Photo Credit: Jamal Awad/Flash90
Breaking the Ramadan fast on the Jewish people's Temple Mount. March 30, 2024.

With the final Friday of this year’s month of Ramadan fast approaching, the attention of Israeli security forces in Jerusalem is sharply directed towards the Temple Mount: Will the relative quiet of the prayer services there over the past few weeks continue, or will the pent-up Islamist energy explode all at once?

Days before the official beginning of Ramadan this year (March 7th), the annual fears of the terrorism that customarily accompanies the “holy” month began to erupt. Prime Minister Netanyahu held a series of consultations, even as on-going terrorism maintained its customary levels, and finally decided: Restrictions would not be placed on the entry of Israeli-Arabs to the Temple Mount prayers, while Arab worshipers from Judea and Samaria would face some age restrictions, similar to previous years. Thousands of policemen were to be stationed around the Old City, of course, and other unannounced security measures were to be taken.


The decision was welcomed by some, who felt that stronger restrictions would both stir up Islamist opposition and violate the right to freedom of worship. Others were very critical, saying it ignored the dangers that traditionally accompany Ramadan, and was a continuation of the passive, “see no evil” policies of recent years that even led, they said, to the Hamas massacre nearly six months ago.

Certainly, Israel is working very hard to find the balance among these different factors. When announcing the above decision, Netanyahu said, “The policy of the State of Israel has always been, and always will be, to protect the freedom of worship for all religions. We will continue to do so this year as well, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount. The holiday of Ramadan is sacred to Muslims, and the sanctity of the holiday will be preserved.”

(At the same time, as Public Security Minister Ben-Gvir indicated, freedom of worship is not freedom of incitement. Nor is it freedom of worship when Jews are not allowed to visit the Temple Mount throughout the last ten days of Ramadan, as is the case now.)

One of the questions at the heart of the matter is: “Is Ramadan a holy month, or one of terrorism and warfare?”

Not surprisingly, the answer is: “Both.”

Dr. Nesya Shemer, a researcher of Islam in the Middle Eastern Studies Department in Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, recently explained that Islamic sources depict the month of Ramadan as one of forgiveness, mercy, prayers and acts of kindness. However, this is on the individual level, while from a nationalist standpoint, Ramadan is a month of jihad and war. “We can expect terrorist attacks in Ramadan,” Dr. Shemer said, “because the fundamentalist groups take advantage of the fact that the first Muslim victory in history took place in Ramadan, as did many others since then. The feeling is that if Allah is close to the believers during this month, he will also help them defeat their enemies.”

This year, it appears from the headlines that Ramadan has been relatively quiet, with “only” a few terrorist attacks in Israel. However, this view ignores what has been happening behind and beneath the radar of the general media coverage. Israeli security forces have thwarted many attacks during this month, including some that were described as “huge” and “large-scale.” These included suicide attacks, the smuggling of particularly large amounts of weapons and the like into Judea and Samaria, and multi-pronged offensives.

Putting the PA in Charge?
It should also be noted that over the past month, Palestinian Authority security agents, past and present, committed no fewer than three terror attacks, murdering three Israelis and wounding 11. Regardless of a Ramadan connection, the Biden Administration and others who would like to see the PA take control of Gaza when the war ends would be advised to take this into account.

The fears that this year’s Ramadan will end with a bang of murderous terrorism are not unfounded. For one thing, checkpoints that generally help prevent terrorist attacks have been taken down – as “Ramadan gestures” to the Muslim population. Similar measures in the past were soon enough canceled after terrorism increased.

According to statistics compiled by JCAP’s Ran Yishai – former Israeli Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Director-General of the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs – many Ramadans have been characterized by a sharp rise in terrorist incitement and attacks. Even the IDF’s Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza in 2021, accompanied by a sharp rise in Israeli-Arab violence against Jews, was instigated by Ramadan incitement and a storm of Hamas rocket attacks against Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel.

in 2015, Ramadan is remembered for 230 attacks, while in 2016 there were 103 Ramadan attacks, compared to a total of 169 attacks throughout the other months of the year. In Ramadan of 2022, 15 Israelis were murdered. In 2021, Al-Jazeera broadcast an item entitled, “The month of Jihad and victories,” in which it explained “how the Palestinian resistance [= terrorist organizations] turned the month of Ramadan into the season of terror attacks and victories.”

The IDF’s Operation Protective Edge was launched in the summer of 2014, after a series of Ramadan rocket attacks by Hamas against southern Israel. Those attacks serve, up to this very day, as a model for Palestinian terrorism during Ramadan, in which the terrorists take advantage of the “spiritual atmosphere of the month to raise the spirits of their fighters,” in the words of an Arab lecturer on the topic.

In short, over the past nearly 25 years, Ramadan has become increasingly associated with terrorist and violence against Israel. Extremist Islamist elements seek in every way to forge a link between the holy month, which arouses heightened spiritual emotions in the public, and clashes with Israeli security forces on the Temple Mount. Although on the backdrop of the ongoing war in Gaza – either because of it, or despite it – their efforts have not been particularly successful this year, Israeli security forces are on high alert, especially with the approach of the final Friday of Ramadan 2024.


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Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel is the former senior editor of Arutz-7. For bus tours of the capital, to take part in Jerusalem advocacy efforts or to keep abreast of KeepJerusalem's activities, e-mail [email protected].