The Joy of Ramadan, Before The Soldiers Return

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Jenin, Palestine Views: 1923
1923

When a temporary lifting of the curfew was announced in Jenin on the fourth day of the holy month of Ramadan, the happiest of all were the children. 

Although eager to return to school, to their daily game of chasing one another in the alleyways of the camp, the children were more ecstatic from the fact that they now could freely, and temporarily enjoy Ramadan. 

If you thought for a second that children of poor families don't know how to take advantage of the joy hidden in this holy month, you are mistaken. 

Sure, parents do all they can to ensure a somewhat exuberant Ramadan for the kids. They'd go into debt to give their children a special Ramadan. The children however, worry less about the source of the additional meat on the table, or how expensive the almost daily Kunafa desert was. But even without the additional rewards, Ramadan remains special, as long there is no curfew. 

Of course, soldiers kill Ramadan. They killed it too often, to the point that many Palestinians were coerced into seeing Ramadan as a month of worship, and nothing else. That Ramadan spirit could easily be bulldozed out of an entire camp when armored vehicles decide to do so. The joy of the holy month, similar to the joy of Christmas turns into misery when "special army units" decide to implement a "targeted killing" of a Palestinian activist. The specialty of Ramadan, its holiness and its joy was never a concern to Israel, but always a concern to us, Palestinians. 

As children, we counted the days until Ramadan's arrival. With it arrived warmth, and although it is difficult to describe, people followed a higher social code of behavior, of faith and generosity.  

And if you are wondering; yes, growing up, I did cheat on my fast in Ramadan. But that too was special; hiding behind the pile of mattresses with my favorite snack - a tomato, a cucumber and a loaf of pita bread. It was even more electrifying to cheat in a group, along with my younger siblings. It was no fun for mother though, who used to be devastated to learn that her second grade son was eating in secret. She tried to institute discipline and commitment in us, and we were merely there for the special food afterwards and the partying time at night. 

Don't wonder afar, by partying time at night, I am of course referring to the droves of little children roaming the refugee camps, villages and towns all over the Occupied Territories, holding what became a symbol of this holy month, the Ramadan Lantern. 

In most Muslim countries, and even here in the United States, the lantern is likely a beautifully designed lamp with a small light and a holder for triple A batteries. In the camp, the lantern was homemade. The dumpsters in our refugee camp offered boundless opportunities, empty cans of olive oil, beans or Hummus. It didn't matter what the empty cans carried. Once the label was removed, with a few scrubs, several holes driven into it in a special design, you'd have a "Made in Gaza" Ramadan lantern. Little the soldiers can do to ruin that for us as well. 

 In the past uprising, which lasted for approximately six years, children amended their Ramadan rituals to suit the new realities. During the curfews, after the breaking of the fast at sunset, children used to examine the roads for Israeli troops. Once it was clear, one would whistle, then everyone would whistle in chorus. Whistling in that particular context meant that the roads were safe. Children would gather outside vigilantly, as men also do to share or borrow cigarettes from each other. Children would then do what they were suppose to do in a normal Ramadan. They'd sing: "Welcome, welcome Ramadan, month of joy and generosity .." but much more discreetly, always ready to flee once the soldiers stormed the camp again. 

"But this Ramadan is different," my friend in Jenin tells me. "Unlike the first Intifada, people are beyond poor. Children go to school without school bags. They have no toys, no lanterns." 

I then shared my old idea of turning olive oil cans into lanterns. Sure, its a Gaza thing, but we are always willing to export our creative theories to the West Bank. Luckily, my friend in Jenin promised to share the genius plan with his children. You never know, it might catch on in Jenin. 

A Palestinian filmmaker whose documentary about Jenin is gaining worldwide attention recently commented that he has never seen the amount of smiles as the ones carried by the faces of the children in Jenin. "They always smiled unless they were in a funeral," he said. 

In Jenin, there are many funerals. In Rafah, Khan Yunis, Nablus too and all over Palestine, there are funerals of children, or the parents of children, enough to assassinate or implement another "targeted killing" of the spirit of Ramadan, Christmas and all other holidays combined. These funerals are of people who died at the hands of the Israeli army, who still hold no regard for special occasions. But when my friend, a photojournalist from Jerusalem walked into a West Bank town with his camera, in a town where a curfew was lifted just for a few hours, droves of children crowded him, all smiling, all with lanterns, singing for the holy month, for its "joy and generosity," demanding for their photos be taken, photos that they'll never see.

But I saw the photo, and for a moment realized the spirit that I missed for years, being far away from home, transmitted through these children, malnourished and valiant. I often wondered, if the Israeli occupation is failing to break the spirit of a child so determined to celebrate Ramadan, a month of fasting (or a month for cheating on your fast,) how can it possibly break the will of an entire nation, determined to realize freedom, at any cost?


