Breaking fast in a tent amid war: How some in Gaza are observing Ramadan

Gazans celebrate the Islamic holy month as war rages around them.

April 2, 2024, 4:52 PM

RAFAH -- As the Israel-Hamas war continues, many Gazans are observing Ramadan by carrying out the traditions of the Muslim holy month as best as they can amid the dire humanitarian conditions.

The daily fast, which lasts from dawn until sunset, begins at around four in the morning. But before the call to prayer – or Fajr, which signals the beginning of the day – Gazans wake at two in the morning to the sound of a beating drum and sung poetry.

PHOTO: Muhammad Jihad Suleiman, right, walking through tents in Gaza waking people up for suhoor – eating before the fast beings at four in the morning – through an old tradition of Al-Musaharati.
Muhammad Jihad Suleiman, right, walking through tents in Gaza waking people up for suhoor – eating before the fast beings at four in the morning – through an old tradition of Al-Musaharati.
Samy Zyara/ABC News

Muhammad Jihad Suleiman is continuing that centuries-old Ramadan tradition, known as Al-Musaharati.

“When they found us this Ramadan, they were shocked that there were Musaharati despite the war," Suleiman told ABC News last week, speaking in Arabic, adding that Gazans were excited to see the tradition being observed, despite Suleiman's makeshift drum, made from a large plastic water container.

Once the sun comes up and the daily fast begins, so does the Fajr. Amid the rubble, Gazans gather for prayer.

PHOTO: Gazans gathering to pray amongst rubble.
Gazans gathering to pray amongst rubble.
Samy Zyara/ABC News
PHOTO: Gazans gathering to pray amongst rubble.
Gazans gathering to pray amongst rubble.
Samy Zyara/ABC News

In her tent in Rafah, 14-year-old Rimas told ABC News that she used to eagerly await Ramadan’s arrival, but now she prays for a cease-fire.

“A complete cease-fire should occur as soon as possible – to achieve my dream, complete my studies, and return to the North,” Rimas said last week, speaking in Arabic.

PHOTO: Rimas, right, setting up waters and dates for Iftar.
Rimas, right, setting up waters and dates for Iftar.
Samy Zyara/ABC News

Hamas carried out an unprecedented surprise terror attack from Gaza into southern Israel by air, land and sea on Oct. 7, 2023, killing more than 1,200 people and taking 253 others hostage, according to Israeli authorities.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 72,000 others have been injured in Gaza since Oct. 7, amid Israel's ongoing ground operations and aerial bombardment of the strip, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

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A two-week long raid conducted by the Israel Defense Forces during Ramadan at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, which ended Monday, has killed 200 people, according to the IDF, which maintains Hamas was using the hospital as an operational base. Hamas denies this.

Rimas and her family are determined to celebrate Ramadan despite the ongoing violence. Ramadan this year started on March 10 and ends on April 9.

“Every previous Ramadan was beautiful, with family reunions, brothers, relatives, loved ones, and family,” Rimas' mother, Sondos Al-Bayed, told ABC News last week, also speaking in Arabic.

The war, however, has changed how they celebrate. Now, what was once a celebration in a house with a big feast has become a crowded gathering in a tent for Al-Bayed and thousands of other Gazans.

PHOTO: Sondos Al-Bayed, middle, and Rimas, right, breaking their fast with their family in their tent.
Sondos Al-Bayed, middle, and Rimas, right, breaking their fast with their family in their tent.
Samy Zyara/ABC News

"This Ramadan, frankly, the table is simple, one meal," she said. "We try to satisfy everyone, and I say to them, 'let us thank God for what exists.'”

As for what that meal consists of, amid the reports of dire food shortages in Gaza: “I try as much as possible – for example, canned food, or if we get some meat, we make a plate of salad alongside it," Al-Bayed said.

When sunset arrived and the Maghrib prayer time sounded, signaling the time to break their fast, the family gathered around. For Sondos Al-Bayed, her prayer is simple.

“By God, I hope that Ramadan will end well, and before it ends, we will complete it in our homes with our family and loved ones, neither lost nor missing,” she said.

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