What Ramadan Means to Me

When I was a child, my teachers always seemed to be giving me assignments that started with what something meant to me. It didn’t matter what; it didn’t matter when. What did my parents mean to me, what did the summer mean to me, what did Israel mean to me.

Ramadan started today. It is, to be honest, a month that I dread. And worse, it is a month that doesn’t come once per year because the Arabic calendar is based on a nine-month calendar rather than 12. And so, Ramadan comes, and then Ramadan comes again and despite all proclamations on its holiness, I have only seen it as a time of death and pain.

It is supposed to be holy. But if it is, it isn’t the holiness of my people or religion. Our holiness is defined by quiet days of prayer, not loud broadcasts calling for attacking others. Our holiness is epitomized by Yom Kippur – a full day dedicated to fasting and praying. We sit in the synagogue and pray. We go to sleep, only to rise and pray more.

It is interesting that on our holiest day of the year in 1973, the Arabs decided to attack Israel. It seems Ramadan isn’t the only time they want to kill us. So, knowing that Ramadan would begin soon, I have dreaded it for days. This year, Ramadan coincides with our Hebrew month of Av – it begins in sadness for us. The first nine days are days in which we remember great tragedies and desperately hope there will be no more this year.

The ninth day is a day of agony for us. On this day too, we fast – but we fast in sorrow. On this single day in history, so many Jewish tragedies have fallen upon us and so we pray this year, it won’t happen again. We don’t go swimming – too dangerous. We don’t travel far if we can help it. We avoid all we can avoid and pray our way through the rest.

But after the ninth of Av, comes the time of compassion, the time of hope and prayer as we come to the end of Av and the beginning of the month of Elul. Elul is about introspection, of evaluation and correction so that next year will be better, holier.

Lest you think I am being harsh, Ramadan is only a few hours old and already the violence has begun. A Lebanese soldier opened fire on Israeli troops. Thankfully, our alert soldiers returned fired and hit the Lebanese – none of our soldiers were hurt. Ramadan.

Two Arabs near Kalandia attacked and wounded five soldiers – an ambush of rocks flying down. Thankfully, the soldiers were hurt only lightly; the two Arabs were killed. Ramadan.

Arabs were again throwing stones and several vehicles were damaged, though thankfully the drivers were not injured. Ramadan.

Two rockets were fired at Israel yesterday; last night, one slammed into Ashkelon wounding a woman who is now in moderate condition. Ramadan.

And, worst of all, only the second day of Ramadan.

4 Comments on What Ramadan Means to Me

  1. Just a slight correction – as I understand it Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar but the calendar itself has 12 months. It is a pure lunar calendar – no leap years – and so there is a “slip” of about 11 days each year with respect to the solar calendar.

  2. Not quite related to this post, but in case you’re interested- I’ve just come across a video clip (in Hebrew, with English subtitles)of Tamar Fogel speaking the week of the Shiva. The faith and values ingrained in these people are unbelievable… It’s also semi-appropriate, since one of the murderers was finally convicted this week (though that probably just means he is now entitled to a cushy permanent cell they can let him out of at any moment during a terrorist swap, and a complete college education at the expense of the Israeli government).

  3. Paula, you post made me do some research (always a good thing) as I’m not very familiar with Jewish or Islamic calendars. It seems to me that the fighting should cease in the Islamic months of “Muḥarram” (which prohibits fighting) and “Dhū al-Qaʿda” (which prohibits war). I haven’t a clue when those periods will next occur, but I’m hoping (for Israel’s sake) that it comes soon and that the Muslims actually hold to these concepts. My fear is that, although these concepts sound good, there is probably an exception for violence against Jews…


  4. One more thing: While researching the Islamic calendar, I was amused by this reference (in Wikipedia) to conversions:

    “The simplest way to convert a Muslim date to its corresponding civil date is through the Jewish calendar.”

    LOL – I bet the Arabs love that one!


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