Ramadan in Israel: There’s More Than Meets the Eye

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Reprinted from Honest Reporting.

Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer, frequently begets violence in Israel and the West Bank, with some historical data suggesting that Palestinian terrorism consistently soars during the annual observance of the festival. Accordingly, in their coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, journalists have often stressed the purported negative aspects of Ramadan.

However, the media’s sole and incessant preoccupation with violence during the holiday season does an injustice to Israel’s extensive efforts to promote religious freedom for people of all faiths, including the millions of Muslims living in Jerusalem, Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank, and throughout the Jewish state.

Ramadan in Israel: 100,000 Worshippers on Temple Mount

Sadly, little has been published about the attempts by successive governments to defuse tensions ahead of Ramadan, or the fact that Israeli authorities every year facilitate the safe ascension of hundreds and thousands of Muslim pilgrims to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

For instance, on the first Friday of Ramadan 2023 alone, over 100,000 worshippers attended prayers at Al-Aqsa, a reported increase of some 20,000 compared to the previous year. Despite several attempts by terror organizations to incite violence at the flashpoint, the event passed largely peacefully.

Extending an olive branch to the Palestinians, Israel’s government in March 2023 announced a series of concessions for Ramadan. Among other measures, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) stated that women of all ages, children up to 12, and men over 55 from the West Bank would be allowed to enter Jerusalem on Fridays without an existing entry permit.

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Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were likewise granted permission to pray in Israel’s capital without restrictions, albeit from Sunday to Thursday. Notably, in April 2022, similar steps were taken by Israel’s defense minister, mere days after the country experienced three horrific attacks that saw terrorists murder 11 people in Israel over the course of just one week.

To streamline the movement of large groups of worshippers from Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza traveling to and from the Old City, Israeli police routinely close off parts of Hebron Road — a main traffic artery in a primarily Jewish area — for several hours every Friday during Ramadan.

In addition, the Jerusalem municipality heightens the holiday cheer by decorating the city’s eastern part with Ramadan decorations and lights. In 2023, mayor Moshe Lion announced countless new cultural and recreational activities for Arab residents, adding that municipal sports venues would stay open and lit at night to allow for post-fast activities. The local government also distributes food vouchers to needy families.

In the days leading up to Ramadan, Israel’s head of state customarily calls leaders of Muslim countries around the world, as well as the chairman of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, to convey his holiday greetings. Interfaith events with religious leaders and foreign diplomats take place throughout the month and are often attended by high-ranking Israeli officials.

Leaving Work Early During Ramadan

Meanwhile, Israeli law addresses the needs of citizens who observe Ramadan. For example, Muslim civil servants are permitted to start work two hours later or end two hours earlier during the entire month of Ramadan. Eid Al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, is recognized as a paid day off for all Muslim employees, and most employers let workers leave early the day before.

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Many public universities have special arrangements for the sacred Islamic month. At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, teachers are encouraged to discuss special accommodations with fasting students, as well as to allow them to miss classes and exams scheduled after 5 PM. Educational institutions also organize festive iftar (post-fast) meals.

A closer look at Ramadan celebrations in Israel shows there is more than meets the eye — or the media’s camera lens. From all of us here in Jerusalem, we wish those who celebrate, a Ramadan Kareem and Eid Mubarak!

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Featured Image: Jamal Awad via Flash90

Honest Reporting is a website that seeks to bring balance to the left slant in the major news media.

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