A Palestinian worker in the southern Gaza Strip sprays water outside shops decorated for Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
A masked and gloved Palestinian vendor sells juice in a southern Gaza market ahead of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
Photo: Reuters
A Palestinian worker wearing a mask in the southern Gaza Strip sprays water outside shops decorated for Ramadan

Too poor to buy, too scared to meet: Palestinians face joyless Ramadan

The holy fasting month is expected to start Friday but, as elsewhere, residents of Gaza and West Bank are this year facing the prospect of celebrations without usual large gatherings for family meals or evening prayers

Reuters |
Published: 04.23.20 , 14:45
The electric lanterns and ornate decorations of Ramadan would normally be hanging in the streets of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem by now, but not this year amid coronavirus restrictions and growing economic woes.
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  • The holy fasting month is expected to start on Friday but, as elsewhere, Palestinians this year are facing the prospect of celebrations without the usual large gatherings for family meals or evening prayers, known as Tarawih.
    A Palestinian worker in the southern Gaza Strip sprays water outside shops decorated for Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus A Palestinian worker in the southern Gaza Strip sprays water outside shops decorated for Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
    A Palestinian worker wearing a mask in the southern Gaza Strip sprays water outside shops decorated for Ramadan
    (Photo: Reuters)
    And the same closures that are set to dampen the mood are also suppressing the economy - Palestinian officials have ordered the closure of schools, wedding halls, restaurants and mosques, sending tens of thousands into unemployment.
    With two deaths and 335 infected cases reported, different coronavirus regulations have been imposed by Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and by Israel in East Jerusalem, where Muslim religious authorities have stopped worship at the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam.
    A Palestinian worker in the southern Gaza Strip sprays water outside shops decorated for Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus A Palestinian worker in the southern Gaza Strip sprays water outside shops decorated for Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
    A masked and gloved Palestinian vendor sells juice in a southern Gaza market ahead of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "There are no worshippers, there are no people, and the closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque has a great influence on the Palestinian people and on the people of Jerusalem in particular," said Ammar Bakir, a resident of East Jerusalem.
    Tens of thousands would usually pray in Al-Aqsa in Ramadan, rising to hundreds of thousands in the final days. Instead prayers will be broadcast from inside the mosque.
    "Such a decision was the first in 1,400 years, it is tough, and it pains our hearts," said Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani, the director of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

    'No one is buying'

    In Gaza, with no confirmed coronavirus cases outside quarantine centers, Hamas said a full lockdown was not yet needed.
    Customers still flock to markets and stores display the dates, cheese, pickles, nuts and other snacks favored during Ramadan meals.
    A Palestinian worker in southern Gaza cleans the window of a sweet shop ahead of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus A Palestinian worker in southern Gaza cleans the window of a sweet shop ahead of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
    A Palestinian worker in southern Gaza cleans the window of a sweet shop ahead of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
    (Photo: Reuters)
    But with families saving money in case of an outbreak, many are just window shopping.
    "People will be very cautious to visit one another because of the coronavirus crisis," said restaurant owner Anas Qaterji.
    "People are coming to the market to waste time, they are entertaining themselves after the cafes are closed," said Sameh Abu Shaban, 57, who owns a store selling dates and sweets. "No one is buying."
    In the West Bank the Palestinian Authority has declared a state of emergency, but a full lockdown has been eased to allow some businesses resume partial operations, amid predictions of a 50% fall in revenue.
    A Palestinian couple shop in Ramallah ahead of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus A Palestinian couple shop in Ramallah ahead of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
    A Palestinian couple shop in Ramallah ahead of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "It is a sad Ramadan," said Maher al-Kurdi, a supermarket owner in Hebron.
    "Usually shops would be crowded with large numbers of people. And mosques are closed, which would spoil the flavor of Ramadan," he said.

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