned by security on a number of occasions. The questions usually include the following:
- Names of parents, grandparents, great grandparents?
- Ethnic background?
- Type of employment you work in?
- Any association to charitable or Human Rights organisations?
- Where do you give your zakat and sadaqah?
- Name of Mosques you attend in your home country?
- Reasons for visiting other countries (esp if Muslim countries)?
- Purpose of visit to Israel?
- Places intend to visit in Israel?
- Name of accommodation?
- Any contacts in Israel?
- How much money travelling with?
Occasionally Israeli security will ask for access to your email account, facebook account and other social media – and may make this a condition of entry.
UPDATE 2017: In March 2017 Israel passed a law allowing it to refuse entry to individuals involved in BDS or other pro-Palestinian activism. For this reason, it is essential that all your email / social media accounts are free from any posts that may indicate activism.
Israeli stamp in the passport:
In the past the Israeli immigration authorities stamped passports, but would on request by the traveller, sometimes agree to stamp landing cards instead. This used to be problematic for Muslim travellers because the moment one requested a stamp on the landing card, this would result in further questioning as to the reasons why (even though the reason is always the same – i.e. Muslim countries may deny entry on future visits). However, since January 2013 a new scheme has been introduced whereby all visitors are given an entry card instead of an entry stamp on arrival. This is the case for all travellers now, so you no longer need to request the Israelies not to stamp the passport [this is the situation as at August 2015]. You should keep this card with your passport until you leave as this is evidence of your legal entry into Israel and may be required (particularly at checkpoints, and at any crossing points into the West Bank).
Citizens of the US, EU, Russia, Japan and most western countries are issued a free 3-month tourist visa upon arrival which may be extended by applying at a Israeli Ministry of Interior office. Visitors from most other countries require a visa in advance. Citizens of most Arab and predominantly Muslim countries can individually apply for a visa but it is difficult to obtain one in practice. The most commonly issued visas for these travellers is through organized tour groups, and the application is often handled by Palestinian tour operators based in East Jerusalem. For specific visa guidelines, check the information provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Please visit: http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ConsularServices/Pages/default.aspx
2. Transport To Jerusalem
We have organised transport which will transfer the Meeran Tour group from the airport to our Hashimi Hotel in Jerusalem.
3. Accommodation in Jerusalem
The hotel we will be staying in is called Hashimi Hotel. This is 3 star hotel, Muslim owned and is the nearest hotel to Masjid Al-Aqsa. We always use this hotel as it is the closest quality hotel to Masjid Al-Aqsa , Muslim owned and is situated within the beautiful old city of Jerusalem with a added bonus, the hotel holds a breath taking view of Masjid Al-Aqsa and parts of the old city.
4. Safety in Jerusalem
Entry to Jerusalem is very strictly guarded, and so one can assume that the city is safe for foreigners. Within the Old City, it is usually even fine for foreigners to wander through the Jewish quarter and have a look at the Wailing Wall. We have visited many cities in the West Bank and never had any issues. We also visit Hebron due to the Islamic history there and the graves of many of the Prophets (pbut).
Weather in Jerusalem:
The weather in Jerusalem is warm, dry and sunny between May – November with temperatures averaging 20 degrees. Between December – April the average temperature is 10 degrees. The wettest month is January with an average of 90mm of rain.
Shopping in Jerusalem:
The best advice we were given regarding shopping in Jerusalem – is that if you see anything you like in a shop owned by a Muslim or Arab, then buy it. The Palestinians face many hardships and one is related to the restrictions on their business activity. These restrictions have been very effective in stifling their ability to grow a prosperous economy, and therefore any money you spend amongst the Palestinians, if done with the right intention can be a source of sadaqah for you as you will be spending the money to earn the pleasure of Allah by supporting the ummah (and those within the ummah who are very much in need of financial support). The Palestinians are an immensely strong nation, and despite their indescribable hardships can rarely be seen asking for hand-outs. So spending money at their shops etc is a great way to benefit the people and help them support their large families, without them feeling shy or embarrassed.
Many visitors to Palestine make a point of visiting the refugee camps as it opens ones’ eyes to the appalling conditions the locals are forced to live in, and the poverty they experience as a consequence of the occupation. If you would like to visit the camps, please speak to your tour guide who can arrange to take you.
Al Zakah Committee of Jerusalem:
On the sanctuary of Al Masjid Al Aqsa (near the Chain Gate and Ablution Gate entrances) there is a small office which collects sadaqa and zakaah to help Palestinians. The office supports over 6,000 orphans and 11,000 families. If you wish to donate money, please visit the office.