TURKEY

Turkey’s TIKA: East Jerusalem’s longtime benefactor

TURKEY’S TIKA: EAST JERUSALEM’S LONGTIME BENEFACTOR

Since 2005, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) has carried out a total of 71 projects in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

In hopes of preserving the city's historical Arab and Muslim identity, projects have been carried out in the fields of education, culture and housing, among others.

In 2011, TIKA initiated a study for the restoration of the iconic crescent that tops the dome of East Jerusalem's gold-plated Dome of Rock Mosque. Within the last two years, these restoration efforts have been largely completed by specialists from Turkey.

TIKA has also launched a project to restore the Uzbek Lodge, located in Jerusalem's Old City district.

The Bab al-Rahma Muslim cemetery, also located in the Old City, has also been partially restored by TIKA, and the aid agency hopes to restore the rest this year.

TIKA is also currently negotiating with Jordanian authorities in hopes of obtaining permission to revamp the Muslim Museum near the Al-Aqsa Mosque. If permission is given, the project will begin right away, according to TIKA officials.

With the aim of promoting the history and culture of Palestine, Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, TIKA has also published guides available in the Turkish, English and Arabic languages.

As for the social side of TIKA's activities, the agency has restored numerous local homes and shops in an effort to ease the hardships faced by East Jerusalem's Muslim community as a result of Israel's ongoing policy of Judaization.

Within the same context, TIKA has provided the sports facility at East Jerusalem's Burj al-Laklak Community Center -- one of the few places Palestinian children can play freely -- with new equipment.

The Turkish aid agency has also restored the Jerusalem Beitul Mahabbe Association and Children Sheltering House, providing a better environment for women and children.

To mark the occasion of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan this year, TIKA also provided food aid to hundreds of East Jerusalem's neediest families, putting smiles on the faces of Palestinians weary of Israel's decades-long occupation.

And with a view to creating a better environment for education and training, TIKA has also carried out a number of projects for Jerusalem's Riyadh al-Aqsa schools.

The agency is also in the process of building a laboratory for Jerusalem University's public health faculty and will soon open a girls' dormitory for 400 students at the school.

TIKA has also recently completed construction of the Nur'ul Huda Hafiz Center, which is also located in East Jerusalem.

The agency further plans to restore 30 homes and 30 shops this year alone in cooperation with several NGOs, including the Jordan-linked Islamic Foundation, the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and the Union of Arab Hoteliers.

TIKA also soon plans to open a new office in Jerusalem with a view to making its Ramallah-based missions more effective.

Since 2005, TIKA has carried out more than 400 projects -- including 71 in East Jerusalem and 120 in the Gaza Strip -- in the education, health, public health and production sectors, in an effort to preserve Palestinian heritage and strengthen administrative and civil infrastructure.

On Thursday, the Israeli daily, HaYom -- known to be close to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu -- published a report that said Turkey had begun to reassert its influence in the area by pouring millions of dollars of aid into East Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

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