This year’s Ramadan looked very different from those in years past. That’s because COVID-19 cases were still skyrocketing all over the world, even despite the fact that millions had been inoculated to ward off the disease’s most dangerous complications. Government restrictions limiting Ramadan festivities were inevitable — and so was the conflict that followed. Israeli authorities and Ramadan worshippers fought bitterly in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The first skirmishes between Israeli police and Muslim followers occurred near the Damascus Gate. Authorities had placed barriers to prevent anyone from congregating in the plaza area just outside the gate, a decision which caused Muslim followers to become agitated. Some were caught vandalizing police property — and even turning to violence. Stones and bottles were seen flying through the air.
The police asked for understanding. They said that the decision to block the Damascus Gate was meant to regulate the flow of people in or out of the Old City at a time when close congregation can lead to sickness or even death. But each night, yet more Palestinian men tried to remove or hop over the barriers. There were dozens of injuries on both sides of the conflict.
It’s easy to understand why Palestian worshippers might feel that their rights were violated — after all, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has been boiling for decades.
Only around 70,000 followers prayed at Temple Mount, a historic low for this time of worship. This was due in part to Israel’s decision to bar the majority of West Bank followers from entering the holy city. Only 10,000 worshippers were allowed to enter. Perhaps the demand that these 10,000 be vaccinated before they were allowed to enter fueled tensions even further.
Although these restrictions might be necessary, we must always ensure fairness between peoples from different nations. Fostering understanding is the only way to maintain peace — especially in times of turmoil.