Many Gazans Will Struggle to Celebrate Eid Al Adha, But Some Are Fighting to Change Situation
According to reports, more than half of the Gaza Strip's population lives in poverty. A monthly salary in the enclave rarely exceeds $300, but given the fact that an average Gazan family boasts at least four children, keeping all of them afloat presents a serious challenge.
On July 9, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid Al Adha, a holiday of sacrifice lasting four days.
Preparations for the festivities are already in full swing in many parts of the Middle East, with customers rushing to livestock markets to purchase sheep that will later be slaughtered, as per Islamic tradition.
However, in the Gaza Strip, where more than half of its population lives in poverty, an average family has four children, and where salaries rarely exceed $300 a month, purchasing meat is out of the question for many. Yet there are those who are fighting to change the situation
Mohammed Hamaida is a 39-year-old Palestinian from the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. For more than 20 years he has been dealing with livestock, a trade he inherited from his father. Seeing the widening poverty around him, he says he could not sit idly by.
"I launched my initiative in 2007, when Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza," the man recalls, referring to the siege that came following the takeover of the strip by Hamas militants, a group deemed terrorist by the Jewish state. "Since then, the economic situation has rapidly deteriorated and I wanted to revive our Muslim tradition that aims at helping the poor and the needy."
Taking matters into his own hands, Hamaida started feeding the impoverished population in his hometown. Initially, he says, he was feeding a hundred Gazans a day. Nowadays, the number of daily clients stands at 400, and during feasts he provides food to around a thousand people.
Overall, for the past 15 years Hamaida has fed hundreds of thousands of hungry Gazans, who come to him knowing they will get a warm meal for themselves and their families.
Meals typically consist of meat that he takes from his own livestock, while rice and vegetables are normally bought at local markets. Hamaida funds the project solely by himself, knowing that local authorities do not have the means to help out.
Although the Hamas government has a multi-million yearly budget, the money is normally channeled to boosting the group's military and defense capabilities. Many funds are also used to rebuild the enclave, which has seen four major wars with Israel, the most recent of which took place last May.
Hamaida acknowledges he will not be able to improve the situation "dramatically." He also admits that his initiative is a drop in the ocean, but he insists on pushing on, because the feedback he has been getting is "outstanding."
"Throughout all these years I have received so much love. This initiative gave me so many friends. Not only among the poor and the needy layers. But also among the rich people of Gaza, who launch similar projects to help those who require assistance." "I constantly get requests from people in other governorates of Gaza to come and help them. I wish I would be able to do so. But right now, this is not feasible. Let's hope one day people will not need my assistance."