BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinians of the Muslim faith welcomed the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan on Saturday evening, as millions prepared for 30 days of fasting beginning Sunday morning.
Cities and villages across historic Palestine festooned homes and roads with bright lights and lanterns, with the Jerusalem District Electricity Company saying that despite Israeli threats of a West Bank blackout, the provider would do its utmost to keep the lights on.
On Friday, Islamic religious authorities in Saudi Arabia and many other parts of the world declared that the first day of the Ramadan fast would begin Sunday after they were unable to see the crescent moon with the naked eye.
According to tradition, it is the sighting of the new moon that signals the start of Ramadan, as the Islamic calendar is based on the moon as opposed to the Western Gregorian calendar that is based on the movements of the sun.
Most of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world will begin the fast on Sunday, except for most believers in Yemen, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, and parts of North America and Europe, who will begin Saturday according to the pronouncements of local Islamic authorities.
Many Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and having sex from dawn until sunset throughout the holy month.
Ramadan is considered sacred by many Muslims because it is tradition says that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed during this month, and the fast is widely observed.
'An atmosphere full of love'
In Palestine, where Muslims comprise more than 90 percent of the population, the consumption of electricity is expected to surge throughout the month as many sleep longer during the day and stay up throughout the night following the nightly fast-breaking Iftar meal.
The Jerusalem District Electricity Company has pledged to keep the lights on throughout the month, despite an ongoing dispute over past debts with Israeli authorities that has led to threats to cut the power across the West Bank.
The general manager of the company Youssef al-Dajani told Ma'an that the company was cooperating with relevant parties to prevent Israeli companies from cutting power, but that the crisis might force the company to act against a large number of individuals who receive electricity without paying the relevant fees.
Noting that the company is still in "the midst of its debts battle with the Israeli power company," al-Dajani called upon people to be rational in their consumption of electricity and to properly use appliances whether at their homes or workplaces, especially during this hot summer and Ramadan.
The company is responsible for providing power to Jerusalem, Ramallah, al-Bireh, Bethlehem, and Jericho, and al-Dajani stressed the company's commitment to "keeping the street lights of Jerusalem and the other cities lit for the fifth year in a row to maintain the atmosphere that people are used to feeling during Ramadan."
The technicians of the electricity company have decorated the neighborhoods of the Old City of Jerusalem, Salah al-Din and al-Zahraa streets, and the main streets of other cities to which the company provides power.
They have also installed a large umbrella near the Bethlehem military checkpoint for worshippers and people who are fasting and are forced to wait at the checkpoint under the hot summer sun during Ramadan.
Al-Dajani said that company wants to ensure that residents will be able to practice the rituals of the holy month in an atmosphere full of love.
Since the 1967 occupation, Israel has restricted the ability of the Jerusalem company to import machines to generate electricity, forcing it into becoming a redistribution company for Israeli electricity.
At the same time, Israel has insisted on providing electricity to Jewish settlers who have moved into East Jerusalem, while many Palestinian neighborhoods serviced by the company fall beyond Israel's separation wall, making payment collection increasingly difficult.
In the 1990s, the Palestinian Authority began taking over the electricity company's debts, but Israeli control over the occupied Palestinian economy has led to recurring financial crises.