Arts, Culture & Media

Palestinians Celebrate Eid

The major Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha, or �Festival of Sacrifice� follows the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

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In the back of an East Jerusalem butcher shop, Murad � a young Palestinian man in a buzz cut and jeans tucked into black rubber boots � sharpened his knife.

He was getting ready for the next sheep.

�In the name of God,� he uttered as he wrestled the animal to the floor and then cut its throat.

Murad was playing the part of the prophet Ibrahim in the Koran.

The holiday of Eid Al Adha commemorates the story of Ibrahim being asked by God to sacrifice his son Ismail.

In the holy book, God ends up sparing Ismail at the last moment by providing a sheep for him to sacrifice instead. Christians and Jews know these characters as Abraham and Isaac.

During a cigarette break, I chatted with Murad and his two assistants. They said they expected to slaughter and butcher around three dozen sheep and goats by the end of today.

The animals cost between $500 and $1,000 each. They're paid for by local families.

Abderazzak Hussein Muhammed came to the butcher shop with one of his sons to pick up their family's holiday mutton.

Muhammed explained that, �this is not just a ritual. It's an obligation.�

�Every Muslim who can afford it, must pay for a sheep or a goat on this day to be slaughtered,� he said.

The meat is then divided into three equal parts: one goes to the poor, one goes to friends and the family keeps the last one.

Looking every bit the cool grandfather in a pair of shades and a white headscarf, Muhammed said he's 80 years old now and he figures he's been having a sheep slaughtered at Eid Al Adha for at least the last 50 years.

Muhammed was kind enough to let me visit his home, which was immaculately clean in preparation for the big day.

In the kitchen, Muhammed's wife, Im-Ismail, prepared for a long day of cooking. The couple has 12 children, three sons and nine daughters. She laughed when I asked her how many grandchildren they have.

�About 80,� she said. But today, she was cooking for about 40 relatives.

She grabbed handfuls of mutton and weighed out one-kilo portions in plastic bags to be given away.

Her grandsons made the deliveries by hand. And they were happy to do so.

Kids get excited about the Eid Al Adha holiday because they get gifts of candy or money.

In a show of Palestinian hospitality, Im-Ismail gives me some homemade cookies with sweet bean paste inside and powdered sugar on top. There were delicious.

Then, Mohammed pouired me some unsweetened, cardamom-laced holiday coffee.

He explained that the strong brew � gulped from little ceramic cups � helps settle the stomach when you spend several days eating a lot of heavy food, including meat and sweets.