GUARDIANS OF THE MOSQUE: African Palestinians of Jerusalem


9 November – 1 December 2012


African Palestinians of Jerusalem

photography by
Andrew Courtney


The African Palestinian community of Jerusalem lies in the heart of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. This Palestinian community traces its background through its oldest members to Muslim pilgrims who came to Jerusalem from Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, and Senegal generations ago. Throughout history, holding the keys to the Islamic holy sites, they have been called “The Guardians of the Mosque.” Even today, some men and women hold jobs as bodyguards or with the Palestinian police.

Fifty families live in apartments on both sides of one of the access streets to the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque. These apartments were built in the fourteenth century Mamluk era. During the following centuries of Ottoman rule, until 1918, they were used as prisons.

The African community in Jerusalem today has connections to family living in Jericho and other areas of the West Bank and Gaza. African Palestinians continue to be active in the resistance process for the Palestinian national struggle and many have been political prisoners in Israeli jails. Others are active with the Palestinian Authority. The African Palestinian community is known for perseverance and resilience in the face of the oppressive Israeli occupation. Traditional values and customs are meeting more modern behaviors within one generation as the African community makes new ties to Africa, to the other Africans in Israel and Palestine, and hopefully to people in the United States.

The book Guardians of the Mosque, which accompanies the exhibition, can be ordered online at



See Andrew’s comments from the Opening Reception:



Meet the Artist


          -Andrew Courtney

Andrew Courtney‘s art derives from three well practiced life commitments: “Making Art, Activism for Social Justice, and Teaching.”

The photographic document has been Courtney’s delivery system for 50 years. His particular image making passion concerns those circumstances where people and cultures are at the edge of social struggle change. 

Courtney’s first important visit to Palestine was in 1988 as a witness to the first Intifada in the Jabalia camp of Gaza. Since 1988 he has returned to the region, including refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria, many times.

Courtney’s art teaching career was spent in a school engaged in the early complexities of desegregation and integration of the African American community. Years in a counter- racism teaching environment have tuned his sensibilities everywhere. In 1991, Courtney met Ali Jiddah in the old city of Jerusalem. Ali introduced him to his African Palestinian Community. His photography for this project began at that time.

Courtney’s portfolios include work done in Vietnam, Central America, South Africa, Northern Ireland, the occupied Palestine territories and the contemporary Occupy movement in the U.S. (For more information, see:

Courtney’s studio is in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York where he lives with his two dogs, Panda and Lucy.