JERUSALEM—It’s holiday season here in the Holy Land. Parts of the Old City are decked out for Ramadan in paper lanterns of yellow, red, and green. On the first Friday of the holiday, the often quiet streets of the Muslim Quarter were packed. Tiny boys screamed the price of sweets to hungry passersby, many of whom are fasting from sunrise to sunset every day this month. Palestinians from all over Israel and the Palestinian territories pile into buses and cars and travel here for jummah, the weekly communal prayers, at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the holy site where Muslims believe Muhammad prayed. “We can enter Al-Aqsa just on Friday, just in this holy month in Ramadan. In other months, we can’t enter here,” said Fatima Bader, a 19-year-old Muslim woman who was headed into the mosque with her mom and a couple of other women. “So it’s really emotional.”
The mundane ins and outs of permits and politics pervade life for Palestinians here, but especially so as Ramadan begins this week. On Monday, the U.S. embassy opened in Jerusalem. On Tuesday, Palestinians observed what they call Nakba Day—nakba is the Arabic word for “catastrophe”—commemorating the Arab defeat in the 1948 war to prevent the formation of the Jewish state, and the subsequent displacement of Palestinians from their villages and land. Throughout all of this, violence raged in Gaza, as protesters massed along the border fence with Israel. As some protesters rushed the barrier, Israeli forces released tear gas and fired on those who approached, fearing a massive breach. Hamas, the militant group–cum–political party that runs Gaza, organized the so-called March of Return with the goal that Palestinians would be able to reclaim their ancestral homes in what is now Israel. The group later claimed that 50 of the 62 Gazans who were killed during the riots on Monday and Tuesday were their members, although that claim is nearly impossible to verify, and the group may have been purposefully overstating its influence.