Ramadan – January 1998
 Ramadan-January 1998
 Ramadan-January 1998

Photo: Zoom 77

 Ramadan-January 1998

Ramadan at Al-Aqsa mosque

  The Moslem world celebrated the holy month of Ramadan which fell between December 30, 1997 and January 29, 1998. Moslems in both Israel and in the territories took part in these observances, which are among the most important in Islam. Ramadan is characterized by a daily fast lasting from sunrise until sundown. During this time observant Moslems neither eat, drink or smoke tobacco products. When the sign is given at sundown, in Jerusalem for example a ceremonial cannon is fired, the mood changes notably as families gather for festive meals and entertainment. Even Israel Television makes its contribution to the holiday atmosphere by broadcasting religious oriented programs for the benefit of Israel’s Moslem citizens.

Israel’s commitment to a pluralistic society based upon religious freedom was evidenced by special greetings for Ramadan which were sent to the Moslem community by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

On January 27, 1998, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Katzav and the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Arab Affairs, Motti Zaken, extended their good wishes to the members of Israel’s Muslim community and their families, on the occasion of the end of the Ramadan fast and the beginning of the Id al-Fitr holiday, and expressed the hope that the coming holidays would usher in a period of peace, brotherhood and joy for all of the communities in Israel.

As in past years, a major focal point of Islamic observance centered on Friday prayers which were held at the Al-Aqsa Mosque located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. On more than one occasion over 200,000 worshippers, from both Israel and the territories, prayed at the Mosque and adjoining locations. In fact on the last Friday of Ramadan this year (Jan. 23) an almost record number of 285,000 worshippers gathered on the Temple Mount.

While security measures were in effect, as any gathering numbering in the hundreds of thousands would require, Israel Police and other security forces made allowances in order to accommodate the throngs of the faithful. Hundreds of buses from the territories crowded the streets adjacent to the Old City, while Police and Municipal Inspectors allowed cars to park on sidewalks in the vicinity. The effect of this massive presence of motor vehicles in Jerusalem was felt miles away from the Old City, as Jerusalemites of all faiths, who found themselves in the midst of traffic snarls, can attest.

Requirements for entry into Jerusalem were waived for the faithful on their way to the Temple Mount. Minister of Public Security Avigdor Kahalani was quoted as saying "It was impressive to behold so great a number of worshippers [praying] in exemplary silence. I was heartened by the cooperation [we received from] the Waqf."