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On Ramadan, seeing Israel for the first time

08/08/2013

Amer al-Jallad sat on a discarded hotel towel at Tel Aviv’s Sheraton beach, gazing into the vast blue sea.

A 27-year-old day laborer from the West Bank city of Tulkarem, Jallad was one of nearly 180,000 Palestinians who received special permits to enter Israel throughout the month of Ramadan this year. Though his town is located just 16 kilometers (10 miles) east of Netanya, Jallad had never previously entered Israel, and had never seen the Mediterranean.

“It’s magnificent, indescribable. The moment I entered Israel I was surprised; I felt like I was in Europe. There’s a total difference between the West Bank and Israel,” he said.

According to Israel’s office for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which issues the entry permits, some 800,000 Palestinians crossed into Israel from the West Bank last Ramadan “for family visits, prayers, and pilgrimage to holy Muslim sites.” The number this year is expected to surpass 1 million.

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