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Ramadan in times of Covid-19

Maya De Vries Kedem7 April 2021

BY MAYA DE VRIES AND LAILA ABED RABHO

The month of Ramadan is coming soon, and again, this holiday will be different in several places around the world. As the World Health Organization has advised this week on their Facebook page, while celebrating, people should still take care and keep social distancing, as COVID-19 is still with us.

Fig 1: World Health Organization Facebook page post, advising people celebrating religious holidays to maintain social distancing.

Muslim populations around the world are waiting for the month of Ramadan, and although it is a long month, it is also an opportunity to get some light in the shade: having family and guests around during this month is one of the positive things during this holiday. Time usually goes by quickly and some say time flies even though they are spending a long number of days fasting. Before they know it, preparations for Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast) will start. As the Messenger of God said: There are two occasions of joy for a fasting person: one when he breaks his fast, and the other, the joy of Eid.

Ramadan is a month of fasting: during this month, people refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset. Although fasting is one of the pillars of Islam, Ramadan is not just about fasting: a person must avoid everything that God has forbidden in this period and only adhere to acts of worship.

Fasting is not just done for the sake of depriving oneself of food and drink, rather, fasting is considered to have many benefits: it tames the soul and gives the body rest and better equips the bodily organs responsible for food and drink, as well as giving people patience during times of calamities and making individuals better appreciate how people who live in food poverty may spend most of their days (not just during Ramadan). Such solidarity is significant nowadays, as following the COVID-19 crisis, the number of people who are struggling to make a living has only gone up.

In 2020, before the blessed month of Ramadan, the Coronavirus terrified the whole world, young and old. But as a virus, it was most threatening to the elderly population as it changed their lives almost completely around the world and in our fieldsite of Dar al-Hawa. It was no longer possible to hold weddings or any sort of gatherings of more than ten people in an enclosed space, and restrictions were imposed on everyone. Mosques closed their doors to the worshippers on most days, limiting services to a very small number of worshippers (not more than 10) who were allowed to attend on Fridays.

Last year, Dar al-Hawa was highly quiet during Ramadan, as families did not host any events or guests in their homes and barely met with other people. More so, the habit of going out to restaurants during the evening disappeared as places were shut down. The general feeling in Dar al-Hawa was that of despair. However, soon, an effective solution was found: families started to send food boxes and gifts to one another instead of visiting each other’s homes – boxes were also given to the poor.

During Ramadan last year, people were even prohibited from praying in the al-Aqsa mosque (a holy site). Because it was anticipated that during Ramadan, many worshippers would travel there from several regions (including Jerusalem and the areas of the Palestinian Authority in the previous year), everyone was prohibited from performing the obligatory prayer and Taraweeh prayer in the Al Aqsa. Jerusalem and Al Aqsa were sad and devoid of worshipers.

In 2021, the pandemic is still spreading across the world, but in Israel, the number of infected people has been in decline following a major vaccination operation, which has taken place over the past four months. At first, the population of East Jerusalem (including Dar al-Hawa) were sceptical of the vaccine and did not want to take it due to the abundance of fake news circulating online (see our latest blog post for more). However, vaccine uptake among the Palestinian population of Jerusalem has been on the increase, potentially because people have witnessed the lack of serious side-effects after the vaccine but also because entrance to many places is now forbidden if one does not have their green pass (this is a pass confirming that the person in question has had both doses of the vaccine). In Dar al-Hawa, 91% of the population has now been vaccinated! For now, only those who are 16 or above have been vaccinated, but this high percentage means that Ramadan, this year, as opposed to last year, and as opposed to other places in the world, can be celebrated almost as normal – in people’s houses, on the streets, and in restaurants – and people are really excited about it. The only place that is still limiting the numbers of attendees are the mosques – there is a limit on the number of people who can be inside and one must wear a mask while praying, but they are open to prayer and people can practice their worship and fulfil the holiness of Ramadan.

For this Ramadan, Islamic scholars and jurists issued Fatwas to allow people to pray inside the mosques for their relatives who cannot enter for various reasons: people who might have chronic diseases which means they are at greater risk of being infected and developing a severe form of the disease, people who have had an organ transplant, and those who have not been vaccinated yet. Their relatives’ prayers inside the mosque will be considered equal to them attending mosque themselves.

