Terminology in the Jerusalem context can be complex and also controversial. Words and their meanings shape narratives. Our Lexicon goes beyond standard definitions and also offers, where applicable, nuanced shades of meanings that matter to Palestinian Jerusalemites.


The Muslim practice of secluding oneself in the mosque for any select period as a means of becoming closer to God, deepening worship, and abstaining from worldly affairs. The Arabic root of the term i‘tikaf literally means “to adhere, cling, stick, keep.” This spiritual retreat was practiced by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad for the last 10 days of every Ramadan, believed by Muslims to be a particularly potent time for prayer, reflection, and devotion, as God shows great mercy and kindness during this period. 


Refers to the meal that breaks Muslims’ fasts during the holy month of Ramadan. It is considered the second meal of the day, following suhur, the meal before dawn (fajr) prayer, which marks the beginning of the fast. Iftar is observed following the sunset (maghrib) call to prayer. Muslims break their fast with dates in emulation of the manner by which the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast, though this practice is not mandatory. Iftar meals are also considered an important pillar of community building, as this meal is often shared with friends and family. It is also common practice to provide iftar meals for those who are less fortunate and is seen as an act of charity. While the month of Ramadan is considered a time of self-introspection and improvement, charity, religious devotion, and worship, there is also great emphasis on empathy with the less fortunate through the sensations of hunger, thirst, and deprivation. 


In Islam, a religious community leader. The imam’s main responsibility is to lead prayers and deliver sermons on Fridays. “Imam” in Arabic means “to stand in front of.” Generally, an imam is chosen by the community and will be a respected community member. The imam may also offer counseling, mentor youth, and play other community roles. During prayer, the imam, who stands at the front of the prayer lines, faces Mecca, the holiest site in Islam. 

Inner Ring

Settlement belt in East Jerusalem within the expanded Israeli municipal boundaries. It is made up of state-authorized settlement neighborhoods built on confiscated Palestinian land. Surrounding the Core Ring of settlements in and around the Old City, the Inner Ring is connected through an infrastructure of roads and tunnels, and extends from the southeastern settlement of Gilo, north of Bethlehem, all the way to the northern industrial settlement of Atarot, south of Ramallah.


An underground paramilitary Zionist group that operated in Palestine during the British Mandate period. (The name is Hebrew for “organization.”) It was established in 1931 by dissident Haganah members. The British considered it a terrorist organization; the dominant Labor Zionist movement considered it a radical rival, and in 1936, it became an instrument of the Revisionist Party, an extreme nationalist party. It was responsible for about 60 terror attacks targeting both British Mandate officials and Palestinian communities.

In 1941, the Irgun split into two groups: one became known as the Lehi or Stern Gang and regarded the British as the main enemy, and the other was closely allied to the Revisionist Party and regarded the Palestinians as the main enemy. The latter also organized illegal Jewish immigration into Palestine. Its members were executed by the British, and it in turn executed British army hostages. In 1946, the Irgun bombed the King David Hotel, which served as a British administrative command post, killing some 91 soldiers and civilians. Two years later, its members participated in the April 1948 massacre at the Palestinian village of Deir Yasin, just outside Jerusalem. By September 1948, the Irgun was dismantled and subsumed by the Israeli army. One of its leaders, Menachem Begin, later became prime minister of Israel. The Irgun was the precursor of the Herut Party, one of Israel’s most militant right-wing factions.

Islamic Movement

Refers to the diverse religious trends in the Muslim world that want to reorganize society with reference to Islam

Israel Security Agency (Shabak or Shin Bet)

Israel Security Agency, known in Hebrew as Sherut Ha Bitachon Ha Klali (abbreviated as Shabak or Shin Bet), is the Israeli counterintelligence and internal security service, one of three secret services established in 1948.