Palestinians Rediscover Joys of Ramadan Among the Uprising With AM-Israel-Painful Days, Bjt
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Streets in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, dark and desolate at night through 5 1/2 years of the Palestinian uprising, are suddenly full of life and light.
Shops are open and busy. People crowd around stalls selling kebabs, Arab sweets, the chickpea paste called humous, and sahlab, a sweet drink of rosewater, milk and ground nuts.
″People are walking out of the dungeons of their houses,″ said Mohammed al-Najar, a jobless shop clerk who had just bought a tape of the Egyptian singer Abu Yousef that blends Arabic and English lyrics.
The liveliness in the last days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is the result of a sort of accidental complicity by enemies - the PLO-backed leaders of the uprising and the Israeli government.
Saudi Arabia confirmed the sighting of the crescent moon Monday night, ending Ramadan and heralding a three-day holiday for most of the world’s billion Muslims.
For the first time during the revolt, Palestinians were allowed to keep their shops open in the evening during Ramadan after the dawn-to-dusk fast that is the duty of every Muslim.
Israel also lifted rules blocking young Muslims from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip from entering the Harem el-Sharif - the compound of the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques - for prayers at the end of the holy month. The site is known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
The result of the eased rules on both sides was that nearly 200,000 people came for the so-called ″orphan prayers″ on the last Friday of the holy month.
That night, some 70,000 were at Al-Aqsa for the Lailat al-Qadr, the 24-hour reading of the Koran to mark the 27th of Ramadan, when Muslims believe Mohammed began receiving Islam’s holy book from God.
Shoppers crowded the Old City and Saladin Street, the main commercial areas of Jerusalem’s Arab sector, seized by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.
Families spread out in front of cafes, wandered in and out of shoe shops and clothing stores, bought sodas and corn-on-the-cob from street vendors, and looked at homemade rugs, books, and toys that hawkers spread on sidewalks.
Israeli paramilitary police in green fatigues and city police in blue stopped young men to check identity papers, but mostly they did not interfere.
Ibrahim Abdeen, an 85-year-old Jerusalem shopkeeper who came to distribute sesame-seed bread and tea as a charity, surveyed the scene with a bright smile.
″No stabbings, no violence, people want to pray,″ he said. ″I have never seen it in this glamour. It is very beautiful.″