Sheikh Raed Salah is one of the most famous Palestinian figures for his defiance of Israel’s policies and exposing their conspiracies to Judaize al-Quds and al-Aqsa mosque. He is a long-time defender of the Islamic sanctities and endowments in occupied Palestine, especially Masjid al-Aqsa, until he became known as sheikh al-Aqsa. Sheikh Salah received the King Faisal Award in 2013 for his efforts in defending al-Aqsa.
Birth and Upbringing:
Sheikh Raed Salah was born in 1958 for Abu Shakra’s family in Umm al-Fahm, north of Palestine, to a Palestinian family who refused to be expelled of their homes following the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1948. He completed his secondary education at Umm al-Fahm schools. He holds a BA in Islamic Law from the Islamic University of Hebron.
Sheikh Salah began his Islamic activism early, where he embraced the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and was active in the field of advocacy within the 1948 land of occupied Palestine.
Sheikh Raed was one of the founders of the Islamic Movement inside Palestine (the 1948 territories) in the early seventies, and he became one of its senior leaders and the head of its northern wing since 1996.
Sheikh Raed became the mayor of Umm al-Fahm municipality for three consecutive terms, until he resigned from his position in 2000 to serve as head of the Al-Aqsa Foundation for the Reconstruction of Islamic Holy Sites; a non-governmental organization that aims to preserve al-Aqsa mosque.
The Defense of Al-Aqsa
Sheikh Raed Salah is one of the most prominent defenders of al-Aqsa; he’s been famous for his role in uncovering the excavations carried out by the occupation under the Masjid and other risks surrounding al-Aqsa, as well as his practical defiance and confrontation of these practices.
He and his fellow brothers had a prominent role in the renovation of the Musalla al-Marwani, and reopening its gates and protecting it from confiscation, in addition to renovating the old Musallah of al-Aqsa, and cleaning and lighting its courtyards, besides constructing latrine and ablution units at Bab Huta, al-Asbat, Faisal and al-Majlis.
They also worked on the project of “al-Bayariq” march, to facilitate bringing people to al-Aqsa Mosque, which foiled the occupation plans to empty al-Aqsa from Muslim worshipers.
He also participated with his fellow brothers in the revival of the knowledge gatherings on the historic terraces in al-Aqsa mosque, and he contributed to the establishment of the al-Aqsa Children Fund project, which sponsors about 16,000 children.
He also helped to organize the international contest “Beit al-Maqdis in Danger” and other programs aimed at reviving the cause of al-Aqsa and activating the role of Palestinians in the 1948 territory to preserve it, such as “Al-Aqsa in Danger” festivals.
He also helped to produce several documentaries and books on al-Aqsa mosque, including “al-Murabiteen,” and “the guide to the first of the two Qiblas” and the documentary “The blessed Aqsa under siege.”
Which made him vulner able to the oppression and harassment of the occupation, starting with banning him from traveling or denying him access to al-Aqsa until his arrest and the assassination attempts carried against him.
The Occupation Targeting him:
- In 1981, Raed Salah was imprisoned on charges of association with a banned organization, the “Usrat al-Jihad,” and after his release he was placed under house arrest.
- In 2000, a failed assassination attempt was carried out against Shiekh Salah in the first days of al-Aqsa’s intifada. He was injured in the head with a bullet.
- In 2002, the occupation’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition submitted by Sheikh Raed Salah to annul an order issued by the Minister of the Interior that banned him from leaving the country. The judiciary decided at the time that public security comes before the principle of freedom of movement.
- In the next year, 2003, the occupation arrested him again with the charge that he was laundering funds for Hamas, in the field of defending Islamic sanctities and endowments, particularly al-Aqsa mosque.
However, the Sheikh continued to defend the Islamic holy sites in occupied Palestine until he was prevented from entering al-Quds in 2009. Then the Israeli court issued a decision to imprison him for nine months. His response was, “We will defend al-Aqsa mosque even from inside prison.”
On May 31 2010, Sheikh Raed Salah participated in the Freedom Flotilla aimed at lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip. The Flotilla was exposed to piracy in international water of Israeli warships. Nine activists were martyred and more than 38 were wounded. Sheikh Salah was arrested after an attempt to assassinate him, when the Flotilla was forcibly taken to Ashdod seaport.
As part of the occupation’s campaign to target al-Aqsa and the movement of Ribat in it, the Israeli occupation government banned the Islamic movement headed by Sheikh Salah, in November 2015, under the pretext that its activities were inciting against “Israel,” because it was a major player in the reconstruction and protection of al-Aqsa.
In 2016, the Sheikh was sentenced to nine months in prison, in a case known as “Wadi al-Jawz,” which began in 2007 after a Friday sermon on February 6, 2007 in Wadi al-Joz neighborhood in occupied al-Quds, following the occupation forces’ prevention of worshipers from entering al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers, and the demolitions that reached al-Mughrabi Gate (باب المغاربة)that leads to al-Aqsa.
The General Prosecutor’s Office attributed to Sheikh Salah saying in this speech: “The Israeli establishment wants to build the temple to be used as a [Jewish] house of prayer to God, how shameless and falsified [those clams are]. There cannot be built a house of prayer to God while our blood is still on the clothes, doors, food and drinks of terrorist [military] generals.”
Sheikh Raed Salah walked to the prison to spend his sentence accompanied by a popular procession of large crowds from the city of Umm al-Fahm. The Sheikh said before entering prison: “This is not a farewell moment, but rather a renewal of our covenant and commitment to our Arab and Palestinian principles. Our great joy will be achieved by ending the occupation of al-Aqsa mosque.”
On January 17, 2016, Sheikh Raed Salah was released after being detained for nine months. However, he was subject to restrictions on his movement, including travel bans and the prohibition of entering occupied al-Quds and al-Aqsa mosque before he was arrested again.
After the victory of the Maqdisis (المقدسيين) (Jerusalemites) in al-Asbat uprising, which forced the Zionists to dismantle the electronic gates installed at al-Aqsa’s entrance gates, “Israel” sought revenge on the leaders and symbols of the uprising.
On August 15, 2017, Sheikh Salah was arrested from his home in the city of Umm al-Fahm. He was taken to interrogations and his detention was extended several times. The court decided to extend his detention until the end of the proceedings against him. On February 15, 2018, the Central Military Court extended his detention in solitary confinement, for six months, at the request of the Prison Authority.
Sheikh Raed Salah, who has long been calling to remind the nation that “al-Aqsa is in danger,” remains the pioneer leader in defense of al-Quds and the protector of the blessed al-Aqsa mosque.