In Dar al-Hawa, people are impatient and eager to perform their Ramadan obligations the same way they would have done before Covid-19, by going to mosques and being gathered with their family and relatives to collectively eat breakfast (the Iftar).

People have already started preparing for Ramadan by decorating their homes and streets. A favourite dessert here is Ma’amuls – stuffed cookies with walnuts or cheese, and in some of the houses, people are already preparing the special dough for these.

Decorated house in al-Quds (1)

Decorated house in al-Quds (2)

In Dar al-Hawa, people are hoping that the current situation will continue to improve in order for restrictions to be lifted and celebrations to take place comfortably and with some reassurance. We are hoping that vaccine uptake will continue to stay high so that cases continue to go down during the days before people start gathering, so that religious and other daily duties can be undertaken freely and without restrictions. Until then, everyone is trying to follow the regulations set out by the Ministry of Health relating to masks and quarantine to slow down the transmission of the virus, while still celebrating Ramadan together.

The negative and positive effects of the Coronavirus pandemic in Al-Quds

Maya De Vries Kedem26 August 2020

Blog post by Laila Abed Rabho and Maya de Vries

This blog post is available to read in English as well as Arabic (please scroll down for the Arabic language version).

As home-based self-isolation has become the most common way of avoiding the COVID-19 virus, in many households, anxiety has set in as a result of the acceleration of the spread of the pandemic around the world.

Although quarantining at home will not prevent the spread of the virus altogether, it does help distribute the number of cases over a longer period of time, which is important from the perspective of the distribution of health resources and the provision of medical care to those who need it. However, home quarantine has both negative and positive consequences, at least according to some of the people in Al-Quds that we talked to. On the one hand, it may lead to a breakdown in social contact, especially for individuals who are most threatened with isolation and loneliness, including the elderly, people with special needs or those suffering from various conditions. At the same time, the Corona crisis has helped us see the elderly differently. They are our family and the family of our friends, as well as being the ones who have worked hard all their life provide those who come after them with a decent life – at the very least, they deserve the appreciation of others as well as the guarantee that they will be safe.

Recently, many local initiatives have emerged to help elderly people who are unable to shop on their own or who need help with household matters. Also, a large number of young people have committed to self-isolating at home to protect the elderly from the risk of infection with the Coronavirus. This has shown us that in times of crisis, we need each other more than ever.

Life before and after the pandemic set in

The elderly are accustomed to a certain lifestyle. The community of elderly people in Dar el Hawa, which is a village in Al-Quds and the fieldsite for our research, used to regularly go to a club for seniors, where they would spend time doing various activities, whether this is attending religious, cultural, educational and educational lectures or just having conversations with one other. However, because of warnings from the Ministry of Health, they were forced to stay in their homes, which negatively impacted both their mental and physical health, mostly due to the lack of direct contact with their friends and children. However, friends and children did check in on them via their smartphones, knowing that, during the Coronavirus pandemic, they were likely to undergo physical and hormonal changes as well as being psychologically affected (and more likely to develop depression and anxiety).

In general, locally, aid and donations to the needy are offered at specific times, especially in the month of Ramadan or during festive periods, but the pandemic has fostered a sense of social solidarity as some families experienced financial and economic difficulties and donations and money were collected and distributed to those most in need, as a way of topping up the aid coming from government institutions. Grandmothers who regularly took care of their grandchildren and who used to go out shopping or for breakfast or lunch with one another from time to time and who would visit each other’s homes to have coffee at least once a week are now confined to their homes, avoiding going out because they believe the virus is deadly as this is what they hear on the news on a regular basis. In addition, communication between them has been restricted to phone calls. All of these factors have had a psychological impact on their daily life.

On a more positive note, however, some of them tried to fill their free time by making food and sweets and selling them online for some additional income.

Examples of baked goods made and sold during lockdown. There were also those for whom the quarantine meant that they had the opportunity to escape daily stress and rearrange their thoughts – a rare opportunity for calm. It also gave others the opportunity to discover some of their hidden talents – after all, experts say that boredom is what encourages innovation. Some women have embroidered masks in order to encourage their use. In addition, a woman had crocheted a strap that had the benefit of better fixing the mask onto the face.

