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Photo Essay: This is what Israel’s ‘relaxation of movement restrictions’ for Ramadan looks like

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Every year during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Israeli authorities approve a package to “relax” the restrictions on movement for West Bank Palestinians. This standard military practice aims, as authorities say, to facilitate Palestinian worshippers’ trips to Jerusalem for the weekly prayer that takes place every Friday.

This year, Israeli authorities announced that Palestinian men over 40 years old, boys under 16, and women of all ages could cross to Jerusalem from three West Bank checkpoints without military permits on the four Fridays of the month. However, married men between 30 and 40 became eligible to apply for military permits, which are valid every day during the month except for Friday and Saturday.

Palestinians cross through Bethlehem 300 checkpoint to Jerusalem, May, 2019.

Palestinians cross through Bethlehem 300 checkpoint to Jerusalem, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

Palestinians stand in lines at the Bethlehem 300 military checkpoint, May, 2019.

Palestinians stand in lines at the Bethlehem 300 military checkpoint, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

Palestinians stand in lines at the Bethlehem 300 military checkpoint, May, 2019.

Palestinians stand in lines at the Bethlehem 300 military checkpoint, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

As a result, tens of thousands of Palestinians headed to Qalandiya checkpoint, Bethlehem 300 checkpoint, and Zaytoun checkpoint early on Friday mornings to take advantage of the unusual regulations. On normal days, men over 50-years-old and women over 45 are the only segment allowed to cross the wall to Jerusalem and travel across the Green Line without military permits while all other ages are denied.

“This is a rare chance. I try to come every Friday during this month to do what I can’t do on normal days”, Marwa Hamed, 33, said while crossing the Qalandiya checkpoint that separates between Ramallah and Jerusalem. She added: “The crossing procedure is not very difficult for women since all ages are allowed and soldiers do not need to check all of us”.

On the men’s side, the situation was a bit different. Traffic was worse and tensions were high between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, especially among those who were denied as they attempted to cross.

West Bank Palestinians stand in lines at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019.

West Bank Palestinians stand in lines at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

West Bank Palestinians stand in lines at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019.

West Bank Palestinians stand in lines at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019.
(Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

“I’m 48-year-old and I was denied access”, Alaa Shaheen, 48, told Mondoweiss. He indicated that he was imprisoned by Israeli authorities in 2005 and that’s why he is blacklisted. Shaheen managed to cross on the first two Fridays of Ramadan when soldiers didn’t check IDs on computer. “It depends on the mood of the officer that day, I believe. This is just a pretext to prevent us from crossing. They know that all Palestinians are ex-prisoners”, Shaheen said.

Abdul-Rahman Salameh 45, had a similar experience. “All Palestinian people are blacklisted. Do they call this relaxation? Look at the lines!” he said. While for Rafat Bani-Monaya, 48, being blacklisted simply means “being active against the occupation.”

Men under 30-year-old shared their frustration for being denied. Some indicated that they have never been to Jerusalem in their life.

Palestinians argue with an Israeli officer for being prevented from crossing at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019.

Palestinians argue with an Israeli officer for being prevented from crossing at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

Israeli forces surround a group of Palestinians who were turned away from Qalandiya checkpoint after being forbidden from crossing over to Jerusalem, May, 2019.

Israeli forces surround a group of Palestinians who were turned away from Qalandiya checkpoint after being forbidden from crossing over to Jerusalem, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

A Palestinian man sits in front of Israeli forces at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019.

A Palestinian man sits in front of Israeli forces at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

In many spots along the Israeli wall that separates Jerusalem from other West Bank cities, Palestinians used ladders, ropes, and other tools to cross. On the last Friday of Ramadan, a 16-year old boy was killed by Israeli forces while trying to avoid an Israeli checkpoint near Bethlehem, according to Palestinian media sources.

Israeli forces remove a ladder used by Palestinians to climb over the wall to cross to Jerusalem, Al Ram town, West Bank, May 2019.

Israeli forces remove a ladder used by Palestinians to climb over the wall to cross to Jerusalem, Al Ram town, West Bank, May 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

The wall that runs between Palestinian neighborhoods and towns and cuts Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank is considered “illegal” according to an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004.

While West Bank Palestinians are forced to travel through several Palestinian-only checkpoints to cross the Israeli wall under certain laws and regulations, Israeli citizens can travel freely with their vehicles across the wall from other checkpoints with no restrictions.

