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For Many Muslims in Gaza, This Year’s Eid Celebration Is Overshadowed by Sorrow

The colorful lights and decorations have been replaced with the flash of Israeli bombs and the sound of explosions.

A relative of a Palestinian stands by the grave of his beloved one following Eid al-Fitr prayer as Israeli attacks continue, in Rafah, Gaza, on April 10, 2024.

Israel’s relentless campaign of destruction has cast a shadow over the once vibrant atmosphere of the holy month, leaving behind only bittersweet memories. Despite our hopes for a reprieve before the arrival of Eid al-Fitr, it appears that the cruel onslaught by Israeli forces shows no signs of abating, continuing to mar our most sacred moments.

As the final days of Ramadan draw near, Muslims worldwide eagerly anticipate the approaching Eid, cherishing time spent with loved ones and embracing the joyous spirit of the occasion. Yet, for the besieged Muslims of Gaza, this impending celebration is overshadowed by sorrow.

For over six agonizing months, we have endured the horrors of massacres, illness, starvation, and thirst inflicted upon us by the Israeli military. Their relentless violence knows no bounds, persisting unabated throughout the holy month of Ramadan and into Eid al-Fitr.

Many of us this year found it challenging to step outside our homes to decorate and shop for Eid, so we clung to the warmth of our memories from past celebrations.

In the midst of Israeli drones buzzing overhead and explosions echoing in the distance, I take a moment to reminisce about the splendor of past Eids in Gaza.

The preparations for Eid al-Fitr would always commence well in advance. Two weeks prior, bustling crowds would venture out for shopping, procuring all the necessities to mark the occasion.

Every tiny place in Gaza would be decorated. Food items and desserts are on hand, including the best quality dates for making handmade ka’ek, a small circular biscuit eaten across the Arab world to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. The biscuits are usually covered in powdered sugar and stuffed with different fillings, including date paste, nuts, walnuts, pistachios, lokum, or a mixture of everything sweetened with honey. Often you will find a kind of fermented fish known as fesikh that is native to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, a popular Eid meal in Gaza. Their salty and pickled aroma would fill the air in the marketplace.

Mandatory shopping for Eid included buying new attire. Gaza’s bustling shops and malls once brimmed with a dazzling array of garments, from small dresses for girls to smart miniature suits for boys, in addition to elegant gowns purchased specifically for Eid’s morning prayer. Families used to decorate their homes in anticipation of Eid’s arrival. Typically, on the eve of Eid, children eagerly awaited for sweets prepared by their mothers to be ready for eating.

As dawn breaks on the first day of Eid, the neighborhoods of Gaza resonate with the chants of prayers and takbir. The air fills with the excitement of children dressed in their finest, echoing allahu akbar as they accompany their parents to pray. For breakfast, every family in Gaza cherishes having fesikh.

Afterward, families come together dressed in their finest clothes and make the rounds visiting relatives’ houses, exchanging congratulations as children eagerly wait to be given their eidiyyah, the customary monetary gift they receive from aunts, uncles, and other adult relatives. Streets come alive with children playing in the street, singing, and reveling in the festive atmosphere illuminated by the brilliance of fireworks.

But this Eid, we cannot celebrate and enjoy worship in peace. The colorful lights and decorations have been replaced with the flash of Israeli bombs and the sound of the explosions. The sound of children playing in the streets has been replaced with the screams of people buried under the rubble. Neighborhoods full of life have been transformed into graveyards, their mosques leveled and their streets torn up.

Families gather now not to greet one other, but to mourn their dead. As Eid comes, we bid farewell to one martyr after the other.