Christian Peacemaking Team: The Festival of Ramadan

Posted on May 29, 2018


The Old City of Al Khalil set aside the pain of the Occupation, as far as possible, and donned a joyful and celebratory look for the Festival of Ramadan. Flickering yellow, green and red lights dangle decoratively from ornate strings, lighting up the place and creating a bright and festive atmosphere. Ramadan is a joyous festival and people look forward to it as it is considered the most sacred month in the Islamic year.



During this month there is a focus on spiritual discipline. From sunrise to sunset, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, and smoking. Many people go to the mosques for the night prayers and study the Quran, some people will read the Quran three to four times over the course of Ramadan. Due to these late evenings of breaking fast and praying, shops open later in the day, and the shopkeepers we spoke with were more focused on the sense of community and togetherness than on economics.



The Friday Noon Prayer during Ramadan is very special to Muslims all over the world. The Ibrahimi Mosque in Al Khalil, is considered the fourth holiest Shrine in Islam, as it enshrines the Tombs of the Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah and Rebecca, as well as the tomb of Joseph. During Ramadan Muslims from different parts of the West Bank flock to this Mosque for the Noon prayer. As the number of people goes well over three thousand, the people praying overflow into the street outside of the Mosque. There is an air of reverence as soon as the Imam intones the beginning of the prayer.



In the several hours before sunset, the market becomes a bustling place as people buy last minute food items for their Iftar (fast breaking) meal. Generosity abounds everywhere you look. After taking this picture, we were each offered a piece of candy. Families, friends, and strangers invite each other to break Iftar together. Shopkeepers told us that the local soup kitchen that runs daily throughout Ramadan, providing meat and other donated food, ensuring that everyone has plenty to eat when they break fast.



A usually bustling place, the souq now wears a deserted look. Where are the people? It is evening after sunset, the time for families to come together to break the fast, and enjoy the Iftar meal. It is a joyful time, when families and friends get together in homes or in restaurants. When the call to prayer is raised, the fast is broken by eating dates and drinking water or fruit juices. This is followed by a bowl of soup and then the main meal begins. The meal is concluded by a special pastry called “katayef” which is a pancake stuffed with walnuts or cheese, with a sugary syrup over it. Once the Iftar meal is over people come out again and the streets ring out with the happy voices of people who are celebrating. This can go on until the early hours of the morning.