Women trying on masks with embroidered motifs. Photo credit: Anadolu News Agency. The photo can be found here.

Loss of freedom, the COVID-19 stigma and spending more time with family members

If we look at the negative impact of the virus on individuals, families and society, we can observe that some older customs and traditions within the community may have contributed to this. For example, there have been cases of people in the village being infected with coronavirus and not disclosing it, as doing so would be seen as a mark of shame and would make them the target of bullying and mockery, which might, in turn, have a negative effect on their psychological wellbeing. When this practice becomes widespread, it can lead to an increase in cases, even though there have also been many examples of responsible and conscious groups that have warned everyone around them when they contracted the virus in order to protect their families and members of their community (especially those who have elderly people at home) by preventing them from getting infected.

The lockdown has also made our research participants feel a certain loss of freedom, as they are forced to stay in their homes, which has contributed to increasing their anxiety and tension.  On the other hand, there were also members of the community who found this to be positive because it gave them the opportunity to spend time with their family members, dedicating more time than ever to their families.  Parents who normally work full-time were finally able to spend time and play with them. Indeed, some of the members of the Dar el Hawa community turned the free time they had with their children into a positive, setting up different activities for them, including sports, games or even simply playing pranks on unsuspecting family members – they did not let their children get bored.

Whilst preoccupied with work and life matters, some may forget and others may ignore their social relationships, whether this is to do with family, friends or neighbours. Some have re-evaluated the importance of friends in their life, especially during moments when they spend most of their time at home with their family. Humans are social beings, and the lockdown has caused some to reconsider their priorities.

Husbands who previously complained that their wives were neglecting the home have come to understand how much women actually do in terms of housework, especially if there are other pressures such as employment outside the home. One example of this situation was the husband of one of our research participants, who was finally able to experience how tiring it is to clean, cook, raise children and teach, in addition to working outside the home. This has led to more sharing of household duties, with the husband taking over more of the cooking and childcare. This is someone who, previously, would not see much of his kids due to his job, which requires him to work long hours, often returning late in the evening.

Silver linings and benefits of the pandemic: online learning and sharing of household duties

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a positive effect on young people and low-income families who do not have the financial means to help their children get married, for example. Young people who were about to get married but wanted to comply with advice coming from the Ministry of Health (which warned against gathering in large numbers) were able to hold smaller-scale events with a small number of attendees in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The pandemic has meant that people gathering to celebrate a specific event were able to save on the cost of hosting these, whether we are talking about lunches or other celebratory events.

In addition, we must not forget about one of the other benefits of the pandemic (perhaps one of the most important ones), which is the fact that pupils moved entirely to distance learning after schools were physically shut. In Al-Quds, this has led to an improvement in terms of families adopting modern technology such as Zoom and online exams. Although distance learning has improved pupils’ skills and abilities in terms of using computers and smartphones, it has also had a negative impact on families who have multiple children but did not have enough devices to participate in the educational process. Providing the necessary tools for educational participation is something that needs to be taken into account by the Ministry of Education if it wants to increase educational inclusion.

In Al-Quds, as elsewhere, the Coronavirus pandemic has had both negative and positive effects on all segments of society.

 

الاثار السلبية والايجابية لجائحة كورونا

 

يسيطر القلق على كثير من الناس نتيجة تسارع وتيرة انتشار فيروس كورونا المستجد حول العالم، حيث بات العزل المنزلي طريقة لابد منها لتجنب الإصابة به.

