Occupied Ramadan: Restrictions and concessions leave Palestinians conflicted

Published July 24th, 2013 - 15:09 GMT

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village of Al-Ram
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Image 1 of 11: Al-Ram - Palestinians climb over the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank village of Al-Ram, heading to the al-Aqsa mosque to pray on July 19. (AFP / Abbas Momani)

BETHLEHEM
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Image 1 of 11: Israeli security forces rummage through bags to check for identity cards as Palestinians cross a checkpoint on the outskirts of Bethlehem as they head to Friday prayers. (AFP / Musa Al-Shaer)

QALANDIA
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Image 1 of 11: Steadfast at Qalandia - Palestinian women patiently line up at the Qalandia checkpoint in the hopes of crossing over for prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque. (AFP / Abbas Momani)

QALANDIA
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Image 1 of 11: Qalandia - Palestinians walk to the Al-Aqsa mosque at sunrise near the Qalandia checkpoint, hoping another Ramadan day will bring a new dawn. (AFP / Abbas Momani)

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Image 1 of 11: Qalandia's children under the barrel of a gun - Frightened-looking children gaze at soldiers' guns at the checkpoint as their mother negotiates their way to the other side. (AFP / Abbas Momani)

BETHLEHEM
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Image 1 of 11: Bethlehem - Palestinian men wait patiently to cross a checkpoint on the outskirts of Bethlehem as they head to Friday prayers. Hundreds of men are turned down at this infamous checkpoint daily. (AFP / Musa Al-Shaer)

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Image 1 of 11: Bethlehem - Palestinian men eagerly scale a checkpoint on their way catch the peak Friday prayers. (AFP / Musa Al-Shaer)

rafah
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Image 1 of 11: Rafah's bated breath at Ramadan- Gas supplies will suffer if the borders are kept closed. A Palestinian boy sits by a gas jar on the street as he awaits customers in Ramadan.

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Image 1 of 11: Enemy at the Gaza gates: Rafah - students in Egypt scramble to get back into Palestine before the borders close on them.

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Image 1 of 11: Palestinians descend on Jerusalem - The Red Crescent are on stand-by for the big prayer occasion.

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Image 1 of 11: Thousands of Palestinians pray in the hallowed grounds of the Dome of the Rock, giving the prayers an extra-holy touch as they celebrate Ramadan.

Blessed Ramadan is by all accounts already difficult enough. Dawn-to-dusk fasting in summer heat, work stress and social obligations can make for a trying time. But with the added complexities of navigating Israeli checkpoints in the Occupied Territories and Jerusalem, it’s even harder for Palestinians living under occupation.

Israel's Ramadan Karim!

Israel does however apply some special concessions for the holy month. Ordinarily, Palestinians are not allowed to enter Israel without a special permit. During Ramadan, the occupying power significantly eases restrictions to allow the fasting faithful to visit contested Jerusalem to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites , at one of the holiest times for Muslims. Israel has already issued 10,000 permits for Palestinians and counting.

In full, the Jewish state is giving the green light to women of all ages and men over 40 to enter for Friday prayers and to celebrate Laylat Al-Qadr at Al-Aqsa. Men between 35-40 require a special permit, while men under 35 are turned down point blank. 

For the festival of Eid el-Fitr on the heels of the fasting month, the IDF are to allow Palestinian women of all ages as well as men over the age of 40 to enter Israel for Friday prayers without a permit.  As for senior citizens, Palestinians over the age of 65 are kosher, according to the IDF, and can enter free of restrictions.

Soldiers got soul!

The Israeli military is playing its part too in keeping the holy month spirit, and the peace.  IDF soldiers in the West Bank have been asked to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in public, particularly at the security crossings, during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Soldiers have been urged to “demonstrate a high level of respect and understanding,” according to the IDF.

Holy stress

Still, Palestinians are conflicted by the token good will shown them by the Jewish state. They are left torn between celebrating the seasonal concessions granted them, and commiserating for the West Bank shops that will lose out in business to stores in Israel.

What's more, as this panel of Palestinian photos shows, navigating Israeli security barriers is a difficult process at the best of times and more so when feeling the pinch of hunger.

This Ramadan, the longest in 33 years, with the fast stretching some 16 hours in the season’s hottest month, how will the Palestinians fare for the fast?

 

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