  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Jenin, Palestine
Views: 1923

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Older Comments:
ASIYA ABDIQADIR FROM SOMALIA said:
Aslam Alaykum,

Glory to the Almighty Allah who enabled us to paticipate in this holy month of "Ramadan" regardless of where we are. Anywhere that is peaceless muslims will celebrate "Ramadan" with joy and happiness... Thankful for showing us how Islam pride is celebrated even in Jenin and Gaza.
2002-11-20

MUSTAFA ALKISWANI FROM USA said:
besmillah walhadolillah wallaho akbar. a spirit is a gift from allh SWT . almurabitoon in palestine will never be broken because they know that it is possiple to kill a revelutionary but not the spiritual revilution .when allah gave people of palestine the honor of being the protectors of al aqsa, he gave them the power to fight,survive ,and win inshallah.when a zionist soldier knows that palestinian kids are fearlessly climbing his tanks,he understands that they are counting on apower that cannot be destroyed.that is why that criminal soldier is going wild,because he knows that his end is near and that those kids will never surrender, the bigger the tank and its cannon the louder the call of allh akbar, and to the world i say,this is not just a slogan ,but it is a fact. sharon knows that and that is scary to him and his gang.they are killing babies to prevent them from being soldiers, but some place some time a muslim soldier will be born and the fight will go on and palestine will be free inshallah palestine will be free . that is the promise from allah and all is keeping his promise .
I LOVE PALESTINE ILOVE PALESTINE
IM SO PROUD OF PALESTINE
LONG LIVE JERUSALEM LONG LIVE JERUSALEM
JERUSALEM MEANS TO ME PALESTINE
PALETINIAN MUST LIBERATE THEIR HOMELAND AND CELEBRATE
INDIPENDANCE AND FREEDOM SHOULD NEVER BE PROHIPITED
THEY MUST LEAVE ALL REFUGEE CAMPS AND BUILD UP THEIR OWN STATE
THEN LIVE HAPPY PEACE ON EARTH ANY THING SHORT WIL NOT TOLERATE.

WASSALMO ALAYKOM WA RAHMATOLLAHE WABARAKATOH.
2002-11-19

SABIHA FROM CANADA said:
Jazakallah for such touching words of inspiration. You shed light on the issue that we often overlook, i.e. the children who are suffering the world over, Muslim or not. May Allah give us all the Tawfiq to remember those less fortunate ones in this blessed month, allow us to change ourselves all the while doing our best to change the world Ameen.
2002-11-19

ABDUL SHAKUR AZIZ FROM USA said:
Praise Be To AllaH!! This was a very touching, sad and poignant article that really touched my heart. It is amazing how the spirit of these children remains strong in spite of all that they have witnessed and experienced in their young lives. As the occupation continues, I will remember this article as a reminder that even in an oppressive situation, the children are always our future.
Abdul Shakur
[email protected]
2002-11-19

ALI BENHAMIDA FROM USA said:
I hope these words will penetrate every Muslim heart in the word. So our Ummah will wake-up from the long sleep, take a shower to clean it self from all the bad leaders, and finally decide if it will help its children. If these words will not touch any heart, what will brothers & sisters in Islam.
May Allah bless us with the best leaders from among us, the leaders who will protect our children in Palestine, so they can spend the month of Ramadan with NO FEAR.

2002-11-18

ASMAHAN FROM USA said:
I enjoyed reading your article. I hope that the children of Palestine will be free of occupation and I hope the joy of Ramadan will bring them peace and freedom soon.
It is really good to know that the Palestinian children can still smile and their spirit is high
May the always have high spirits and will.
Sincerely,
Asmahan
2002-11-18

EVERETTE G. GRIFFIN FROM USA said:
Your article is very sad to me. It causes me to wonder. What does it truly take for the leaders of both sides to finally see that all the people want is an opportunity to live in peace with each other so that they can simply go about living and dealing with the daily difficulties of just getting through.

The children are ones who truly suffer when "so called adults go crazy" and resort to greed and arrogance.

Thanks!
2002-11-18

LAILA FROM CANADA said:
Dear writer,
who ever u may be, your words touched my heart. How can I ever say I understand what those young children are going through, when I'm living in such a country. You sure are right, happiness does not line in the materlistic desires, but in the simple joys of life. Joys of their lord and their hope in tomorrow. "It is in remembrance of Allah that the heart finds rest." Quran 13:28. Thank you for the inspiration
2002-11-17

EHAB HASAN FROM USA said:
This article reminds me of a verse from a song that I heard..."I stood in front of [confronted] my occupier, naked, hungry, and bare-foot..."
2002-11-14

SHIFA FROM AUSTRALIA said:
Ma'sha'Allah - as usual the warmth and sincerity which portrays these children as those of other lands and climes, with their eternal optimism, though in conditions which only the innocence of childhood can transcend. May Allah bless them and reward their parents, and the author.
2002-11-13