Cash-strapped Palestinians forced to sacrifice time-honored Eid traditions

Palestinians buy sacrificial animals at a livestock market ahead of the Eid Al-Adha (feast of sacrifice) in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 29, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 29 July 2020

Cash-strapped Palestinians forced to sacrifice time-honored Eid traditions

  • Unofficial estimates indicate that Palestinians sacrifice around 100,000 sheep and calves a year

GAZA CITY: On the eve of Eid Al-Adha, cash-strapped Saeed Zeitawi bemoaned that for the first time in 20 years he had not been able to buy a sacrificial animal for the Muslim festival.

The 49-year-old Palestinian, who supports a family of eight, told Arab News that this year’s Eid holiday would hardly be worth celebrating.

“There is no point in making Eid without a sacrifice. The joy of Eid this year has gone. The sacrifice is the most prominent ritual of the feast. It brings joy to the hearts of children and makes everyone happy,” he said.

Livestock markets in Palestine, where animals are sold for sacrifice, have witnessed a dramatic slump in trade due to a combination of the financial crisis being faced by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the economic fallout from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and the ongoing Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Livestock dealers have been offering to accept staged payments for sacrificial animals in order to encourage citizens to buy. Zeitawi, who lives in the West Bank, said he had paid via instalments last year but that this Eid he would not even be able to afford to take up that option.

As a PA employee his monthly wage had more than halved and payment dates had become irregular. “The salary we receive is barely enough to manage our basic life affairs,” he added.

Zeitawi’s situation is reflected throughout the Gaza Strip, where 2 million people live. Abed Rabbo Odwan bought a sacrificial calf last year with five friends who together purchased it through installments.

In previous years, when his finances were healthier, Odwan, 45, had bought lamb as a sacrifice but now, he said, even a shared calf was “no longer an option.”

Odwan, a school headmaster who for years has only received 40 percent of his total salary, added that he supported a family of nine, four of them studying at university, and could barely provide for their basic needs. An animal sacrifice for Eid had become a luxury he could no longer afford.

Abdel Aziz Afanah, whose family owns one of the largest livestock farms in Gaza, told Arab News that Eid seasonal business was at its “worst” in years.

“The situation has been deteriorating continuously since the imposition of the (Israeli) blockade, and the current season has worsened with the pandemic and the salary crisis. The majority of people have been affected financially,” he said.

According to official estimates, about 53 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip lives in poverty.

Issam Asida, a livestock dealer in the West Bank, said there had been a sharp dip in trade at sacrificial livestock markets this season where the supply of animals had outstripped demand.

Despite prices being the same, if not less, than last year, Asida told Arab News that his sales so far had not even reached 20 percent of 2019 levels.

Unofficial estimates indicate that Palestinians sacrifice around 100,000 sheep and calves a year.

Samir Abu Mudalleh, a professor of economics at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that most Palestinians were experiencing severe economic pressures, and due to wage cuts the purchasing power of workers had greatly diminished.

“The majority of economic sectors are in crisis, and if the situation continues to deteriorate, the crises may strike all aspects of life and lead to unprecedented collapses.”

Lebanon information minister quits in first government resignation over blast

Updated 09 August 2020

Lebanon information minister quits in first government resignation over blast

  • Manal Abdel-Samad apologizes to the Lebanese public for failing them
  • Explosion killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s information minister Manal Abdel Samad on Sunday quit in the first government resignation since a deadly port blast killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said in a statement carried by local media, apologizing to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church meanwhile called on the entire government to step down over the August 4 explosion, a blast widely seen as shocking proof of the rot at the core of the state apparatus.

Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai joined the chorus of people pressing Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over a blast he said could be “described as a crime against humanity.”

“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon.

“It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”

Rai echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls — a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, demanding the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

He also joined world leaders, international organizations and the angry Lebanese public by pressing for an international probe into an explosion authorities say was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse, where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

President Michel Aoun on Friday rejected calls for an international investigation, which he said would “dilute the truth.”

At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

Under increased pressure from the street and foreign partners exasperated by the leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is fraying at the edges.