HEBRON: Ramadan Reflection #1. The Easing of Restrictions

November 20, 2001
HEBRON: Ramadan reflection #1. The Easing of Restrictions
by Claire Evans

[During the month of Ramadan, November 16-December 15, members of CPT Hebron
will be fasting from sunup to sundown along with their Muslim neighbors.
The team will post periodic reflections during this time.]

In yesterday's Jerusalem Post , we read that Israel will "ease a number of
restrictions on the Palestinian population in honor of the holy month of
Ramadan." The defense minister called on the Israeli military to "start
reducing travel restrictions and allowing more prayer time for Muslims."

We think that the easing of travel restrictions would be a good thing, and
we expect the untold numbers of Palestinians who travel the same roads as we
do from Hebron to the surrounding villages and to Jerusalem would agree.
Residents of the area have had to make climbing over piles of stones and
dirt, detouring by foot, and taking multiple taxis -- some of which drive
along winding back roads or through vineyards -- a regular part of their
daily commutes.

However, our enthusiasm for the announcement was tempered, since
restrictions only on certain roads would be eased, and the
easing would presumably be temporary. It would indeed be a cause for
rejoicing if Palestinians in Hebron could just hop in a taxi that drives
straight to Jerusalem without complications. It would even be better if the
Israeli military didn't have the power to determine daily life for them.

I was puzzled that the army was called on to "allow more prayer time for
Muslims." We hear the call to prayer echoing through Hebron's Old City five
times a day and have seen men in the market spread their prayer rugs and
drop to their knees when they hear it. What gives the Israeli army the
presumption to think they determine the time that Muslims spend in prayer?

few paragraphs later, the newspaper article explained: "the
defense establishment will be adding extra days of worship for Muslims at
Hebron's Machpelah Cave. " Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque built over the cave
where the biblical patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah are said to be
buried is in an area of the Old City under full Israeli military control.
The Ramadan provisions would evidently allow access to the mosque on days
when it hasn't "normally" been allowed. But how much is there to rejoice
about? In the past two days, we have still seen young men being
stopped by soldiers for identification checks as they pass through the
market on their way to or from prayers. The Israeli military is still
determining when people can attend their place of worship.

  The point is that the Palestinians on the West Bank are living under
military occupation. The Israeli government's token easing of restrictions
during the month of Ramadan will do little to change life for Muslims
here--especially subce they continue to have to take three different taxis
to get to a nearby village or to undergo the humiliation of identification
checks on their way to prayer.

During Ramadan, CPTers will be holding in prayer those whose lives have been
disrupted by violence and warfare. The Palestinians in Hebron live under
the structural violence of the occupation every day. We pray for a just
peace and a day when everyone in this city will be able to travel freely on
the roads and walk freely to their place of worship without the constraints
or protection of a military force.