The Old City is located in the eastern part of Jerusalem, fenced by a wall about 15 meters high and more than 4 km long, which was rebuilt by Suleiman the Magnificent somewhere in the middle of the 16th century. To the east of the wall’s northern face is Herod’s Gate, one of the six main entrances to the old city which makes you enter the gateway to a bit of India in this land sacred to the three Abrahamic religions.
‘Little India’ is a neutral spot in the theatre of the world’s bitterest conflict, not really easy to ever get resolved. The history of the hospice goes all the way back to 1200 CE, when the Sufi mystic Fariduddin Ganj-i-Shakar, or Baba Farid, visited Jerusalem. He resided in a waqf property that comprised two rooms and a mosque on a hillock opposite Bab al-Zahera (Herod’s Gate), praying all alone straight for 40 days in a cave on the premises.
Pilgrims and tourists at the hospice today are said to be exclusively Indian, and most recommended by India’s diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv and nearby capitals.
The guardian of the Indian hospice has been Sheikh Mohammad Munir Ansari since the year 1952, the son of Sheikh Nazir Hassan Ansari, a member of the All-India Khilafat Committee who flew to Jerusalem from Saharanpur in UP in 1924 at the call of the Grand Mufti of Palestine to be the trustee of the Indian Wakf and sheikh of the Indian hospice.
Almost a century has been covered that these four generations of the Ansari family have gone through the hatred, prejudice, violence, and unrest of multiple wars and two Intifadas. Because of all the political turmoil, even after personal losses and extensive damage to the hospice, they have kept the Tricolour fly high on Zawiyat al-Hunood Street. It’s his firmness and dignity, goodwill and tact, via which Sheikh Munir has ensured a prolonged Indian presence in the most contested 1-sq-km area of land in the world.
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