Like their brethren all over the world, Palestinian Muslims are observing the month of Ramadan. But Palestinian Muslims also face unique challenges performing their Ramadan duties under Israeli occupation and discrimination.
Let’s face it. Life is no walk in the park for this beleaguered community. In this respect, Ramadan compounds the hardship more sharply despite the spiritual benefits that come with fasting and prayer. Conflict simmers with the heat, deprivation and restrictions. The result? Millions of Palestinians are not only struggling just to survive during the Holy Month. They are particularly bitter about the systematic discrimination as evidenced by many of the young rising up spontaneously to call for their rights, even at the risk of dying for their dissent.
In years past, children in Gaza would light colorful lanterns and receive toys and gifts from their parents to celebrate Ramadan. Now, poverty is so widespread that families cannot afford to do so. Traditionally, Palestinian families would give to the needy during Ramadan, but when so many people cannot even afford basic essentials for themselves, they simply uphold this basic tenet of Islam.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
When the month of Ramadan arrives, the doors of mercy are opened.
(sahih muslim. 2496)
Ramadan is a time when Muslims dedicate time in prayer, either at home or at their local mosque. Unfortunately, Palestinian Muslim worshippers have difficulty entering to Jerusalem to pray at Islam’s third holiest site, The Aqsa Mosque, because of the near impossibility to obtain Israeli permits to enter the Old City. Fridays are a grim reminder of just how soul-destroying it is to mill around for hours at a checkpoint unable to exercise their unalienable right to worship.
Ramadan is like a rare flower that blossoms once a year and just as you begin to smell its fragrance, it disappears for another year.
Despite the hardship for Palestinians, Ramadan remains a special time where the proverbial warmth and generosity of the Arabs creates a captivating close-knit atmosphere. Workdays are shorter and whether you observe Ramadan or not, everyone still gets a couple of hours reprieve from work every day. Some decorate their homes with crescents; star and lanterns, and the dilapidated streets abound with colourful lights. Reflecting a sense of hope that transcends the desolation of the situation in Palestine, cities come alive at night. In the evening, after iftar (breaking of the fast), streets are thronging with shops open until after midnight and you could be fooled for a minute that the hallucination that is the illegal Israeli occupation is just a bad dream. Until you spot a settler, or a checkpoint, or a wall…
Ramadan is time to Empty your Stomach to Feed your Soul
Iftar, which means breaking of the fast, happens when the sun sets and after the ‘athan’ (call to prayer) is raised. Iftar is a feast that starts with dates to break the fast then a bowl of soup like lentil soup (Shorbet Adas) or Cracked wheat Soup (Shorbet Freekeh) followed by a main dish which usually consists of rice and meat. Even after a huge meal however, there is always room for sweets. Ramadan is known for its desserts, and especially Atayef. This pancake-like pastry is stuffed with walnuts, cinnamon, or white cheese is served with sugary syrup on top. Atayef is only made and served during Ramadan, so it’s common for both Muslim and Christian families to enjoy it almost daily during the holy month.
What memories does Ramadan evoke for you?
Some of my fondest memories of Ramadan was going with my father to Jerusalem to buy the most delicious katayef from a popular bakery called ‘Al Arz’. Because you could only find Katayef during Ramadan, it was such a treat. The Holy month is a special time to gather with family and friends. I used to love it when all the women in my family would gather with their children to make Kaak and maamoul, it was such a festive time. On the 27th day of Ramadan, also known as Lailat Alqader (when the angel Gabriel came to Prophet Mohammed with the holy words of the Quran), it was a special time because we would pray at the beautiful Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Unfortunately for many Muslims living outside of Jerusalem, they needed special permits to attend this event, and werent always able to enter the holy city.
My memories of Ramadan go back 60 years, to the refugee camp I grew up in, Jebel El Hussein (Amman). When I was a child we would barely get one meal of meat per week, but during Ramadan we were lucky to eat meat more often. I had a large family and we would gather together in a tent , enjoying our meals with a sad smile, it was difficult. My most valuable lesson from my experience, is to have patience in finding a better way and means to survive.
The holy month of Ramadan is a special time for Muslims worldwide, fasting during daylight hours and abstaining from other pleasures, but it is also the month for Muslims to contribute to charity work, and donations for the less fortunate. Charity is a very important part of Islam and is even more significant during Ramadan. All Muslims, who can afford it, are required to contribute a proportion of their wealth in the shape of Zakat – one of the five pillars of Islam.
Consider donating to these high-ranking charities this month.
For 25 years, the PCRF has provided life-saving medical treatment to thousands of children from around the Middle East. In addition to providing free medical care directly to children, we’re also creating sustainable solutions to ongoing regional health challenges by training local doctors and providing crucial healthcare infrastructure to local hospitals.
MAP’s vision is a future where all Palestinians can access an effective, sustainable and locally-led system of healthcare and the full realisation of their rights to health and dignity. Through offices in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, Lebanon and London, they work with trusted and experienced local partners to provide access to essential health services and build local knowledge and skills to address local health problems.
United Palestinian Appeal works to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians, particularly those in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and refugee camps throughout the Middle East, and to contribute to the long-term socio-economic and cultural development of Palestinian society.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States. UNRWA also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations, which is used mostly for international staffing costs. The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, micro-finance and emergency assistance, including in times of armed conflict.
Mondoweiss is an independent website devoted to informing readers about developments in Israel/Palestine and related US foreign policy, providing news and analysis unavailable through the mainstream media regarding the struggle for Palestinian human rights.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Tanya knew that Palestine was her symbolic homeland. Always curious about her identity and connecting with her roots, she was eager to strengthen her ties to the Levant and traveled the region, desperate to learn more. It wasn’t until her first trip to Palestine that she became spiritually and emotionally connected.
She studied Political Science and Sociology at the University of Toronto. She then moved to the UAE, supporting numerous NGOs related to children’s welfare in the region. When she had her own family, she created the My Olive Roots platform in the hopes that her children and the Arabs diaspora would have a place to connect, learn and preserve their roots. Tanya enjoys discovering humanist stories and exploring the connection of food and art with culture.