How Israeli Arabs prepare for the Ramadan

Though the holiday become associated with violence in recent years, the Arab sector rejoices over a time marked by fasting, prayers, and holiday feasts

Elisha Ben-Kimon, Hassan Shaalan, Einav Halabi|
Thursday will mark the advent of Ramadan, a month during which members of the Muslim faith worldwide will fast 13 hours a day, from dawn until dusk. But how can you tell when a fast starts or ends?
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  • The start of the holy month is determined according to the Muslim calendar, which is a lunar calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar which is used in most parts of the world.
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    Temple Mount
    (Photo: AFP)
    Mufti Dr. Mashour Fawaz, a top Islamic jurist, arrived in the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm where he used a telescope to observe the Moon and determine when a new moon begins. Finally, he ruled that the new month, and Ramadan with it, will begin on Thursday, and not on Wednesday as previously believed.
    Many Muslims in Israel have already begun their holiday shopping and decorating their homes and streets as food vendors offer generous discounts on their goods for the special occasion and charity groups distribute food to families in need.
    In the village of Jatt, youths handed each family NIS 1,500 ($410) of food and water, and a businessman from northern Israel traveled to East Jerusalem and gave out hundreds of products to the families.
    Muksham Taya, the owner of a supermarket in Klanswa, said that during Ramadan he sells his goods at a discount.
    “I have 160 products that I sell for only $10 each. Lots of people are coming through, and it's important to me to take everyone into consideration, even the families that struggle financially so they can buy anything they want at cheap prices."
    Ali Masarwa, a resident of Kafr Qara, said that the whole village was anticipating the holiday. “We are happy, it is a special month that we use for prayer. We unite all together for a special dinner."
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    חאתם אבו עסב, בעל עסק בשער שכם
    חאתם אבו עסב, בעל עסק בשער שכם
    Arab merchants prepare for Ramadan
    (Photo: Yoav Dudkevtich)
    However, in recent years, Ramadan became associated with violence and the tense atmosphere can be sensed throughout the streets of Arab communities hoping the holy month will pass with as few casualties as possible.
    Media and advertising adviser Musa Hasdiya noted that "Ramadan is a holiday of peace and brotherhood of peoples marked by fasting, prayers, and holiday feasts."
    “Only provocative ministers who break into to the Al-Aqsa Mosque could stir riots. That is why Israeli security officials also want to avoid going to Temple Mount and demolishing homes,” he said in reference to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir's visits to the sensitive site and his policy of demolishing illegal homes in East Jerusalem.
    During the month of Ramadan, which lasts 30 days, believers have two big meals every day - the Suhoor meal in the morning, which is eaten before sunrise; and the Iftar at night which breaks the fast.
    All Muslims over the age of 13, male and female, have to fast. Those who can't fast, such as pregnant women, the elderly, or the ill must complete the missed fasting days at a later date or give out charity.
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    (Photo: Reuters)
    It is estimated that 80% of Muslims in Israel fast during Ramadan.
    However, the holiday is not just about fasting and praying. This is a month in which the Arab sector also works less and buys more.
    Food consumption during this month more than doubles and the sale of gifts jumps substantially, splashing out a total of NIS 10-11 billion ($2.7-$3 billion), similar to the shopping craze among Jews ahead of Passover and the Jewish new year.
    Ramadan with a three-day festival called Eid al-Fitr. These two holidays are considered the most important time of year for Muslims worldwide.
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