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Jewish and Muslim Holidays Coincide in Holy Land

The ram's horn was blown, as Israelis gathered in synagogues to observe Rosh Hashanah. A lull in five years of fighting with the Palestinians has Israelis feeling more optimistic as they begin the new year. Jerusalem resident Benjamin Katz told VOA that it is time to stop the killing.

"And the feeling is that we want to end this whole business, I want them to live in peace, us to live in peace," said Mr. Katz.

In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians were called to prayer.

The Muslim faithful fast from dawn to dusk during the holy month, Ramadan.

Palestinian shopkeeper Yasmin Husseini hopes the eight-month cease-fire will hold.

"All the Palestinian people want peace, want peace 100 percent," said Yasmin Husseini.

But in the past, Islamic militants have stepped up suicide attacks during Ramadan, and Israeli security forces are high on alert. The army has sealed off the West Bank and Gaza, barring Palestinians from entering the country. Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld says the security is both obvious and hidden.

"We, in fact, have a lot more police on the streets," he said. "There are a lot more police that you'll be able to see and that you won't be able so see."

Israel has also warned its citizens not to travel to Egypt's Red Sea coast in the Sinai Peninsula over the Jewish holidays, because of a terror threat. Cabinet Minister Yitzhak Herzog says Israelis could be kidnapped.

"Israel is bothered by various information that speaks specifically about al-Qaeda activities or other terrorist cells that operate in Sinai," noted Mr. Herzog.

Despite the threats, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is upbeat. In a Rosh Hashanah interview, Mr. Sharon said he hopes there will be "great progress" toward peace in the coming year.