By Mohammed Al-Shawaf, KF9 Palestine
On the day before the third Thursday in November, I attempted to reach my family while avoiding the heavy traffic of cars fleeing home and hurried, last-minute shoppers darting in and out of now-bustling stores.
Only I’m not heading to Pacific Grove, California on Thanksgiving eve to argue with my mom and sisters (on again, off again vegetarians) about the necessity of a large, respectable turkey at the centerpiece of the table.
This year, Thanksgiving in my sleepy hometown has given way (quite coincidentally–lunar calendars will do that sometimes) to Eid Al-Adha spent between my current home base in Ramallah and my grandmother’s house in Amman, Jordan.
Coming from a mostly secular, but still tradition-rich upbringing, I honestly couldn’t have told you that the second, “bigger” Eid (the first Eid of the year occurs after the month of fasting known as Ramadan) commemmorated Abraham’s willingness to sacrafice his son to Allah. And I could only vaguely recall that Eid Al-Adha also celebrated the completion of the “Hajj,” or Pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims from around the world take part in. Back in the States, the Eid meant that my sisters and I could expect a little more spending money by way of a holiday that always crept up on us.
But now, in my first time living in a Muslim country during the Eid, I can see the anticipation. There’s a palpable excitement in the air, especially around the busy shops of the Manara in Ramallah’s city center. Nearly all people, regardless of their income or work situation, are spending hard-earned shekels on gifts like clothes and sweets for the children in their families.
Because Ramallah is in many ways a city of transplants (Palestinians from all over the West Bank come here for work and because there is little opportunity in other cities and villages), almost all the people I’ve talked to this week have spoken about going back “home.” Whether that be Tulkarem or Nablus in the north, Hebron in the south, or across the river and through the border to Jordan, the Eid–above all else–is a time to spend with family, no matter how long the journey.
So although I’m preparing myself for my grandmother’s special dinner of slow-cooked lamb and rice and repeating the phrase “Eid Mubarak” to anyone and everyone I pass, it’s still a brisk Thursday in November spent with family around far too much food. And I’m thankful for that.
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Mohammed Al-Shawaf is serving as a Kiva Fellow with Ryada and FATEN, two new field partners based in Ramallah (West Bank).