Cautious Optimism That Ramadan in Jerusalem Will Be Calm This Season
Islamic holy month and Passover overlap this year
Multiple Islamic and Arab sources are cautiously optimistic that the holy month of Ramadan will pass without trouble despite the convergence of Islamic and Jewish holidays during the same period.
The precise start of Ramadan is decided only upon the sighting of the crescent moon but it will most likely begin on April 2.
A senior Jordanian source told The Media Line on condition of anonymity that the signals coming from the Israeli side pointed to a calmer month in comparison to last year’s violent confrontations.
“We have noted positively the decision of the Israeli government to allow Muslims from all over the occupied territories to enter Jerusalem and pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the source said.
The source also pointed to the fact that the Israeli High Court has ruled that there will be no displacement of Palestinians from the holy city’s Sheikh Jarrah area and that Israeli security services have promised not to put up a checkpoint at Damascus Gate and not to install the metal barriers that caused a strong protest last year.
On March 1, the High Court that Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood will not be evicted until the Justice Ministry examines their ownership claims to the disputed property where they have been living. That process could take years.
In April 2021, Israeli police closed the plaza outside the gate, a traditional holiday gathering spot for Palestinians. The closure triggered nightly riots; the barricades, which police said were in place to prevent crowding that could spread the novel coronavirus, were removed after several days.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman on Thursday. The king focused on Jerusalem during the talks, an official Jordanian statement said.
“During the meeting, His Majesty reiterated the need to preserve the historical and legal status quo in Jerusalem, maintain calm and stop unilateral action that undermines the two-state solution,” the statement read.
According to Israeli media, both sides agreed “to cooperate in an effort to lower tensions between Israelis and Palestinians as the Ramadan and Passover holidays approach.”
The public visit marked the second meeting between the two men since the new Israeli government was formed last June, but the first time that the meeting was publicized by Jordan, in a further sign of improved ties since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu left office.
“We agreed that we must work together to calm tensions and promote understanding, particularly in the lead-up to the month of Ramadan and Passover,” Lapid said in a statement after the meeting at Al Husseiniya Palace.
Jordanian sources said one of the reasons for the expected calm is the behind-the-scenes role of US diplomats in Jerusalem. “They have been working hard to ensure that the sanctity of the holy month is respected.”
Mahdi Abdul Hadi, a member of the Jerusalem Waqf Islamic trust and founder and director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, told The Media Line that the main issue was the “militarization” of the area that caused the friction.
“If the Israelis refrain from the militarization of the area, then things are bound to be quiet. The battle is between hawkish and non-hawkish Israeli security officials. The Palestinian people want to pray and worship in their mosque, and the best way to allow that is to give people space.”
Khalil Assali, also a member of the Waqf and the publisher of the Jerusalem-focused akhbarelbalad.net website, told The Media Line there was a more upbeat atmosphere in the Waqf council.
“We are looking forward to large numbers of worshipers to be present in al-Aqsa this year,” matching pre-corona figures, Assali said. “We are anticipating large numbers due to the lowering of the dangers of the COVID-19 virus.”
Israeli media have been quoting senior security officials as predicting a much quieter Ramadan this year.
Assali says that it is unclear whether the daily “incursions” by “Jewish extremists” on and near the Al-Aqsa Compound/Temple Mount, uncoordinated with the Waqf, will continue during Ramadan.
“We are hoping that the Israeli side will respect the sanctity of our mosque and refrain from these provocative acts.”
Of extreme importance is what happens during the last 10 days of Ramadan, which include Laylat al-Qadr (the “Night of Power”) on the 27th day of the month. Laylat al-Qadr commemorates the night on which God first revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. It is believed to have taken place on one of the final 10 nights of Ramadan in 610 CE, though the exact night is unclear.
Passover in Israel begins on the evening of April 15 and ends on the night of April 22. Holocaust Remembrance Day begins on the evening of April 27.