Israel is easing travel restrictions for West Bank Palestinians for the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Israel reportedly also told its soldiers that when possible they are to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in front of Palestinians “to demonstrate a high level of respect and understanding.”
Ramadan, a time of reflection and prayer for Muslims marked by fasting during sunlight hours, begins Friday and runs until Aug. 18.
Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that during the month, Palestinians over the age of 40 can freely enter Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to pray on Fridays. Men and women between the ages of 35-40 will require a special permit. In addition, Palestinians can freely visit relatives in Israel if they are accompanied by minors ages 16 and under, and up to 500 foreign nationals can enter the West Bank via the Allenby border terminal on the Jordanian border.
The Israel Defense Forces has deployed additional troops, including a medical team to hand out beverages due to Israel’s heat wave, at the Allenby Terminal. The crossing will remain open in the evenings on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Major Gen. Eitan Dangot, coordinator of government activities in the West Bank, met representatives of the Palestinian Authority to update them on the policies.
At a news briefing for Arab media, Israeli President Shimon Peres showed representatives of more than 30 media outlets a new video clip with a Ramadan greeting.
“Salam Alaikum. On behalf of all the Israeli people, I want to extend to all Muslims around the world my very best wishes for Ramadan Karim,” he said, using the Arabic term for a “blessed Ramadan.” “This holy month is an opportunity to extend the hands to each other for peace. May it be a peaceful year for the region and its people. I sent my warmest greeting to all of you, to all our neighbors.”
Peres ended the message, after a traditional Arabic greeting, by smiling and saying, “The Ramadan is a good time to make new friends. I invite you to be my friends on Facebook.”