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Observing Ramadan in Jerusalem

The Muslim holy month enters its second week today, with many Israeli restrictions still in place.

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For the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which enters its second week today, Israeli authorities have erected a colorful sign at the Old City's Damascus Gate, wishing the faithful to "be well every year."

But this year, wellness seems far from what Palestinians are experiencing, as fatalities continue to mount from the uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and economic misery grows. Israeli security strictures are also preventing all but Jerusalem Muslims from reaching Al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

"I feel anger, sadness, and pain," said East Jerusalem housewife Faya Ghoshe, after mosque prayers Friday. "I don't see an end to all the deaths and injuries."

"This Ramadan is different than before, worse than before," adds Mohammed al-Faqi, a teacher. He has been unable to see his relatives in the West Bank because of military restrictions on travel there that were set up after the uprising broke out Sept. 28.

Thousands of Israeli security forces were positioned around the mosque and in the streets of the Old City on Friday, including on a rooftop just above where Ms. Ghoshe spoke. "What do the Jews want with our mosque?" she yells in a mixture of anger and despair.

In a sense, that question has become the rallying cry for the uprising, which began amid protests against a visit to the mosque compound by right-wing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon. The compound is sacred to Jews as the site of two ancient temples. Many Palestinians interpreted Mr. Sharon's visit as a threat to remove the mosque in favor of a third temple.

The Al-Aqsa intifadah - or uprising, as the Palestinian Authority calls it - has raged since, and has left nearly 300 dead, most of them Palestinians, including five fatalities over the weekend.


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