By Shaimaa Mustafa – Gaza
Every year, Abu Lu’ai used to participate with six of his family members in buying a calf to slaughter as a sacrifice marking the four-day Palestinian feast (Eid al-Adha).
"This year, there will be no calf. I can not afford the price anymore," the father of seven told IslamOnline.net.
"I may buy a turkey instead," a sarcastic Abu Lu’ai added bitterly.
Most Gazans have been forced to abandon the Sunnah (Islamic tradition) of sacrificing animal to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail to Allah as an act of obedience and submission.
A long-running Israeli blockade, already crippling supplies of everything from food to medicine, is leaving the people of Gaza with few, if any, animals to sacrifice.
Cattle merchants affirm that while the territory usually consumes some 80,000 heads during Eid, only 10,000 are available this year.
The scarcity has led to a dramatic rise in cattle prices.
"I used to buy at least two sheep for Eid. This year I can’t even afford one," laments Abu Usama, walking across an animal market in Gaza.
"The prices have gone nuts."
A financially-able Muslim sacrifices a single sheep or goat or shares six others in sacrificing a camel or cow as an act of worship during Eid Al-Adha on Monday, December 8.
"People have no money to buy," says Abu Sa’ed, a merchant.
"Instead of selling more than 50 sheep a day in past years, I am lucky to sell 5," fumes Khalil Abu-Samra, a fellow merchant.
"This year’s Eid is the worst ever."
The fewer number of scarified animals means less share of meat for thousands of needy and underprivileged families in the coastal territory, home to 1.6 million.
"My kids have been waiting impatiently for Eid," Khalil Zyiada, who has been unemployed for 5 years, told IOL.
"`Eid was the time for us to eat meat, something we can never otherwise afford."
At least a third of the udhiyah meat is given to the poor and needy.
"The udhiyah donation is severely hit by high prices," said Maged Murad, a public relations official at an Islamic charity in Gaza.
He notes that the trend of decreasing udhiyah donations has been cited over the past few years, but has reached its climax this year under the suffocating Israeli blockade.
Despite international criticism, Israel refuses to open commercial crossings with the densely populated territory.
The closure has again highlighted the plight of people in the overcrowded sliver of land whose economy has been crippled by a blockade Israel imposed after Hamas seized power in June 2007.
Abu Lu’ai, the father of seven, says his children have been yearning for Eid to help distribute the udhiyah among needy families in the neighborhood.
"This year I shall not see their faces beaming with smiles."
Kamal Yusuf, a government employee, feels the same pain.
"There is no real joy without udhiyah. Eid has never been so grim."