Ramadan in Palestine- Festivities, struggle & resilience
Like any other Muslim country, Ramadan is a special time of the year in Palestine. It is a time to reflect, change and celebrate the holiness of the month.
For Palestinians the Ramadan experience is different from that of their fellow Muslims; they suffer a draining situation which hasn’t improved for a long time. Sadly this year, the Palestinians in Gaza had to start their Ramadan with a series of Israeli airstrikes, leaving lasting destruction with more than 25 Palestinians killed including a pregnant woman and her young daughter. This made the start of this blessed month a difficult one for their families having to welcome Ramadan with sorrow and bereavement.
Picture before & after an airstrike in an attempt to destroy Ramadan celebration signs in Gaza city- 4th May 2019
Despite the difficulties and the barriers to being in festive spirits, Palestinians refuse to let the situation stop them from celebrating and creating a joyful atmosphere in any way they can manage.
From the start of Ramadan, you see children running around the streets with excitement, holding their colourful musical lanterns. The streets are beautifully decorated, but you can only fully enjoy these decorations when there is power. Unfortunately, the Gaza Strip has been suffering a power crisis since 2006 when the only power station was bombed by the occupation air strikes. This has had a lasting effect on the Palestinians of Gaza, meaning they have to cope with only 4 hours of power every day. This makes the fast more difficult as people can’t benefit from air conditioning in a place where temperatures get as high as 35 degrees.
This is a 21 year old musical lantern from Gaza City & the delicious Palestinian Medjoul dates!
Various chilled drinks are made especially in Ramadan as a treat for the fasting people and to cool them down after a long fast, some of these are, Carcade (Hibiscus), Kharoub (Carob) and Ereksoos (Liquorice root). These drinks embody the taste of the Palestinian Ramadan, a taste you can experience wherever you are – if you can make them!
For Iftar, there are many traditional Palestinian recipes which are made during the holy month. Freekeh soup is the most common starter for the Iftar meal.It is mainly made from Freekeh, chicken stock and onions. You can buy this from Hadeel @ https://bit.ly/2Q0QlsC. Medjoul dates are also an essential in any Palestinian household during Ramadan as Muslims break their fast with a date first, following the tradition of Prophet Mohammad. You can buy these delicious dates from the shop or online @ https://bit.ly/2W4hL6e. For the main course, Maqlouuba (upside down!), Molokheya and Maftoul are the most popular dishes during this month, especially for Iftar shared by groups of extended families and Iftar feasts in Mosques.The latter are well attended, especially by families who live in poverty which now make up more than 50% of the population due to the ongoing siege. You can find many recipes in our range of different cookery books @ https://bit.ly/2W7dfnM.
Sohour time (the late meal just before starting the fast) is unique in Palestine. I remember the sound of a very loud drum played by AlMusaharati – a young man who volunteers to walk around people’s homes to wake them up for the late meal and prayer. Hearing this drumming with the special words that AlMusaharati says gives the nights of Ramadan a very special sense. I used to appreciate the courage he had to walk around despite the Israeli warplanes flying overhead. Palestinians in Gaza also have to have a romantic Sohour by candlelight as they often don’t have power during this time of the night.
As Ramadan is a very important time for Muslims in Palestine, their Christian brothers and sisters also take part in the festive spirits, often joining in and contributing to Iftar feasts. One example is Khalil Koa who’s known as ‘Ramadan hero’ in the West Bank because he distributes water and food to his fellow Palestinians who are stuck on the checkpoints at Iftar time. This is a beautiful example of the interfaith relationships in Palestine as all share a pure bond of brother and sisterhood.
At the end of Ramadan, Palestinians celebrate Eid Al-Fitr which is a time to strengthen family ties through a series of visits to extended family members and enjoy the breaking of the fast. The main part of celebrating Eid is food! Ma’moul is made in most households and shared with those who can’t afford to make any. In Gaza, a special dish called ‘Sumakeyia’ is made from meat, spinach, onions, chickpeas, tahini and sumac –a very delicious dish but quite heavy on the stomach especially after getting used to fasting!
Every year Palestinians welcome Eid with good spirits, hope and genuine prayers for better Eids to come for future generations.
Hadeel Council Member