Yesterday marked the start of the holy month of Ramadan and Boston Partners for Peace wishes Muslims living around the world a Ramadan Kareem (a blessed holiday)! Millions of Muslims, including those in Israel, began dawn-to-dusk fasting to mark the month of Ramadan. Each year, tens of thousands of Muslims make a pilgrimage to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on the first Friday of Ramadan. Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site for Muslims, and each year, Israel eases restrictions to allow more pilgrims to enter Israel for a brief period to pray and visit family.
The festive spirit of Ramadan can be felt throughout Israel and exemplifies the diversity of Israel’s population. The municipality of Jerusalem marks Ramadan by stringing festive lights along the Old City gates and providing food to Arab and Christian families in need. In past years, the official start of the month was marked with cannons fired from an East Jerusalem armory, and shots were fired each day at sunrise and sunset to mark the beginning and end of the daily fast.
The Ramadan holiday presents an opportunity for Israel’s citizens to learn about one another. The Jerusalem municipality sponsors an annual online Ramadan quiz that has drawn up to 800 participants from across the country. One of our partner NGOs, The Abraham Initiatives, works with one Jewish-Arab city or region each year, organizing a community Iftar (the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset) with local Jewish and Arab leaders. The President of Israel has hosted Iftar meals at his home with prominent Arab-Israeli leaders.
We hope that this month, Muslims and Jewish residents across Israel will have the opportunity to learn from each other, and recognize and respect the differences in their spiritual practices and values. Each year, Ramadan reminds us that while Israel is a Jewish State, it is home to many different people who need more opportunities to get to know one another.