A Palestinian worker sprays water outside shops decorated ahead of the holy fasting month, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in the southern Gaza Strip. Picture: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters
A Palestinian worker sprays water outside shops decorated ahead of the holy fasting month, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in the southern Gaza Strip. Picture: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Too poor to buy, too scared to meet: Palestinians face joyless Ramadaan

By Nidal Al-Mughrabi And Sinan Abu Mayzer Time of article published Apr 23, 2020

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Gaza/Jerusalem - The electric lanterns

and ornate decorations of Ramadaan would normally be hanging in

the streets of Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem by now,

but not this year amid coronavirus restrictions and growing

economic woes.

The holy fasting month is expected to start on Friday but,

as elsewhere, Palestinians this year are facing the prospect of

celebrations without the usual large gatherings for family meals

or evening prayers, known as Tarawih.

And the same closures that are set to dampen the mood are

also suppressing the economy - Palestinian officials have

ordered the closure of schools, wedding halls, restaurants and

mosques, sending tens of thousands into unemployment.

With two deaths and 335 infected cases reported, different

coronavirus regulations have been imposed by Hamas in Gaza and

the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and by Israel in East

Jerusalem, where Muslim religious authorities have stopped

worship at the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third

holiest place in Islam..

"There are no worshippers, there are no people, and the

closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque has a great influence on the

Palestinian people and on the people of Jerusalem in

particular," said Ammar Bakir, a resident of east Jerusalem.

Tens of thousands would usually pray in Al-Aqsa in Ramadaan,

rising to hundreds of thousands in the final days. Instead

prayers will be broadcast from inside the mosque.

"Such a decision was the first in 1,400 years, it is tough,

and it pains our hearts," said Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani, the

director of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Palestinians buy festive lights in the Zawiya market in Gaza City ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadaan. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP

GAZA

In Gaza, with no confirmed coronavirus cases outside

quarantine centres, Hamas said a full lockdown was not yet

needed.

Customers still flock to markets and stores display the

dates, cheese, pickles, nuts and other snacks favoured during

Ramadaan meals

But with families saving money in case of an outbreak, many

are just window shopping.

"People will be very cautious to visit one another because

of the coronavirus crisis," said restaurant owner Anas Qaterji.

"People are coming to the market to waste time, they are

entertaining themselves after the cafes are closed," said Sameh

Abu Shaban, 57, who owns a store selling dates and sweets. "No-one is buying."

Palestinians shop in the Zawiya market in Gaza City ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadaan. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP

WEST BANK

In the West Bank the Palestinian Authority has declared a

state of emergency, but a full lockdown has been eased to allow

some businesses resume partial operations, amid predictions of a

50% fall in revenue.

Palestinian policemen loyal to Hamas stand guard in a street amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the southern Gaza Strip. Picture: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

"It is a sad Ramaadan," said Maher al-Kurdi, a supermarket

owner in Hebron.

"Usually shops would be crowded with large numbers of

people. And mosques are closed, which would spoil the flavour of

Ramadaan," he said. 

Palestinians sell Ramadaan lanterns in the street, ahead of the fasting month of Ramadaan, in the West Bank city of Nablus. Picture: Majdi Mohammed/AP

Reuters

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