You know it's Ramadan when …

Well, you know it’s Ramadan when religious authorities confirm that they’ve spotted the new moon that marks the beginning of the holy month of fasting and intensified spirituality, right?

Another way you know is when you receive the traditional notice from the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) about the control measures they have decided to implement during this holy month.

Last year, they were rather harsh. This year, there seems to be a softening in tone. Here is their notice, sent out overnight:

August 31st, 2008

“Easing of Restrictions on the Palestinian population during the ‘Ramadan’ Period and Eid ul-Fitr

“The IDF and the Civil Administration are preparing for the upcoming ‘Ramadan’ period which starts tomorrow, 1/9/2008, and is followed by the Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, to be observed by Palestinian Muslims in the Judea and Samaria region.

“According to the decision of the Minister of Defense, during the month of Ramadan, Palestinians who meet the following criteria will be permitted to attend Friday prayers on the Temple Mount [n.b., this term signifies the place where the first and second Jewish temples are believed to have been situated.  The second temple was destroyed on Roman orders in 70 a.d.  Since the s:

* Married men between the ages 45-50 and married women between the ages of 30-45 who have received permission from the Civil Administration.
* Men over the age of 50 and women over the age of 45 will be allowed to enter freely.

The following steps were decided upon in order improve the daily life of the Palestinian population in the Judea and Samaria region during this period. The decision to take these steps was made following security assessments by the IDF Central Command and the Civil Administration. During the Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr period:

* The opening hours of different checkpoints will be extended.
* Israeli Arabs will be allowed to enter area A.
* The transfer of gifts to Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons will be authorized.

In addition, officers from the Civil Administration held meetings with senior Palestinian religious representatives (from the Muslim Waqf) and were updated on the prayer times and religious events expected to take place during this period.

Furthermore, representatives of the Civil Administration briefed the forces operating in the region and distributed leaflets explaining the times, dates and customs relating to the Holiday . Soldiers were directed to show consideration for the population and were instructed to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in populated areas, with an emphasis on the crossings points.

The ‘Ramadan”‘period, which this year takes place between the dates 1/09/08-30/09/08, marks the month, in which according to Muslim tradition, Prophet Muhammad received the Koran”.