Home / Reports / Deceptively “quiet” first week of Ramadan in Jerusalem: a result of restrictions at Qalandia checkpoint

Deceptively “quiet” first week of Ramadan in Jerusalem: a result of restrictions at Qalandia checkpoint

19 March 2024 | International Solidarity Movement | West Bank/East Jerusalem

Queues at Qalandia checkpoint. @ISM

Stories from Israeli and international press extoll a safe and unencumbered celebration of the first week of Ramadan for the thousands of Palestinians with Israeli or Jerusalem ID cards, who were allowed entry to Al-Aqsa in most cases with minimal delay.

Unfortunately, Palestinian Muslim prayergoers from the West Bank encountered conditions very different from the story distributed by the press.

Instead of open access, the vast majority of Muslim Palestinians were denied entry to Jerusalem at a heavily militarized Qalandia checkpoint—the largest, most-trafficked access point out from the West Bank. This resulted in a chaotic scene of delay, frustration, and service taxis offering early long-distance rides home to Palestinians who traveled from far away for prayer, only to be immediately rejected at the gate.

After much debate in the executive branch of Israeli government, it was recently announced that only Muslim men over 55, women over 50, and children under 10 would be granted passage through Qalandia. These parameters exclude more than 90% the West Bank population—and, of course, all of Gaza. For comparison, the Ramadan 2023 restrictions on passage from West Bank permitted all men over 45, and all women.

But the constraints and confusion did not stop here; even among those who met the age requirements, West Bank residents could not enter through Qalandia unless they had been previously approved for a special entry ID.

Regarding his exclusion under the entry ID restriction, a Palestinian man in his early 60s shared: “They told me I needed a special permit. But no one here knows they need this permit. And even when you apply, they use any reason to deny you.” Absence of this “entry permit” was used as an excuse to turn away thousands of prayergoers on the first Friday of Ramadan. Another man denied entry (he was twenty days shy of 55) added that those standing outside Qalandia represented only a small fraction of those rejected, because “mostly everyone don’t bother to try. With the [Gaza] war, people don’t feel like celebrating. They don’t think they will be let in.”

For many Palestinian Muslims, praying at the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered a special religious responsibility.

A group of women who had been banned from meeting this responsibility staged a protest Friday morning outside Qalandia. Together, standing meters away from heavily armed IOF soldiers, these women gathered and chanted—in the shadow of the wall, 10 kilometers from Al-Aqsa, as close to the Dome of the Rock as Israeli authorities would permit them to stand.

Photos and videos @ISM.