Gaza war leaves Palestinians little to celebrate

A few days before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, the streets of East Jerusalem’s Old City were quieter than usual. Unlike other years, there are no festive Ramadan lights lining the narrow alleyways. The mood is somber, with an air of uncertainty about how the holy month of fasting and prayer will unfold.

“We don’t feel Ramadan,” said Um Ammar, as she walked along Al-Wad Street, one of the main thoroughfares of the ancient city. The war in Gaza is on everyone’s mind, she said. According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, around 31,000 people have been killed and aid agencies are warning of a looming famine.

“We will have an iftar here. But there are a lot of people who won’t be able to eat because there is no food in Gaza,” she said, referring to the meal that breaks the fast at sunset. “When people sit around the table, what kind of Ramadan are we talking about? This is not Ramadan, it feels more like a wake to pay condolences,” she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by others in the neighborhood. Hashem Taha runs a spice shop on Al-Wad Street. “Jerusalem feels very sad, the people in Gaza are our people, they are family, and we are very affected by what we see there,” Taha said.

A hope that Ramadan will remain calm

Over the years, shopkeepers and residents in this neighborhood have seen their share of tension and violence between Israeli border police and Palestinian residents, but most are hoping that the relative calm in Jerusalem will prevail this Ramadan.

Close to Taha’s shop, Israeli border police stopped young Palestinian men to check their identity and belongings. “They are already making it very difficult and harassing people all the time,” Taha said.
This year, the war in Gaza, which began after Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on October 7, is casting a dark shadow on Ramadan. The holy month begins when the crescent moon is sighted, most likely on March 10 or 11.

In the past, tensions have centered around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Leave a Comment