Joy is in short supply for Eid

Gaza's blockade means that this is the hardest holiday its people can remember.

Ironic text messages of goodwill for the great festival of Eid Al Adha – easily as central to the Muslim calendar as Christmas is in the West – became the vogue in Gaza this week.

"Despite there being no salaries, the money we don't have to give to our children, the high price of Egyptian lamb, and the switching off of power, we will celebrate by the light of an Egyptian candle," read one. It summed up the daily power cuts, the utter impossibility for most families this year of affording the traditional Eid sheep and the fact that smuggling tunnels under the border with Egypt have turned into a lifeline for the 1.5 million inhabitants of blockaded, Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The sardonic text message marking the most miserable Eid in Gaza anyone can remember came up on the mobile belonging to Adel Razeq. He runs Gaza's National Agency for Family Care and has been struggling with meagre resources to set up a "food bank" intended to distribute meals – in some cases repackaged leftovers from restaurants, wedding parties and even funerals – to the growing legion of undernourished in Gaza, where more than 50 per cent of families have for the first time been classified as living below the "deep poverty" line of £315 per month for two adults and six children.

Mr Razeq's team has identified severe need in 10 times the 400 to 500 families he is already helping and he believes that a much higher underlying demand is hidden by the pride of unemployed fathers. "We even get kids coming in here when the parents won't," he explains. "They will say 'I love my dad but he can't give us what we need'."

Certainly, the jobless man of the house remains discreetly indoors as his daughter, Besma El Ghoulah, 19, prepares this year's apology for an Eid feast for a family of 15: half a sheep's stomach cooking over an outdoor fire from wood foraged in the street. It was a neighbour's present to Besma's brother-in-law, who lost his job in a factory brought to a halt by Israel's blockade on commercial goods imposed after Hamas took full control of Gaza by force in June 2007. Unable to afford fruit or red meat, the family usually only eats a fresh chicken once a month. Besma says that her two- year-old brother Bilal has been diagnosed with slow growth and anaemia, reinforcing the recently leaked findings of the Red Cross that chronic malnutrition in Gaza is on the rise.

Meanwhile, two other Eid traditions – the menfolk visiting their female relatives and giving new clothes to the children – have this year been nullified. "My father didn't go out of the house," explains Besma. "He has no money to travel. Sometimes my father cries when he has no money to give my little brother sweets."

Not far away in the city's eastern Shajaia suburb, Eid has been even bleaker under the leaky asbestos roof of the ramshackle three-room house where Rabbia Farahad, 59, lives with his wife, Najah, and 10 children. Mrs Farahad says the family have fruit once a month and vegetables once a week. "If we have apples I give out half of one to each," she says. The family epitomise another conclusion of the Red Cross report, that mutual support mechanisms are beginning to break down. "This is the worst Eid we have ever been through," says Mr Farahad, who used to be a farmworker in Israel. "Before, people used to help us but now no one has any money."

The family has no compunction in citing the de facto Hamas government – and its split with Fatah – among the culprits. "First I blame the Israeli occupation [for the blockade]," says Mr Farahad's 16-year-old daughter Tahani, before adding sarcastically: "Then I blame our two beloved governments. They are the reason for this." For Tahani, as for so many other Gazans, the only answer is, "unity of Fatah, Hamas and the rest of the factions".

Adeeb Yusef Zarouk, 46, a father of seven, can remember the prosperous Eids his family enjoyed when he worked as a welder in Israel. His only living repairing satellite dishes has dried up because his customers have no money. He says he too would "love to see" a unity government. But blaming malign influence by Iran and Syria, he doesn't think it will happen after Hamas's no-show at talks brokered by Cairo. An opponent of Hamas, he is cynical about the possible renewal next week of the ceasefire, noting that it did not open the crossings or restart the economy when it was enforced for four months. "The truce will be extended because Israel and Hamas will benefit," he says. "But it won't help the public."

He believes, like many other Gazans, that Israel's blockade is having exactly the opposite effect to that it intends. Jobless young people are being given little option but to join Hamas or another armed faction. Charging that Hamas had distributed $100 payments to its supporters this Eid, he says: "This siege is having a very strong effect on the people but though they say it is against Hamas it is not affecting Hamas at all. The Israelis don't know what they are doing. Hamas is the only one who is benefiting."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'