الحجر المنزلي لن يمنع انتشار الفيروس، لكنه يساعد في توزيع عدد الحالات على فترة زمنية أطول، ما يجعله مهما بالنسبة لتوزيع الموارد الصحية وتقديم الرعاية الطبية لمن يحتاجون إليها

لكن الحجر المنزلي له تبعات سلبية وايجابية بحسب البعض، إذ قد يؤدي إلى انهيار التواصل الاجتماعي، خصوصا بالنسبة للأفراد الأكثر تهديدا بالعزلة والوحدة، بينهم المسنون وذوو الاحتياجات الخاصة أو من يعانون من أمراض

أزمة كورونا جعلتنا ننظر للمسنين بشكل مختلف، فهم أهلنا وأهل أصدقائنا، هم من عملوا بجهد في شبابهم ليوفروا لمن بعدهم حياة كريمة، ولذلك يستحقون من الآخرين التقدير والحفاظ على سلامتهم

فقد ظهرت في الأونة الأخيرة العديد من المبادرات لمساعدة كبار السن غير القادرين على التسوق بمفردهم أو من يحتاجون للمساعدة في تدبير أمور المنزل. كما التزم عدد كبير من الشباب بالعزل المنزلي لحماية الأكبر سناً من خطر الإصابة بعدوى فيروس كورونا. وهو ما أظهر لنا أنه في وقت الأزمات يحتاج كل منا للآخر.

فالمسنين اعتادوا على نمط حياة معين فقد كان كبار السن يذهبون الى نادي للمسنين لقضاء وقت لل ترفيه وفعاليات مختلفة كحضور محاضرات دينية ،ثقافية،توعوية وتبادل الاحاديث فيما بينهم لكن بسبب التحذيرات من وزارة الصحة  التزموا بيوتهم مما اصر سلبيا على صحتهم النفسية والبدنية بسبب قلة تواصلهم المباشر مع اصدقائهم وابنائهم وكان فقط الاطمئنان عليهم عبر الهاتف الذكي علما بان المسنين دون جائحة كورونا بسبب التغييرات الجسدية وتغير الهرمونات وكبار السن يتاثرون نفسيا وبتعرضون للكابة والقلق  فما بالكم بوجود جائحة كورونا وتاثيرها على نفسيتهم

بشكل عام كانت المساعدات والتبرع للمحتاجين يكون في وقت معين خاصة في شهر رمضان او في فترات الاعياد لكن في جائحة كورونا ظهر التكافل الاجتماعي والشعور بالاسر المحتاجة فكان اهل البلد يجمعون المونة واحيانا النقود لتوزيعها على المحتاجين بالاضافة الى المعونات التي كانت تاتي من المؤسسات الحكومية

الجدات اللواتي يحتضن احفادهن كن يخرجن احيانا للتسوق مع بعضهن او لتناول وجبات فطور او غداء سويا واحيانا يتبادلن الزيارات لاحتساء القهوة يوم بالاسبوع في منزل كل واحدة مرة بالاسبوع لكن بعد جائحة  كورونا والخوف من هذا الفيروس الذي يعتقد البعض انه فتاك بسبب تهزيل ما يقال عنه في محطات التواصل الاجتماعي، فقد التزمن بيوتهن واصبح التواصل بينهم عن طريق الهاتف فقط وهذا له اثر نفسي على الحياة اليومية لهؤلاء النساء

ومن ناحية اخرى  جزء منهن حاول التغلب على وقت الفراغ بعمل انواع معينة من الماكولات والحلويات وعرضها عن طريق الاونلاين من اجل بيعها وتمكين انفسهن اقتصاديا

وقسم منهن أتاح لهم العزل المنزلي بعض الهدوء في حياتهم، حيث أعطاهم الفرصة للابتعاد عن الضغط اليومي وإعادة ترتيب أفكارهم. كما أتاح للبعض الآخر فرصة اكتشاف بعض المواهب الدفينة لديهم، حيث يقول الخبراء إن الملل قد يدفع البعض للابتكار.، حيث قامت بعض النساء بالتطريز على الكمامات بهدف الترغيب في استعمالها بالاضافة لهذا فقد قامت ايضا احدى النساء باختراع قطعة من الكروشيه (صنع يدوي )لتثبيت الكمامة عليها

لقد كان للعادات والتقاليد البالية أثر سلبي على الأفراد والعائلات والمجتمع من قبل المصابين بفيروس كورونا، والسبب هو ان من يتبين لديه أنه مصاب بفيروس كورونا لا يقوم بالإفصاح عن ذلك باعتبار هذا وسم عار عليه وعيب حيث يخاف من التنمر والاستهزاء اضافة الى توجيه كلام قد يؤثر على نفسيته وهو اعتقاده بأن الكثير سوف يتشمت به فهناك فئة لم تعلن عن اصابتها مما ادى الى زيادة الحالات وهناك فئة اخرى مسؤولة وواعية تعلن عن اصابتها من أجل تجنيب عائلاتهم وابناء مجتمعهم من الاصابة وخاصة من لديه كبار سن في البيت مثل الأب والأم والاجداد.

