GCC foreign ministers meet to discuss regional and international developments

RAMALLAH: Ramadan in the Palestinian Territories is characterized by its special rituals and atmosphere.

Three million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and activities during Ramadan include performing prayers in mosques – especially Al-Aqsa Mosque – family visits and reunions, semi-pilgrimages to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and giving alms to the poor and needy families.

This year’s Ramadan stands out as the first after the end of COVID-19-related procedures and restrictions that have cast a shadow over the atmosphere and rituals of the holy month for the past three years.

Family gatherings remain important and iftar meals are shared during this month of fasting.

Despite the Israeli occupation and control over the city of Jerusalem, the custom of the Ramadan iftar cannon at the Al-Aqsa Mosque continues. It goes off every night, marking the end of the day’s fast and the start of Ramadan dinner.

People consume a lot of qatayef desert during Ramadan, while juice, tamarind, almond, licorice and carob vendors are plentiful, as are pickle vendors. Meanwhile, restaurants are also serving Ramadan dinners for those breaking their fast.

The function of “Takaya” becomes more prominent during the month of fasting as it provides hot iftar meals to low-income families.

In big cities, like Ramallah, the municipalities used to light the Ramadan lantern, mainly in the biggest and most important square of Ramallah, in the presence of the governor, the mayor, the leaders of the local communities and of a large crowd of citizens. The state of sadness and anger in the West Bank following Israel’s killing of three young men on the first day of Ramadan on April 2 has not led to any popular celebrations for the lighting of the lantern this year.

The Ramallah Municipality said in a statement, “The lighting of the lantern in Clock Square in the center of Ramallah will take place without events, in honor of the martyrs and in mourning for their souls.”

Despite the availability of alarms via mobile devices, the custom of Al-Musaharati continues in most of the Palestinian territories. Young people tour neighborhoods beating drums and chanting Ramadan songs to wake people up and eat the sahoor meal. During the last two to three days of Ramadan, young people visit homes in the neighborhoods where they were and receive a gift from locals to thank them for their efforts during Ramadan.

Worship during Ramadan is essential, especially at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and for the late-night prayer, known as Tarawih. An hour after eating the Ramadan iftar, men and women perform prayers in mosques, some of which broadcast the prayer over loudspeakers.

Palestinians insist on performing prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Their greatest desire is to perform Friday prayers during Ramadan – thousands of men and women flock from all over the West Bank to perform these prayers at the mosque. It is unclear whether the Israeli authorities will impose restrictions on their access to Al-Aqsa due to the escalating security situation in the Palestinian Territories.

Palestinians from the West Bank, who frequently visit East Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque during the month of Ramadan, boost the Old City’s economy by shopping in its markets. The owners of these stores are waiting for this season throughout the year.

After semi-pilgrimages were halted for nearly three years due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Umrah trips have resumed from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Makkah Al-Mukarramah and Al-Madinah Al Munawwarah. Umrah registration offices see good footfall, especially for Umrah scheduled during Ramadan.

Sameh Jbara, owner of the Hajj and Umrah company in the West Bank, told Arab News that Palestinians are demanding to perform Umrah during Ramadan this year after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus. Still, the demand is not as intense as it was before COVID-19 due to the significant increase in costs, which rose from $282 to $493. The number of people registered to perform Umrah during Ramadan this year reached 6,000, compared to 20,000 in previous years, he said.

“The significant increase in Umrah costs has led to many reluctance to enroll in this religious worship,” Jabara said.
Arab News.

The broadcast and print media devote much space during Ramadan to advising those who are fasting, urging them to perform acts of worship, visit their families and give to the poor, while some prominent clerics have begun to use social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram to convey their religious instructions to their followers.

Talib Al-Silwadi, one of the most prominent imams of preaching and religious guidance in the Ramallah area, told Arab News that he orders fasters in sermons and spiritual lessons “to pay attention to their behavior and to link it to the teachings of Islam”. religion” and remind people of the “double reward for their worship
during Ramadan”.

Al-Silwadi said COVID-19 restrictions and procedures had cast a shadow over Ramadan for the past three years. However, the Palestinian people are used to suffering because of the Israeli occupation. “The Palestinian people have experienced and become accustomed to the greatest and most severe suffering due to the presence of the Israeli occupation before, during and after the coronavirus,” he said.

Al-Silwadi spoke of the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on the Palestinian people in terms of an “unprecedented wave of price increases which coincided with the start of Ramadan in the Palestinian Territories”.

It was essential for Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to try to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque and pray there during Ramadan. However, the Israeli authorities can only allow people over the age of 60 to access Al-Aqsa. “It is essential that we pray to Al-Aqsa during Ramadan and do not leave it alone,” he said.

Al-Silwadi recalled the atmosphere of Ramadan in the Palestinian Territories 40 to 50 years ago, saying that social and family relations were closer then and there was more cooperation between people.