The fire broke out in the Al-Marwani prayer room on the same night as the Notre-Dame cathedral. However, no damage was reported to the structure.
On 15 April, the world stood still as the Cathedral de Notre-Dame burned. But in the chaos surrounding this beloved monument, the news of another UNESCO World Heritage monument burning got drowned. The same evening a fire broke out in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
Fire in Al Aqsa Mosque burned down the room of the Marwani prayer guards pic.twitter.com/P6mp9ajaMM— Palestine Post 24 (@PalestinePost24) April 15, 2019
According to The Express, the Palestine News Agency reported, “The fire broke out in the guard's room outside the roof of the Marwani Prayer Room and the fire brigade of the Islamic Waqf handled the matter successfully.” Smoke could be seen rising from the Al-Marwani prayer rooms in Al-Aqsa Mosque, with firefighters tackling the blaze.
Al-Marwani prayer room, also known as Solomon's Stables is located underneath the south-eastern corner of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound (Haram Al Sharif). The holy site is considered to be the third-holiest mosque in the world, after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina. The fire was contained quickly, with no human injuries or damage reported to the 2000-year-old holy worship site.
According to the Times of Israel, a Waqf official said, “We only lost a mobile guard booth that guards would sit in when it rains. We did not lose anything important.”
The prayer room is at the bottom of the stairs, which lead down from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which has the capacity to hold 5,000 people. The historic room is thought to have been built by King Herod, who is said to have been the king of Judea when Jesus was born. The mosque was built on top of Temple Mount, known as Haram esh-Sharif in Islam. The monument was originally built by Caliph Umar on the grounds of a former Byzantine building. Several Muslim dynasties, from the Umayyads to the Abbasids to the Shi’a Fatimids, had control over al-Aqsa in the early centuries of the Islamic empire.
The mosque is important in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as it features the gold-capped 'Dome of the Rock': a holy shrine built on the site of biblical Jewish temples. The site itself belongs to an international community under the administration of the UN and was granted special status because of its importance to the three Abrahamic religions. According to Al Jazeera, the mosque site has been a severely contested piece of land in the Holy Land since Israel occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in 1967. However, the conflict itself dates much earlier, before the country of Israel was even created.
As for the Notre-Dame, French President Emmanuel Macron said he wants Notre Dame rebuilt in five years. More than 800 million euros ($904 million) has been donated to the restoration efforts already. Forbes reported just the French billionaires, including François-Henri Pinault, the Arnault family, and the Bettencourt Meyers family, have donated a total of $680 million. Other French companies have also pledged money including French oil giant Total -- €100 million ($113 million), JCDecaux the French outdoor advertising group -- €20 million ($22 million) and French bank Société Générale -- €10 million ($11 million). Apple has also said it will contribute towards the rebuilding.
However, there has been severe backlash on the billionaires' focused goodwill. Many have questioned why such donations haven't been made to other causes that require the same support such as helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria, and generally to the millions worldwide that are going hungry.
Monday's fire has damaged large parts of the cathedral and destroyed Notre-Dame's roof and iconic spire. The blaze was extinguished after nine hours. The monument has endured multiple restorations and extensions, including the addition of its central spire in the 19th century. Its popularity peaked with Victor Hugo's novel, "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame."