Ramadan public wakers face arrest, fines in Jerusalem

In this Tuesday, June 5, 2018 photo, traditionally dressed Palestinian public wakers, known as musaharati, are stopped by the Israeli border police in the Jerusalem’s Old City. (AP)
Updated 06 June 2018
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Ramadan public wakers face arrest, fines in Jerusalem

  • The public wakers, known as musaharati, walk through parts of the Old City from 2 am to waking up Muslims for suhoor
  • They say they have been arrested and fined for doing what they say is a part of Palestinian heritage

JERUSALEM: The Palestinian men who chant and beat drums to wake up the faithful during Ramadan in Jerusalem’s Old City say they are being unfairly targeted by Israeli police over their early-morning tradition.
The public wakers, known as musaharati, walk through parts of the Old City from 2 a.m., waking up Muslims for the “suhoor” meal ahead of the daily dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy month, which ends next week.
But since residents began filing complaints with police about the noise, they say they have been arrested and fined for doing what they say is a part of Palestinian heritage.
“They claim that we disturb them, but that’s not true. They want to erase something called Palestinian Jerusalemite heritage,” said Mohamed Hagej, 26, who has worked as a public waker for three years. He said he believes the complaints come from Jewish settlers.
What would be a standard dispute between neighbors in another region takes on a political hue in Jerusalem’s Old City, which is divided into Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian quarters, where residents generally live separately. But an increasing number of nationalistic Jews have settled in the Muslim quarter, inflaming tensions with Palestinian residents who see their presence as provocative.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognized. Israel considers the entire city to be its capital, while the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
In previous years, Hagej said he had no trouble with the police. But this year, he says he has been arrested four times, and claims that at one point, Israeli paramilitary border police used tear gas on him and another musaharati. Hagej was fined 450 shekels ($125) after his first arrest, a fine that increased with each offense.
Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police were simply responding to the noise complaints.
“After complaints were made by residents of the Old City in connection with the noise, the police acted accordingly to stop the offense,” he said. He said he was not aware of any tear gas use, and would not say whether those who complained were Jewish or Palestinian.
Despite the arrests, Hagej and others have continued their tradition.
“This thing draws a smile on the children of Jerusalem, the elders of Jerusalem, the women of Jerusalem, and the people of Jerusalem,” said Hagej. “If there’s no musaharati, and there’s no decoration, there’s no Ramadan.”


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 55 min 1 sec ago
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.