Gaza City: It is one of the biggest
holidays in the Muslim calendar, but for Palestinians in the
impoverished Gaza Strip, the Eid al-Adha festival is a time
for tough choices.
Ibtisaam, 40, knew she could not afford the new
clothes and syrupy sweets that families buy for the four-day
holiday, which began on Tuesday.
So she decided to sell some of her gold wedding
jewellery so she could buy her seven children a little holiday
cheer -- without telling her unemployed husband, Mohammed.
"I promised my children that this year I would buy
them Eid clothes like everybody else gets. It`s their right to
celebrate like other people," she said.
Ibtisaam, who declined to give her family name,
struggled to hold back tears as she described the dire
economic straits in which her family finds itself.
"My husband used to work in construction and the
income was excellent, but there`s no work for him now because
the building has all stopped, and we`ve spent all the money we
saved," she said.
Construction virtually ground to a halt after Israel
imposed a blockade on the territory in June 2006 following the
capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a dawn cross-border
raid by Gaza-based militants.
The restrictions were further tightened a year later,
when Hamas seized power in the coastal enclave, ousting its
moderate rivals Fatah.
The impact on Gaza, which was already mired in
poverty, has been devastating. Most residents are now
dependent on international aid, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a
spokesman for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
"Eighty per cent of the population are reliant on the
humanitarian aid that UNRWA provides. We offer more than
800,000 Palestinians regular assistance," he said.
The blockade has been eased in recent months, after an
uproar over a bloody Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid ships
headed for Gaza that left nine Turkish activists dead.
But unemployment in the enclave remains around 50 per
cent, and Abu Hasna said construction work was still on hold.
"It`s the most important economic sector and it
remains virtually paralysed," he said.
In the crowded alleys of Gaza City`s market, shoppers
make their way past stalls, assaulted by the cries of
merchants eager to make a sale.
One woman, who gave her name only as Mona, said she
was doing her best to enjoy the holiday despite all the
troubles and frustrations of life in Gaza.