The month of Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, will begin on Saturday. Ramadan is characterized not only by fasting and prayer, but also by fewer work hours in the Arab sector, together with an increase in the sector's consumerism.
During Ramadan, Muslims hang decorations at the entrances to their homes, and festive lighting decorates the roads in towns and villages. Observing Muslims fast for nearly 15 hours a day, from 4:18 AM until 07:43 PM. The month is devoted mainly to soul-searching, good deeds, charity, strengthening family and social ties and empowering tolerance and generosity. In Ramadan, Muslims try to transcend their material and the earthly needs and focus instead on spirituality. It is a month of reconciliation, compassion and brotherhood.
The obligation to fast applies to every Muslim aged 13 and older, be they men and women. Those who cannot fast (pregnant women, the elderly, the ill) must complete the days of fasting that they missed later, or donate to charity. It is estimated that 80% of Muslims in Israel fast during Ramadan.
Ramadan is not only characterized by fasting and prayers, but is also a month during which the Arab sector works less and buys more. The rate of food consumption rises by more than 50% during this time, and the rate of gift purchases increases by hundreds of percentages, similar to the shopping craze among Jewish Israelis before the holiday month of Tishrei and before Passover.
Ramzi Haj Yahya, a butcher shop owner in the Israeli Arab town Baqa al-Gharbiya, said: "We are taking into account families' economic situation, so we try to maintain reasonable prices for the needy."
Advertiser Musa Hassadia noted that "the advertising industry enjoys an increase in activity—about a quarter of the advertising budget of the food companies and retail chains is invested in this month, and companies are launching large campaigns for Ramadan.
Hassadia added that "At the end of the month of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated for three days, during which time there is also an increase in clothes and shoe shopping. This is the most important time of the year for the Muslim population in Israel and around the world, both in terms of religion and consumerism and marketing."
The mayor of Taibeh, Shua'a Mansur Masarwa, noted that the city is opening the "Ramadan Market" project during the last ten days of the month: "We will open the citadel—a museum that has invested almost half a million shekels. Many visitors will come here, both from Taibeh and from the Jewish sector. In addition, a tent will funded by the Ministry of Education be set up for three days, during which an iftar meal (served during Ramadan after sunset—ed) will be hosted for Arabs and Jews from various schools. "
He also stated that on June 21, Taibeh's iftar banquet will be attended by 500 businesspeople from all sectors of the general population. "The message here is that Muslims view the month of Ramadan as a month of worship and patience."
On a related note, President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, announced a series of investments in the Arab sector and will begin as a first step in increasing aid to needy families for the month of Ramadan. The fund has now begun distributing food vouchers to 5,500 needy families in the sector and 4,000 clothing vouchers for children in need of welfare in Arab communities, for a total of NIS 2.3 million.
On the recommendation of the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkott, and as part of the policy to improve life for the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria and assist the residents of Gaza, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has approved a series of steps in preparation for the holiday period.
Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria will be able to visit family in Israel between Sunday and Thursday and on Eid al-Fitr. Entry to Friday prayers and Laylat al-Qadr (a holy night also during Ramadan) will be permitted on the Temple Mount, with residents of Gaza also allowed to enter visit the Temple Mount over the holiday. Requests of Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria who wish to travel abroad via Ben-Gurion Airport will be coordinated, and hours of check point crossings for Palestinians will be expanded to accommodate Gazans.