Palestinian women stand in lines at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019.

Palestinian women stand in lines at the Qalandiya military checkpoint, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

Palestinians head to buses after crossing the Qaladniya military checkpoint, May, 2019.

Palestinians head to buses after crossing the Qaladniya military checkpoint, May, 2019.(Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

From an Israeli point of view, the wall and these movement restrictions were created after a massive wave of Palestinian attacks that took place in Israeli cities and towns beyond the Green Line. For Palestinians, such attacks represent a “resistance against Israeli occupation and colonial policies.”

Palestinian women stand in lines at the Bethlehem 300 military checkpoint, May, 2019.

Palestinian women stand in lines at the Bethlehem 300 military checkpoint, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

Palestinians stand in lines at the Bethlehem 300 military checkpoint, May, 2019.

Palestinians stand in lines at the Bethlehem 300 military checkpoint, May, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

On the last Friday of Ramadan, a Palestinian man stabbed and injured two Israelis in Jerusalem’s old town. The Palestinian attacker was killed on spot by Israeli forces.

In a few days, the month of Ramadan will be over and West Bank Palestinians will go back to life under the old military rules of movement that do not apply to Israeli citizens.

Palestinians are turned away from Qalandiya checkpoint after being forbidden from crossing over to Jerusalem to attend the Friday prayers of Ramadan.

Palestinians are turned away from Qalandiya checkpoint after being forbidden from crossing over to Jerusalem to attend the Friday prayers of Ramadan. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

Palestinians are turned away from Qalandiya checkpoint after being forbidden from crossing over to Jerusalem. The sign reads: “Ramadan kareem” and signed by the Israeli civil administration coordinator.

Palestinians are turned away from Qalandiya checkpoint after being forbidden from crossing over to Jerusalem. The sign reads: “Ramadan kareem” and signed by the Israeli civil administration coordinator. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

About Ahmad Al-Bazz

Ahmad Al-Bazz, born in 1993, is a multi-award winning journalist, photographer and documentary filmmaker based in the West Bank city of Nablus. Ahmad holds an MA degree in Television Studies from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, and a BA degree in Media and Mass Communication from An-Najah National University in Palestine. Since 2012, Ahmad has been a member of the Activestills documentary photography collective that operates in Palestine/Israel region.

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4 Responses

  1. just
    just on June 3, 2019, 1:43 pm

    Thanks for those heartbreaking photos, Ahmad. And this is the great ‘democratic ally’ of the US??? Ramadan is clearly and deliberately misunderstood by a large portion of the ‘West’. The treatment of Palestinian Muslims is disgraceful and surely antithetical to ‘the only democracy in the middle east’! Everyone should disabuse themselves of this grotesque lie now, if not years ago! Every day, and for every Ramadan, Palestinians are subjected to crimes and foul discrimination~ including religious discrimination. Is nobody or is everybody aware of the 5 pillars of Islam, including zakat?

    The KSA just hosted a OIC summit in Mecca during Ramadan… the members ‘supported Palestinians’ and condemned Iran. What good will come of it? The majority of Palestinians cannot go to Al- Quds for prayers nor can they make the Hajj. Rivlin hosted an iftar and told Palestinian Sheikh Mohammad Kiwan, the chairman of the Council of Muslim Leaders :

    “‘Your home is my home!’ — Rivlin slips up at Iftar…” @

    https://mondoweiss.net/2019/06/rivlin-slips-iftar/

    So, Trump moves the US embassy to Al- Quds, shutters and withdraws all support for the jailed Palestinians and those forced from their lands, and the cursed GOI and IOF continue on their merry way of entrenching the Occupation and Apartheid. What says Jordan about Al- Quds?

  2. mondonut
    mondonut on June 3, 2019, 3:02 pm

    Where’s the photo of the 260,000 worshipers who gathered for the final Friday of prayers – even after the stabbing attack?

  3. Peacefan
    Peacefan on June 4, 2019, 4:27 am

    Mondonut., and where’s the photo of the hundreds of extremists Jews guarded by riot police who stream into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound?

  4. Wmcdonald
    Wmcdonald on June 4, 2019, 9:12 am

    Ahmad , its William , my dear friend amazing thank you for this , see you soon

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