Saturday, August 25, 2012

Marking the Culmination of Ramadan

Sunday, August 19th, the Muslim holiday Eid ul-Fitr will be celebrated throughout the world, marking the culmination of Ramadan, the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting.

Local community members learned about Ramadan in lessons on the Qur’an that Taha Awadallah recently gave at Miriam’s Well.  Taha, a young Palestinian film-maker visiting from Al Walaja Village, Bethlehem, has been frequenting Torah studies at the WJC and was approached to share teachings from the Qur’an.  There I learned more about the purpose of the Ramadan fast: to feel empathy with the poor; to give charity; to develop steadfastness, patience; to focus on the realm of the spiritual and God.  Taha told me that at the end of each day, his family anxiously awaits the Call to Prayer from the Mosque (and his brother Mustafa can really get impatient saying “Why doesn’t he call us to prayer yet?  It’s time!”) as this Call to Prayer means people can finally eat after hours of complete fasting. Taha laughed, recalling his brother’s impatience.

Soon, Taha’s family, as families the world over, will celebrate Eid ul-Fitr concluding Ramadan.  They will gather early in the morning in outdoor places or mosques for the Eid prayer after which they will visit family and friends, give gifts (especially to children), and phone distant relatives to extend well-wishes. Before the Eid Prayer, as an obligatory act of charity (known in the Arabic as: Zakat and Sadaqat-ul-fitr ) money is paid to the poor and needy. It is interesting that the Arabic word Sadaqat resembles the Hebrew: Sadaka which also means charitable giving.  How our languages and customs touch each other; how– how close we could be. Yet there are harsh realities:  The Palestinian Authority recently instructed the Prayer Caller in Al Walaja village to mute his Call to Prayer so it will not disturb the people of Har Gilo who have settled on the community’s land.  Soon there will not be an easy way for Taha’s family to visit relatives and friends outside their village.  Once the Separation Wall is completed around Al Walaja, families will be cut off from each other.  Their village will be sealed off --  from schools and universities, hospitals, work places; from their springs of water, from their cultivated lands and fields of wild thyme (za’atar); sacred olive trees uprooted, houses demolished to make way for settlement growth and for the construction of Route 60; and the people of Al Walaja will be denied the possibility (long forbidden to most males in the West Bank) - of worship at the Al Quds Mosque in Jerusalem. These are realities Taha has not spoken of to our community, but that I feel incumbent upon myself to share with you now.

Jane Toby
Catskill, NY