Viral photo shows a Catholic man praying alongside Muslims in the Wadi el-Joz neighbourhood, outside the Old City of Jerusalem.
According to CNN, the man identified as Nidal Aboud stood out as one among many. As the men around him bowed, he made the sign of the cross. As they chanted their prayers, he read the Bible to himself. And as they said “Allahu Akbar” — God is greatest — he stood silently and respectfully.
He was the only Christian among thousands of Muslims at the Friday prayers.
The photo has been widely shared on social network sites as a touching example of cooperation in a time of conflict.
The prayers took place after Israel restricted access to Al-Aqsa mosque, which sits on the holiest site in the Old City, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
The heightened tensions began last week when three Arab citizens of Israel stormed the central area of Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif the holiest site for both Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem, and the second-holiest place in Islam killing two Israeli police officers. The assailants were shot on site.
On Sunday, they installed security cameras, a move that is likely to further inflame tensions.
The security measures are seen by Palestinians and Arab countries as a unilateral attempt by Israel to control the site considered holy by both the Muslim and Jewish communities and they have triggered widespread demonstrations and violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
Speaking to CNN, why he joined the midday Muslim prayers, the 24-year-old Palestinian said: “I had a dream since I was a child. I wanted to spread the world with love. I wanted to be the one who plants love in people’s hearts,”
Holding a Bible with a cross draped around his neck, the courageous man said he didn’t feel out of place.
“I asked my Muslim friends for their permission to pray between them. They were asking me to stand beside them,” he said.
“My motivation was to stand in solidarity with my Muslim brothers and in solidarity with our Palestinian issue against the (Israeli) occupation and its policies against our holy sites, whether it’s the mosque or the church.”
Aboud says he would refuse to walk through a metal detector if one were placed outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City, the biblical site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
He also urged all Christians to unite with Muslims against what he says is blatant unfairness, and even urged Jews to stand against Israeli occupation.
The Catholic Christian man sees his small act of inclusiveness as a way of bridging the gap between the region’s religions. “I see it as a sign from God that my dream came true to be the ambassador of goodwill between religions.”