Jerusalem Palestinians put together for Ramadan amid holy month’s uneasy politics

JERUSALEM (RNS) — The shops close to the Damascus Gate of the Outdated Metropolis of Jerusalem are crammed with vacation sweets, and the butcher retailers are overflowing with lamb and beef. Ramadan lamps and extra-large baggage of charcoal for nightly iftar break fasts greet clients on the minimarkets.

Regardless of the bustle of vacation prep, “Ramadan feels totally different this 12 months, sadder due to the battle,” mentioned a client named Layla, who, like many East Jerusalem Palestinians, most well-liked to not share her final identify attributable to warning about publicizing their views. 

The Israel-Hamas battle that started on Oct. 7, when Hamas killed about 1,200 folks in Israel and kidnapped 250 extra, and Israel’s subsequent army onslaught in Gaza, has gutted Muslims all over the world, however none extra maybe than these within the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

“How can we’ve got huge festive iftar meals once we know that the folks in Gaza don’t have sufficient meals?” mentioned Fadi, a younger East Jerusalem resident who works in a sporting items retailer. Almost all the greater than 2 million Palestinians who reside in Gaza are displaced, and plenty of are on the sting of hunger, in line with aid companies.

In East Jerusalem, the uncertainty within the days earlier than Ramadan, which begins Monday or Tuesday (March 11 or 12) relying on the lunar calendar, is particularly acute this 12 months. Regardless of Israeli assurances, folks worry the federal government will restrict the variety of worshippers who can pray on the metropolis’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest web site in Islam, out of safety issues, or that Hamas and different Islamic terror teams will use Ramadan as a pretext to escalate assaults towards Jews and different non-Muslims.

The revered mosque is only a 10-minute stroll from Damascus Gate. 

Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Dec. 21, 2023. Worldwide support companies say Gaza is affected by shortages of meals, drugs and different fundamental provides because of the battle between Israel and Hamas. (AP Photograph/Fatima Shbair)

Ramadan, a time of fasting, intense prayer, inner reflection and charity, has traditionally been a time when Center East Muslims have waged or fought battle; the 1973 Yom Kippur battle towards Israel, which began on the Jewish holy day, was launched throughout Ramadan.

There are causes for concern, mentioned Michael Barak, a senior researcher on the Worldwide Institute for Counter-Terrorism and a lecturer at Reichman College in Tel Aviv. “Terrorist organizations and state actors like Iran exploit Ramadan as a result of they view it because the month of victories, when God will assist Muslims battle towards their enemies,” he mentioned. Examples of this return to the Battle of Badr in 624.

Proper now, Hamas “is attempting to incite by calling on Islamic nations to collect and battle collectively towards Israel, and for Palestinians within the West Financial institution, East Jerusalem and inside Israel to defend Al-Aqsa towards what it claims are Jewish makes an attempt to destroy the mosque and create a 3rd Jewish Temple,” Barak mentioned. 

Hamas, in an try and rally help towards Israel from the world’s Muslims, dubbed the Oct. 7 bloodbath the Al-Aqsa Deluge.

At the same time as pressing negotiations carried out by Center Jap leaders have faltered in latest days, the Biden administration is pressuring Hamas and Israel to decide to a cease-fire earlier than Ramadan begins. “If we get into circumstances the place this continues to Ramadan,” President Joe Biden mentioned this week, referring to unchecked violence in Gaza, the scenario “may very well be very, very harmful.”

Al-Aqsa stands on the ruins of the primary and second Jewish temples atop the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism. Muslims bear in mind the spot as Haram al-Sharif, the place the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. A small variety of Jewish extremists have known as for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple and are supported by Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right-wing minister of nationwide safety and a key member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cupboard.

Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray during Laylat Al Qadr, also known as the Night of Power, in front of the Dome of the Rock Mosque, in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Laylat Al Qadr is marked on the 27th day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and is commemorated as the night Prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Quran. Muslims traditionally spend the night in prayer and devotion. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray throughout Laylat Al Qadr, also called the Evening of Energy, within the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Outdated Metropolis, April 27, 2022. (AP Photograph/Mahmoud Illean)

Defying strain from Ben-Gvir to severely restrict the variety of Muslims who can pray on the mosque complicated this Ramadan, Netanyahu introduced that his authorities “will do all the pieces to take care of the liberty of worship on the Temple Mount, whereas appropriately sustaining safety and security wants, and we’ll enable the Muslim public to have a good time the vacation. Ramadan is holy for Muslims, and the sanctity of the vacation will probably be preserved this 12 months, as it’s yearly.”

Netanyahu added, nevertheless, that his safety forces will reassess the safety scenario week by week.

Ben-Gvir countered that the choice to permit tons of of 1000’s of Muslims to wish on the Al-Aqsa compound this Ramadan “exhibits that Netanyahu … thinks that nothing occurred on Oct. 7. The choice endangers the residents of Israel and will enable a picture of victory for Hamas.”

A jeweler whose retailer stands throughout the road from the Outdated Metropolis and who gave his identify as Mohammed mentioned his household’s Ramadan will probably be rather more modest this 12 months, as a result of battle and the truth that cash is scarce.

“Folks aren’t shopping for jewellery, not even for weddings or particular events,” he mentioned, noting that many East Jerusalem residents have postponed their weddings till the safety scenario improves.

“Perhaps issues will probably be higher by Eid al-Fitr,” the pageant that marks the tip of Ramadan, Mohammed mentioned hopefully. “Historically, many individuals purchase items for Eid.”

Switching between English, Arabic and Hebrew, the 55-year-old emphasised that the battle is affecting everybody within the area, Arabs and Jews alike.

“I’ve many Jewish pals. All of us, Jews and Arabs, are exhausted. Inshallah there will probably be quiet. Peace.”

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