- Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories)
This year, Ramadan, which is the holiest month on the Muslim calendar, fell between 9 July - 8 August 2013. Observance of the festival includes the commandment to fast from sunrise to sunset, Friday prayers and celebrations with one's extended family. In order to ease conditions for those Palestinian residents observing the month of Ramadan, COGAT and the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria implemented a series of measures and gestures
, with the emphasis on alleviating the waiting time at crossings and facilitating access by the population to the holy sites.
The easing of restrictions during the festival enabled for the first time residents aged over 60 to enter Israel without a permit throughout the Ramadan period, and for women (of all ages) and men (over the age of 40) to enter without a permit on Fridays. Similarly, the entry of 20,000 worshipers was permitted during weekdays (men and women over the age of 35). In addition to these alleviations of restrictions, the hours during which crossings are open were extended, numerous permits were given for family visits in Israel and internal crossings were opened to facilitate the movement of thousands of vehicles.
During the month of Ramadan, approximately one million Palestinians entered Israel. On Fridays during Ramadan and on the Laylat al-Qadr and Eid al-Fitr festivals over 600,000 worshipers entered Israel. In addition to this, over 180,000 Palestinians were allowed to enter Israel in order to visit first and second degree relatives. Despite the fact that most of those entering Israel did not require a permit, approximately 183,500 permits were given to visit relatives and approximately 29,660 to participate in prayers.
On Fridays during the month of Ramadan, tens to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian residents passed through the crossings into Israel. Most of the congestion was created at crossings in the Jerusalem Envelope and Bethlehem sectors. "A huge backlog was created at the crossing; however, thanks to the level of cooperation between ourselves and the Palestinian security forces and residents, we were able to meet the challenge", reported Captain Timor Marai, commander of the Abu Dis delegation of the Jerusalem District Coordination and Liaison Administration (DCL). "The presence of DCL officers and soldiers at the crossings was essential; we are able to provide a professional and non-military solution to any problem or question that we are called upon to deal with".
"Ramadan is an "annual show" in our sector and we are learning from year to year how to contend with it in the best possible way" explained Lieutenant-Colonel Ofer Meital, commander of the Jerusalem DCL. "The system worked in an excellent way and this can also be seen in the satisfaction expressed by the Palestinian residents regarding the Ramadan arrangements. The month saw a significant decrease in the number of security incidents, disturbances and confrontations".
"We have a duty as a democratic country to facilitate freedom of worship. The State of Israel through COGAT ensures that the Muslim community is free to observe and participate in the commandments and prayers of this festive month. This is our mission and we have to dedicate ourselves to it every year again from scratch" concluded the DCL commander.