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Muslims in Gaza pass a somber Eid al-Adha on the brink of famine

LAUREN FRAYER, HOST:

Today is the first day of the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. And as NPR's Hadeel Al-Shalchi and Anas Baba report, this year's Eid in Gaza is a somber one.

(SOUNDBITE OF COW MOOING)

HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, BYLINE: The al-Jazaar Deir el-Balah farm is well known in the center of Gaza.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: NPR's Gaza producer Anas Baba says he's known the farm since he was a little kid. Normally around Eid al-Adha, it's teeming with people - children watching animals in their pens, parents picking out the sheep or goats to sacrifice.

SAMI ABDELJAWAD: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: Sami Abdeljawad owns the farm. He says, in a normal year, the farm would have 800 sheep. This year, there's 80. Normally, there are 400 cows. Now it's just four. And everything is more expensive.

ABDELJAWAD: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: Abdeljawad says, before the war, two pounds of meat cost $10. Now it's eight times that. And now a sheep costs $3,000, way too much for most people in Gaza to afford for the Eid sacrifice. Because of this, he's earning less than ever this year. And it makes Abdeljawad sad that he can't give his own kids the Eid they're used to.

ABDELJAWAD: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: "They've asked me for candy and to host friends, but we just don't have the means," he says.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN CRYING)

AL-SHALCHI: Anas Baba also visited a family in a camp in Deir el-Balah. It's home to thousands of Palestinians displaced by the war.

IBRAHIM AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: Ibrahim al-Kurdi is a father of five who worked as a trader before the war. Now he lives in a tent.

I AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: Before the war, al-Kurdi remembers including his children in the rituals of the Eid, an opportunity to teach them good values. When we came to distribute the meat, the small children would say, let me take it to our neighbor who's in need, he says. Al-Kurdi says Eid al-Adha feels like a distant memory now.

I AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: "Grilling and kebabs and barbecue - everyone has forgotten them," he says. Eid was also a time for visiting family and friends, but now it's almost impossible.

I AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: "We don't even know where our relatives are," Kurdi says. Most people in Gaza have been displaced by the war, and more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed.

I AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: "We go through a slaughter every day," he says, referring to the war.

REEM AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: Ibrahim's mother-in-law, Reem al-Kurdi, says she misses the prayers, family gatherings and especially grilling the meat from the sacrificed animals.

R AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: "We prepare the grilling equipment, the coal, the onions, the tomatoes," al-Kurdi says. Another important ritual is buying and wearing new clothes, especially for the children. But this year...

R AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: "There's no home clothes available, let alone Eid clothes," she says. And then Baba asks her a hard question.

BABA: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: "What's the toughest part about this Eid?" he says.

R AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: "Not having a home," she says. "Not having a home is the toughest thing."

R AL-KURDI: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-SHALCHI: "The home is the basis of Eid," al-Kurdi says. "If there's a home, there's Eid. If there's no home, there's no Eid." With Anas Baba in Deir el-Balah, Gaza, I'm Hadeel Al-Shalchi, NPR News, Tel Aviv.

(SOUNDBITE OF NORTH AMERICANS' "STANLEY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Hadeel al-Shalchi is an editor with Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, Al-Shalchi was a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press and covered the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya. In 2012, she joined Reuters as the Libya correspondent where she covered the country post-war and investigated the death of Ambassador Chris Stephens. Al-Shalchi also covered the front lines of Aleppo in 2012. She is fluent in Arabic.