Gaza's economic woes destroy hopes for a traditional Eid sacrifice

Gaza's economic woes destroy hopes for a traditional Eid sacrifice
5 min read
20 August, 2018
In Gaza, where majority of residents now live below the poverty line, a year of economic turmoil makes the traditional Eid al-Adha feast unaffordable for struggling families, writes Rami Almeghari.
Eid al-Adha is traditionally celebrated with a slaughter and feast [Getty]
As the Muslim world marks Eid al-Adha, Gaza's residents face economic hardship that makes it difficult for them to celebrate the occasion.

Eid al-Adha or the 'Festival of Sacrifice', is the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year.

The four-day celebration marks the remembrance of the willingness of prophet Abraham's sacrifices to his Lord, which many mark by slaughtering an animal in the name of God. It is then divided into three parts, to the poor and needy, to relatives, friends and neighbours and the remaining third is kept by the family.

But Palestinian Muslims in Gaza are struggling financially to mark the occasion, especially in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp, home to more than 100,000 Palestinians.

A profitable organisation, Goodness Steps, that has in previous years helped families in the refugee camp with a monthly instalment programme, says that many of its customers from previous years have not visited this year.

"We have seen a 70 percent drop in those looking to have livestock slaughtered during Eid this year, in comparison to the last three years," says programme co-ordinator, Mohammad Alhour. 

"In 2014, we managed to help 150 families mark the occasion properly by having 25 livestock, mainly calves, slaughtered on the basis of sharing," Alhour adds. "A group of six to seven men, who are head of the families, shared one calf. It was such a great moment, not only for us but for those who managed to mark such an important Islamic occasion."

Goodness Steps runs a programme that enables families to share a cow between them through paying monthly installments [Rami Almeghari]

Difficult times

Alhour spoke of how different this season is, while movement at his office appears much less than in previous years, even a couple of days ahead of Eid. 

"This seems to be the worst ever season for all. This year, only five calves were requested. Two out of those five are for our own staff members. Furthermore, those who came over to our office this season to ask for our service were United Nations' local Palestinian staff and some others who work for the private sector," Alhour explained to The New Arab.

The charity's co-ordinator goes on further to explain that livestock prices were not that high, yet the number of people requesting stock for sacrifice was still low.

The demand for livestock has dropped by 70% this season [Rami Almeghari]

Others echo the same

On the main road of Salah Eldin in central Gaza Strip, the livestock farm of Abdelhafed Albayouki, is almost empty of local customers, even a few days ahead of Eid.

"In previous years, I used to import about 130 to 150 calves from Holland, Romania or Portugal, through Israeli ports. This year, I have only imported half of that number," Abdelhafed Albayouki, owner of the Aljazzar livestock farm near the Deir Elbalah town in central Gaza Strip, told The New Arab.

"As we get closer to Eid day, only 55 calves, out of 70, have been booked by my own long-time customers. Only a few customers have come to my farm. As for sheep, I sold 50 last year, but this year, I have only sold 14," the farmer added.

Cows for sale at the Aljazzar livestock market in the Gaza Strip [Rami Almeghari]

Housewives and Eid

At the Al-Assar store in the Nuseirat Refugee camp, Umm Ahmad Hamdan, is seeking a school outfit for her 15-year-old daughter, but not one for Eid. 

"In comparison to last year, my Eid preparations are very low," she explained.

"Buying new outfits for our children is no longer a sign of marking Eid. Despite the fact that I am a retired school teacher and my husband is working as a social worker with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, I am only buying things for the start of the school year for my children, which is right after Eid.

"We are trying to manage our expenditures as things are unpredictable and no one knows what the future holds," Umm Ahmad Hamdan added.

We are trying to manage our expenditures as things are unpredictable and no one knows what the future holds

Owner of the store, Ahmad Alassar, told The New Arab that his business has been badly affected over the past couple of years.

"Before this, I used to barely have any time to myself because there were so many customers at my store. Now, only 10 percent of my old customers still come. We hope the situation changes, soon," he said.

Worsened conditions

Over the past year and a half, at least 40,000 Gaza-based employees, who are on the Palestinian Authority's payroll, have had their monthly salaries cut down to half, due to PA-imposed measures for the Hamas-ruled Gaza. This goes with a crippling Israeli blockade that has been in place for 11 years, now.

Recently, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees fired 140 local Gaza staff members of it's emergency programmes that have run since 2000. The UNRWA cites it's current financial deficit for it's recent austerity measures.

There are currently 100,000 jobless Palestinians in Gaza, as more than 90 percent of Gaza's industrial facilities have been forced to shut down, due to the Israeli siege, and more than 60 percent of Gaza's two million residents live under poverty line. With such dire situations and an ongoing year of economic turmoil, the traditional feast will be unaffordable for many struggling families, and Eid al-Adha will just be another day.

Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza. 

Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari