Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is a holy month of fasting for Muslims. The month commemorates the initial revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad from God. The holy month begins and ends with the sighting of the crescent moon. During this month, Muslims practice self-restraint during the daylight hours, refraining from eating, drinking, sexual activity, and even impure or unkind thoughts. Ramadan is a time for reflection, prayer, and faithful intention. It is also a time for family and community.
After a year when the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, was the site of nightly clashes that led to an 11-day war on Gaza and a countrywide spontaneous habbeh (“outburst”), 2022 brought the potential of even greater escalation. It was also an unusual year when a rare confluence of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan occurred in April. And right before Ramadan, in March, a week of shooting attacks in Israeli cities left 11 Israelis dead, setting the authorities and the country on edge. Far-right Israeli groups announced they were setting up armed militias. Government officials openly advocated civilians carry weapons and be prepared to use them. The potential for random vigilante violence to spin out of control was ripe.
The city teamed with Israeli soldiers and police, with 3,000 police deployed across Jerusalem.
And inevitably, clashes did occur. At the Damascus Gate/Bab al-Amud early in the month on an almost nightly basis, police clashed with community members; tens of arrests were made. In violation of all status quo rules and norms and even official Rabbinate prohibitions, Israeli authorities initially allowed large groups of Jewish settlers to enter and sometimes even pray at al-Aqsa under police protection, especially around the time of Passover mid-month, leading to community response to defend and protect their holy site.
Several times throughout the month, and starting on the second Friday during prayers, Israeli riot police raided the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and even the mosque itself at dawn during the dawn prayer, inflicting wanton violence with rubber bullets, stun grenades, and police batons. On the last Friday of Ramadan, police even deployed drones to drop tear gas on worshippers for the first time.
Anyone in the vicinity was a potential target, including worshippers and journalists. Hundreds were injured and arrested.
Despite it all, Muslim Jerusalemites resolutely observed their holy month in both traditional and innovative ways in the city, finding moments of peace, joy, faith, and community, as these photos taken throughout Ramadan show.