* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
At the heart of the old city of Jerusalem, the glittering Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque rest on the Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary)/Temple Mount. The sacred site, the third holiest shrine in Islam, is where the Prophet Muhammed is believed to have ascended to heaven. The Temple Mount is considered the holiest site for Jews and has been the scene of tension in recent years.
Every year, more than one million people visit this World Heritage Site, an area that comprises nearly one sixth of the walled city of Jerusalem. During the holy month of Ramadan, the numbers of visitors increase significantly.
Due to the escalation of violence in recent months and the rise in temperatures expected as Ramadan begins on 6 June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) organized First Aid trainings for 25 male and 20 female guards in Al-Aqsa Compound.
During the five-day training, guards learnt specific skills and behaviours that First Aiders should have to act safely and effectively when caring for people caught in situations of violence or natural disasters or suffering from heat strokes.
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“During the Ramadan, more than 250,000 people are expected to visit this place every Friday, and it is important that the guards know how to assist the people in case of a medical emergency,” said Dr. Amin Abu Ghazaleh, who has worked for the PRCS for 25 years.
Lamya Abu Rmeileh joined the Al-Aqsa guards 16 years ago, and has been following the training with great attention.
“If I have to face a situation in which I must act as a First Aider, I will implement what I learnt without hesitation, whether it would be with my kids at home, my neighbours or people at Al-Aqsa Mosque, and in case of any other incident,” she said.
The Jordanian Kingdom, custodian of Al-Aqsa Compound, allowed the ICRC to organise the training in Jerusalem's most recognizable landmark.
According to Sheikh Azam AlKhatib, General Director of the Jordanian Jerusalem Waqf, the religious trust responsible for the administration and Islamic affairs at Al Aqsa Mosque: "Never in history has an international organisation been granted access to this holy site to carry out an activity like this. But the ICRC’s neutrality makes it different and we would like to have more similar trainings."
“First Aid is crucial for the guards working in Al Aqsa Compound because they are on the frontline, working day and night, responding to disasters like fires, injuries and waves of violence,” Azam AlKhatib added.
Tariq Abu Sbeih is from the old city of Jerusalem, and has been working as a guard in Al-Aqsa Compound for 18 years. Together with 24 other male guards, he took part in the training to be the first to provide essential aid – be it bandaging a wound or offering much needed comfort – when a crisis or emergency occurs.
“Hundreds of thousands of worshippers will be coming to pray during Ramadan. June will be a hot month and this Fist Aid training will help us to assist them, especially the elderly. What we have learnt is also very important since we witness many incidents at Al-Aqsa Compound these days,” he said.
In emergencies, 90% of lives are saved by First Aiders. The ICRC, with the support of the PRCS, will continue training guards of Al-Aqsa Compound to also help them take swift and effective action to spot early warning signs for non-communicable diseases like strokes and reduce serious injuries during waves of violence in Jerusalem.