Palestinians in Gaza go without food and gifts as Eid al-Adha celebrations commence

A girl holds a fluffy plush sheep toy near a toy stand at the market place before the upcoming Eid al-Adha
5 min read
27 June, 2023

Mohammed al-Ashi, a resident of Gaza, will not be able to afford sheep for Eid al-Adha this year.

The 59-year-old, who has eight children, expressed his frustration with the soaring prices of livestock in the coastal enclave.

With a population of over 2.3 million, many of whom are already living in poverty, the increase in prices has made it impossible for Mohammed and his brothers to purchase sheep and cows for the festive occasion. "We can barely afford to make ends meet, let alone afford meat to sacrifice," Mohammed lamented to The New Arab.

In the past, a sheep would cost no more than $200 to $300, but now the price has skyrocketed to over $600. Similarly, the cost of a cow for sacrifice during Eid has reached around $2000. "It's possible that a majority of my community won't be able to afford livestock to celebrate Eid," Mohammed explained. 

"In the past, a sheep would cost no more than $200 to $300, but now the price has skyrocketed to over $600"

On the other hand, merchants fear the outcome of residents' weak purchasing power and the high prices, which threaten the success of this season, whose failure will ensure that traders incur hefty financial losses. 

Sami Shuhaiber, an owner of a livestock farm in Gaza, complained to The New Arab about this year's low customer demand. 

"Livestock prices have risen slightly this year compared with last, due to an increase in feed prices globally," Sami told The New Arab while stressing that merchants "bear the brunt of prices in order to not offset the costs to the consumer."

Another farmer in Gaza, Abu Hasira, argued that the increase of $1.8 in the price of a kilo of livestock is small when compared to the increase in the price of fodder. A tonne of fodder has increased from $460 to $700, while a ton of corn increased from $300 to $600.

Gazans are forced to forgo Eid rituals this year as prices soar [Getty Images]

The cost of purchasing meat for the Eid ritual this year varies between $500 and $900. Nevertheless, based on what Sami told The New Arab, the current participation rate is significantly lower than last year.

Sami explained that the majority of customers who were able to buy livestock this year inquired about paying in instalments or buying alternative cheaper meat. 

For his part, Taher Abu Hamad, the Director of the Animal Production Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, confirmed that Palestine is witnessing an increase in livestock prices as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Taher noted that the Gaza Strip needs 15,000 to 17,000 calves and 25,000 to 30,000 sheep during the Eid al-Adha period. The director believes that "turnout is good relative to the difficult economic situation and the high prices, and there is a noticeable activity from charities to assist," contradicting statements made by farmers and customers. 

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Palestinians in the coastal enclave blame the Israeli blockade and its consequences for its “endless” suffering not only during the festivals but throughout the year.

In 2007, Israel imposed its “illegal” blockade on Gaza under the pretext of curing the power of the Islamist group Hamas controlling the territory. It has since launched five large-scale wars against Gaza and conducted numerous military assaults against armed Palestinian factions. 

As a result, the blockade has deteriorated the economic situation in the Strip, where many residents live in severe poverty. The poverty rate among the residents of the Gaza Strip has risen to 53 percent with extreme poverty reaching 33.8 percent, according to the latest statistics issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Such unprecedented deterioration has cast its shadow on the local markets in the area, which seem empty.

Merchants raised concerns about the lacklustre purchasing activity, citing potential losses if customers did not visit the markets.

"Despite the optimistic assurances given by our officials in Gaza and the West Bank, we have yet to see any improvement," said Samah Sarsour, a 29-year-old resident of Dir al-Balah in central Gaza, in an interview with The New Arab.

Samah and her family found themselves displaced without fault, unable to celebrate Eid due to unfortunate circumstances, she tearfully shared with The New Arab.

Women in Gaza have resorted to knitting toy sheep to fund basic necessities for their families this Eid

On May 13, the Israeli military demolished Samah's two-story home using powerful missiles, forcibly separating her family for an extended period.

"In previous years, we would spend countless hours each day preparing for Eid. We would clean and decorate our house, purchase sweets, and bake a cake," Samah recounted.


Instead of visiting the markets to buy new clothes and toys for Eid, Samah decided to create handmade sheep dolls to sell on her Facebook page, aiming to generate some income to support her three children.

Every day, she devotes extensive hours to crafting ten dolls, which she then sells for $5 each.

"Due to the unjust politics in my country, I am compelled to bring joy to others while enduring constant suffering. Sometimes, I even wish I had died during the Israeli airstrike."

Samah holds Israel responsible for the hardships faced by Palestinians and calls upon the international community to assist in establishing a peaceful and secure environment, protecting them from ongoing Israeli atrocities.

Sally Ibrahim is a Palestinian reporter with The New Arab based in the Gaza Strip.