From March 10 through April 9 this year, the Muslim world will observe the month of Ramadan. In Israel, Ramadan will be marked by 1.4 million citizens of the state.

Ramadan is a month of inner reflection, closeness to God, family and charity for the poor. Participation in the “tarawih” services held each evening at the Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the most important customs of the month with large numbers of faithful who come from throughout the country to attend the prayers. Fridays during Ramadan see particularly high numbers of worshippers coming to the Mosque.

In order to enable Muslim citizens of Israel to observe the customs of Ramadan and exercise their right to freedom of religion and worship, state bodies and institutions must act in a coordinated and tolerant manner.

Historically, Ramadan has been a sensitive and tense period, and in the past led to serious friction between the police and the Arab public. In 2021, for example, the police attempted to prevent the worshippers from reaching Jerusalem.

This year, following the massacre of October 7 and the subsequent war, the tensions are significantly higher.

Hamas’s call to the Arab citizens to “join the uprising” was not answered, and despite the fears of conflicts, relations between Jews and Arabs have generally remained calm.

Despite this calm, since October 7 the police has severely restricted the possibility for Muslim citizens of Israel to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, while at the same time allowing increasing numbers of Jews to visit the Mount.

Our Recommendations

  • Israel must protect the full freedom of religious worship and permit all worshippers who wish to do so, from among the Arab citizens of Israel, to come to the Mosque to pray.
  • If a legal decision is adopted to restrict worship at the Mosque (for example, by numbers, age, or sex), the police is responsible for providing the public with clear information in advance in order to prevent disappointment and frustration among the faithful who arrive in Jerusalem and are prevented from entering the Mosque.
  • The police must prevent and respond rigorously to demeaning conduct by police officers towards Muslim faithful.
  • Appropriate traffic and parking arrangements must be made for the tens of thousands of worshippers who will come to Jerusalem.

We warn that racist and/or Islamophobic statements by officials and public representatives, including at the most senior level, are liable to cause an escalation.

Public authorities and public representatives must act to calm the atmosphere and allow Arab citizens of Israel to exercise their right to religious worship and to observe the commandments of Ramadan.

Submitted to the National Security Committee, January 23, 2024.

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