Itongadol.- For devout Muslims in Israel and abroad, Wednesday ushers in a month-long endurance test of faith and resolve. Not only will religious Muslim believers fast for a month in the scorching heat, because of the lunar based calendar used by Islam, this year\’s Ramadan will be the longest in 33 years, with each daily fast spanning 16 hours.
Million Palestinians to enter Israel during Ramadan
The police and defense establishment are already bracing themselves for a testing month of their own. For the police, Ramadan falls on the summer recess, leaving a large number of youths out and about; and for security forces, more than a million Palestinians from the West Bank are planning to arrive in Israel to visit their loved ones and partake in Temple Mount prayer services.
With their children\’s well-being in mind, leaders of Israel\’s Muslim Arab community have already began to coordinate with the police in a preemptive bid to prevent violence among spring breakers. A number of days ago, together with a handful of Imams, the head of the Interior Ministry\’s Muslim desk, Dr. Ziad Abu Mokh, held a meeting with police representatives.
The police said: "As part of the regional policy of Central District Commander Maj.-Gen. Bruno Stein, we are holding meetings with respected (leaders and representatives) from the (Muslim) sector, in a bid to foster a fertile cooperation between us.
"In addition, a number of special projects are being conducted together with central district police officers in an attempt to raise awareness for violence during the month of Ramadan," the police said in a statement.
Meanwhile the defense establishment believes that more than a million West Bank-based Palestinians will enter Israel during the month of Ramadan.
The IDF, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the police are currently completing their preparations, and a source within the Coordinator\’s office said that the expected turnout was an all time high.
The majority of those worshipers will enter Israel to partake in religious services in the Temple Mount.
During the previous Ramadan, some 850,000 Palestinians made the trip to Israel, and in light of their visit\’s perceived success in security terms, the defense establishment is working to remove a number of security constrains burdening Palestinians during this already testing month.
For example, this year there will be unlimited access to Jerusalem for all Palestinians above the age of 60 during the month of Ramadan; unlimited access to the Temple Mount\’s Friday prayer services for women of all ages and men over 40; and authorization will be granted to those wishing to enter Israel to meet with their families.
Beside the prayers in the Temple Mount, tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to arrive in Jerusalem\’s malls, Jaffa\’s port, Israel\’s beaches and Akko\’s Old City.
As part of the cooperation, the number of Palestinian police officers working alongside IDF forces will be increased, and besides those already deployed around the Qalandiya checkpoint, additional officers will be placed near the Zeytim (Olive) checkpoint near Al-Issawiya.
Palestinian police officers are expected to aid in screening the Palestinians attempting to enter Israel and remove those likely to be involved in unlawful activity.
Soldiers manning the checkpoints have been instructed to exhibit sensitivity and flexibility when interacting with worshipers, and it has also been requested they refrain from smoking, eating or drinking while in the presence of worshipers, all of which are forbidden during Ramadan.
An info-sheet regarding the Ramadan has been printed and handed out to soldiers. The paper includes dates and times of services, a brief history of the holiday and its role in Arab society and Islam.
For many, this is also a time of giving.
Even though a large number of secular Muslims will in fact also fast, in light of the holiday\’s festive and social role, there are those who cannot. From children to the sickly, those not fasting will be involved in collecting and handing our food to the needy.
As part of this spirit of giving, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, will hand out 3,300 food vouchers to needy Arab families, worth around NIS 1.2 million (roughly $327,000). The vouchers will be distributed by the welfare departments of some 69 communities active in cooperating with the fund year-round.