Ramadan done done

15 Aug

It’s summer in Galilee.  The roads are less travelled.  There’s a sense of emptiness, fewer crowds.  You might think it has to do with the heat, or the rush of Israelis to Europe on their version of “en vacances,” or it could be that the price of gas at the pump has climbed to $7.00 per gallon.

But you’d be wrong.

Ramadan 2012

It’s Ramadan, a month-long ritual of fasting, prayer and abstinence.  Unlike the solar, Gregorian calendar of the West, the Moslem calendar is lunar-based.  Its year is 11 days shorter so Ramadan falls each year at a different time.  This year: Mid-July to mid-August, are peak summer months.  The last time this happened was in 1980.  At this pace, Ramadan will not “escape” the summer calendar until the year 2020.

The Moslem Arabs are in virtual hiding, away from the scorching heat, 132 degrees Fahrenheit in Baghdad and Kuwait, and 100 degrees in our neck-of-the-woods, Galilee.

Which explains why everything’s at a near standstill.  The construction sites near our home are nearly abandoned.  The heavy cranes are idle.  Trucks roll by less frequently.  In the fields there are fewer hands to pick the crops.  Arab handymen, domestic help, and rock masons are hard to come by.  They don’t answer their cell phones much, let all go to voicemail.

To many Jewish Israelis it’s a mixed blessing.  You can’t find a plumber to fix your leaky faucet, but the roads are empty, the public swimming pools are without women wading in the water in their burka or hijab.  There’s plenty of parking at State parks and nature reserves.

For an entire month the Moslems fast from dawn to nightfall, from 4:30am to 7:30pm.  Not one morsel of food crosses their tongues, no water quenches their thirst.  Sex is out of the question.  And you can’t light up a cigarette, either…

breaking the fast in Ramadan

What percentage of Moselms sneak a bite privately?  No one knows for sure, but  Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, a reporter for NPR, reported yesterday that cafes in Ramallah, in the West Bank, are crowded.  The customers eat behind lowered window blinds, behind closed doors, away from anyone who might snitch on them.  No one in the cafe wants to go on record but they do admit they eat secretly.  “There are a lot of pretenders.”

It’s a late July evening and I’m seated on a lounge chair in our rooftop balcony.  The sun has set behind Mount Tavor in the west.  The air is still hot but there’s a slight breeze.  The sky is turning from orange to purple.  The muezzin at the minaret of the nearby mosque summons the Moslem believers to prayer, to break the fast.  His cries on the amplified loudspeaker slice the air.  And then, without notice, the bells of the Church of Transfiguration atop Mount Tavor peal loudly.  The sounds invade each other’s space.  The church bells continue to ring.  I can’t decide if it’s a symphonic medley of brotherly love, an ecumenical cooperation with Islam, or an overt competition for dominance of the airwaves.  I get up and lean over the edge of the balcony and watch the passersby.  Two men with kippas to their heads are heading to the nearby synagogue, most likely to observe Tisha B’Av, to pray over the destruction of the First and Second Temple.

Moslems celebrating end of Ramadan at Tel-Aviv beach

They don’t seem to hear the muezzin nor the bells.

All this night air makes me hungry.  I go down and into the house and prepare a turkey sandwich, extra mustard, extra pickles.  I take my feast into the bedroom and lock the door.  I’m not sharing.

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4 Responses to “Ramadan done done”

  1. Mark Bernhard August 16, 2012 at 4:34 am #

    Your descriptions are so vivid they make me sweat, squint from the Sun, and hungry. Save some turkey for me. Maybe there is potential for an
    Islamic, Christian, and Jewish rapfest there.

    • Maurice Labi August 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks, Mark. No rapfest, more like parallel universes, things that go bump in the night

  2. Avi August 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Beautiful post!

    • Maurice Labi August 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

      Thanks, Avi. I hear you’re recovering well from your injury.

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