Jerusalem, July 19 — Beginning Friday, July 20, Muslims in Israel and across the globe will begin observance of Ramadan. The holy month, lasting through August 18, honors the Prophet Muhammad receiving the Qur’an from God.
There are more than 1.5 billion practicing Muslims worldwide, with an estimated 1.3 million residing in Israel.The Israeli Declaration of Independence “guarantees freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture,” guaranteeing Muslims in Israel can observe Ramadan in an open and free environment.
Observance of the holy month traditionally requires fasting daily from sunrise to sunset, as well as sexual abstinence and refraining from gossip. Muslims are instructed to use the time to refocus on God and proper adherence to religious doctrine. The Qur’an is also read in its entirety, signifying the passage of its verses from God to Muhammad.
Reaffirming the nation’s commitment to religious freedom and the peace process, Israeli President Shimon Peres hosted a press conference with Arab journalists on Wednesday to communicate greetings and well wishes for Ramadan. In addition to the thousands of websites and blogs that covered his remarks, Peres released a video recognizing the upcoming holy month.
In his video, Peres noted, “Ramadan is a month of devotion and reflection for peace, a time when people may pray for prosperity and freedom, especially in these challenging times.” He concluded his address saying, “May it be a peaceful year for the region and for its people.”
While many Muslims use the month of Ramadan to complete the fifth pillar of Islam--the pilgrimage to Mecca--many others travel to Jerusalem to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. As the second-oldest and third-holiest mosque in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque makes Israel a desirable destination for the observation of Ramadan.
To accommodate celebrations every year, the Israeli government eases restrictions on travel between the West Bank and Jerusalem. Civil Administration forces distribute educational pamphlets about traditions to those in the area, and order Israel Defense Forces soldiers to “show special consideration” to those observing Ramadan by avoiding eating, drinking and smoking in public.
The conclusion of Ramadan is marked by the festival Eid al-Fitr, literally meaning “Festival of Breaking the Fast.” It typically includes bountiful feasts and continued celebrations with friends and family.