Soon we will see Arab world rulers boarding private jets and traveling to their colleagues’ lavish palaces for the Iftar – the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan. Mubarak will hop over to Saudi Arabia, Jordan’s King Abdullah will travel to the Emirates, Iraq’s president will also make his way to the Persian Gulf, and the Lebanese leadership will travel to Dubai. This is the source of the money; this is where high politics is being converted to dollars. Interests vis-à-vis charity.
Regular Joes in the Arab world will be able to see the hugs on the red carpet, but the lavish feasts are not to be photographed. This year, more than ever, the sight of tables packed with delicacies and servants wearing white gloves could start a fire among the hundreds of millions of hungry Arabs.
The number of hungry people in the Arab world has reached frightening proportions this year. The month of Ramadan, whose onset coincides with the opening of the school year in Israel and which will end precisely when the Hebrew New Year starts, is standing at the shadow of a deep and dangerous abyss that has emerged between the people on the street and their leaders.
The statistics warn about an overwhelming leap not only in the number of unemployed, but also in the price of food - Bread, rice, legumes, and the nuts and seeds that must be present at the fast-breaking meal. In Turkey, for example, one million “aid packages” will be handed out to struggling families. In Egypt, millionaires and public figures who grew rich via the corrupt ties between capital and government will quiet their conscience by feeding tens of thousands of deprived and unfortunate citizens.
The Ramadan fast aims to cleanse the soul from last year’s sins and present a path that circumvents the rulers and connects the people to Allah. Just like in Israel, the Arabs will be eating and whining about the extra calories and corrupt politicians.
A loud debate is taking place at this time, pitting Saudi Arabia’s mufti against doctors across the Arab world, regarding the way to overcome the ban on drinking during the fast in the face of extremely high temperatures. Is it ok to wet the lips? Is it better than dying from dehydration for the sake of Islam?
Time-out ahead of confrontationThe first images of this Ramadan are far from encouraging. Reinforced police forces deployed around mosques; one moment of inattention, a needless word by a preacher, and the masses will hit the streets to settle the score with their ruler.
The ground is burning in Pakistan, while the waves of embitterment look threatening in Egypt and Syria. There is no quiet in Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and even the oil emirates. Instead of cleansing the soul, the hungry street is lying in wait for an opportunity. It was no coincidence that the Rafah crossing was opened for two days. Had they not opened it (and made sure to close it again,) the masses would again be charging at the fence.
This month of suffering also features bans on other pleasures: One must not gossip, slander, or engage in pleasurable contacts. The masses are invited to sit in front of the television and get addicted to the hundreds of programs specially prepared by various channels. However, the people can no longer restrain themselves.
The current Ramadan appears to be a time-out ahead of a violent confrontation - A ticking time bomb; who knows where it will explode. It can come from Gaza, from Hizbullah in Lebanon, from the Egyptian street, from sleeper Hamas cells in Jordan, or from al-Qaeda agents waiting for an opportunity. Let this fast end, and then tighten your seatbelts – the explosion is on the way.