ان الحجر أيضا  احسهم بفقدان الحرية لأنهم ماكثون في بيوتهم مرغمين لا بخاطرهم وباختيارهم مما يزيد من قلقهم وتوترهم ولكن من ناحية اخرى هناك الكثير الذين وجدوا في ذلك ايجابية بسبب الفرصة التي توفرت لهم للمكوث مع أفراد أسرهم حيث الدفء العائلي وهذا شيء جميل حيث أصبح وقت للأب والام العاملين أن يجلسوا مع أطفالهم واللعب معهم وفعلا هناك من استغل الحجر بصورة ايجابية ولم يترك اطفاله يشعرون بعدم الحرية عن طريق وضع برامج لهم منها الرياضية ومنها اللعب وعمل مقالب مضحكة مع أفراد اسرته وغير ذلك..

ففي ظل الإنشغال بالعمل وأمور الحياة، قد ينسى البعض ويتجاهل آخرون علاقاته الاجتماعية سواء مع الأهل أو الأصدقاء أو الجيران. الآن تجلس الأسرة الواحدة معاً، وتظهر قيمة الأصدقاء في حياة الفرد. فالإنسان كائن اجتماعي من الدرجة الأولى، والعزل الحالي جعل البعض يعيد ترتيب أولوياته مرة أخرى.

حتى الزوج كان يتهم زوجته  دائما بالتقصير بالبيت لكن مع جائحة كورونا والحجر الصحي عرف الزوج وقدر ما تقوم به المراة من اعمال منزلية وضغوطات بالذات عندما تكون المراة عاملة خارج المنزل

واصبح يشعر معها كم هي تتعب في داخل المنزل من تنظيف وطهي وتربية اولاد وتدريس بالاضافة الى عملها خارج البيت مما ادى الى مشاركته لها في بعض الاعمال المنزلية كالطهي والطبيخ اضافة الى الترابط الاسري والتقرب الى ابنائه ،بعد ان كان احيانا لا يراهم نتيحة خروجه من البيت مبكرا ورجوعه متاخرا

هناك اثر ايجابي لجائحة  كورونا على الشباب والاسر الفقيرة التي ليس لديها امكانيات مادية كافية من أجل اتمام فرحتها بزواج ابنائها وبسبب المصاريف الكثيرة التي يتحملها الشباب وعائلاتهم من اعباء مادية لا يقدرون عليها

استغل الشباب المرتبطين اتمام عملية فرحتهم وبالزواج ممن يرغبون متقيدين بتعاليم وزىرة الصحة بعدم التجمهر وعدم التجمع باعداد كبيرة من اجل المحافظة على سلامتهم وسلامة افراد مجتمعهم وبأقل التكاليف المطلوبة لتوفي الغداء والضيافة للمعازيم .

علينا ان لا ننسى الفائدة العظيمة والاهم من كل شيئ وهي أن لجائحة كورونا والتي بسببها اغلقت المدارس حيث انتقل الطلاب للتعلم عن بعد مما ادى الى تطور في تعلم  استخدام التكنولوجيا الحديثة كالزوم وتقديم الامتحانات عن طريق اون لاين مما أكسبهم مهارة وقدرة على استخدام الحاسوب والهاتف الذكي ولكن من ناحية اخرى كان لذلك اثر سلبي على العائلات التي لديها أكثر من طالب حيث لم يتوفر لديهم اجهزة كافية من الحاسوب والهواتف الذكية من أجل التواصل مع العملية التعليمية وهذا يجب ان تقوم وزارة التعليم بحله بتوفير الادوات الازمة للعملية التعليمية

هكذا نرى ان لفيروس كورونا آثار سلبية واخرى ايجابية على جميع شرائح المجتمع