Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are trying forcibly to evoke a cheerful atmosphere ahead of the Festival of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha), which is being marked by the Muslim world on Monday.
Gazans spent the last few hours before the holiday shopping and preparing, but instead of songs and fireworks, the music controlling many streets is the noise of generators emerging from the stores and businesses.
"We shop to the light of generators, because there is no regular electricity supply in wide parts of the Strip," a local resident told Ynet. "Business owners who still want to earn something and take advantage of the holiday in order to make a few pounds had to supply alternative illumination. Those who don't have it – simply don't sell."
Gaza market prepares for holiday (Photo: AFP)
For the first time in years – and this may be a historic precedent – the pilgrimage of thousands of Gaza residents to the Saudi city of Mecca has been prevented
due to disputes between the West Bank and Gaza governments.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, have been exchanging accusations in the past few days with the Hamas
government in the Strip over each side's responsibility for the fact that the Gazans would be the only Muslims in the world not to set foot in Mecca this year.
"The financial situation
in the Strip is extremely difficult, perhaps the worst situation since 1967. Grownups may remember that period and 1948 as tough times like we're experiencing now. And yet everyone is trying to clutch at the holiday spirit, which can still be felt somehow in the main squares and streets," one of the residents said.
Gaza street, Sunday (Photo: AFP)
A store owner said that his income from sales had dropped sharply. While in regular years he sells goods for some NIS 60,000 (about $15,070) during the week of the holiday, this year he sold about one-third.
"People hesitate and have doubts, they think they shouldn't buy anything, but eventually social pressure and the children's pressures bring them to the stores, but in a much limited manner," he says.
Muhammad Srur, a taxi driver from northern Gaza, said that drivers began feeling the shoppers' traffic only in the last hours before the holiday. According to the driver, until the last hours of the eve of the holiday only one out of 10 cabs was full.
The tunnels, he said, are like oxygen in terms of the variety of products reaching Gaza, but their smuggling process raises the costs and they do not serve as a complete alternative to the crossings.
An activist in one of the local charity organizations, affiliated with the Islamic Jihad,
told Ynet that the population which does visit the stores is comprised of Palestinian Authority government workers, who receive their salaries from Ramallah, and Hamas government workers.
Workers of associations affiliated with local and international organizations can also afford to shop for the holiday.
"The Christian sector in the population, which is considered wealthier and with businesses within and outside the Strip, helps the local economy keep its head above the water and prevents a complete collapse," the activist added.
"The great danger is that people will get used to the difficult situation remaining difficult and will learn to live this way. In the meantime there is no one relying on change."
As far as the Strip's residents – especially Hamas members and supporters - are concerned, the Festival of Sacrifice is expected to be Abbas' last holiday as the Palestinian president.
At the end of his term, on January 9, Hamas is expected to declare Dr. Ahmad Bahar, an organization member and the acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the new Palestinian president.
Hamas leaders have already made it clear that as far as they are concerned extending Abbas' term would be illegal, and that by law, the person who will replace the president until new elections are held would be the Legislative Council speaker.
From this point of view, the Festival of Sacrifice will also be the last holiday before the era of a Hamas state, which will also appoint its own president. The Palestinians will not only have two separate governments and two security systems, but also two officials with the highest rank in the PA.