June 01, 2020
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Showpiece Hospice

Showpiece Hospice
For an Indian visiting Jerusalem, a visit to the Indian hospice in the Old City would be a much-needed lesson in history. A Wakf property in the name of India, with Sheikh Mohammad Munir Ansari as the trustee, the hospice tops 7,000 square metres in area and is slowly being ringed by Jewish settlers trying to change the demographics of the Old City. In 1921, the Grand Mufti of Palestine came on a trip to India to raise finances for the revered Al Aqsa mosque. On his agenda, also, was to find a replacement for the Indian sheikh heading the hospice who had passed away in the Old City. The Grand Mufti was on good terms with the Shaukat brothers of the Khilafat movement and they recommended Ansari's father from Saharanpur. As a result, he landed up in the Old City in 1922. Between 1945-47, the hospice served as a leave camp for the Indian soldiers in the 4th Indian division under Field Marshal Montgomery. From 1952, it served as a boarding place for Indian pilgrims on tour to the holy land after Haj and averaged nearly 200 pilgrims a day till 1967, the year the Israelis occupied the Old City after the 6-day war. The war saw 27 shells fall on the hospice one morning and the death of three members of the Ansari family. After 1967, the hospice stopped functioning as the pilgrims dried up and now a part of it is rented out to a UN outfit. There are plans to renovate it with funds from the Indian embassy but with the intifada erupting they have taken a backseat. Ansari has done some historical research and managed to trace the history of the hospice to 700 years back to Sheikh Baba Farid Shaqarganji, an Indian saint who came on a 18-year-long tour to the region and stayed in one underground room.
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