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Muslims Mark Feast of Sacrifice
The Arab world marked the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on Monday, traditionally a day of food, family and festivities. But this year, the holiday was noted for intensified anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric, continued violence and economic hardship in Palestinian areas, and the tragic death of 35 pilgrims during the hajj to Mecca.
Muslims mark the day in remembrance of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, as opposed to Isaac in the biblical account honored by Jews and Christians. Eid al-Adha is translated "Feast of the Sacrifice" and marks the celebration following the peak of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia.
On the second day of the hajj on Sunday, over 2 million pilgrims converged on Mecca, and 250,000 of those crowded in the Namira Mosque for a sermon from Saudi Arabia's top religious cleric Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheik. In his address, Aziz did not forget to send a holiday message to Israel.
"Jerusalem is in the hands of the raping Jews who are bullying our Muslim brothers in Palestine under the eyes of those protecting human rights. Where are these people who speak of rights, whose mouths spread venom on Islam?" he raged.
And in Gaza, PLO chief Yasser Arafat also used the religious holiday as a platform for incitement and continued hostility against Israel. Asked for his message to the Arab and Islamic world, Arafat told reporters the feast was a joyous occasion. "Despite the closure, this dangerous military escalation, the pursuit and the starvation, the Palestinian people are continuing our way until we raise the Palestinian flag over the walls of Jerusalem, the minarets of Jerusalem and the churches of Jerusalem," Arafat told reporters outside a Gaza mosque before climbing into his limousine.
But despite Arafat's efforts to spur the Palestinian people towards continuing the uprising, many are beginning to acknowledge that the violence has gained them little in their war with Israel, and has, in fact, resulted in widespread suffering. Poverty and unemployment are rampant. And even Arafat himself seems to be facing an increasingly destabilized political situation, as he looses control over the violence in the territories and on the Palestinian street.
The continued violence has taken its toll on Palestinians, and dampened the usual festivity of the Feast. The Palestinian Authority announced Monday that as a result of the violence, it had canceled all official observances of the feast, with the exception of memorial ceremonies.
Meanwhile, a mass catastrophe cast a shadow on the Feast of Sacrifice celebrations this year, when a stampede at Mount Arafat outside Mecca resulted in the death of 35 pilgrims - 23 women and 12 men. The stampede came during the symbolic "stoning of the devil" ritual, which was being performed by more than two million Muslims pilgrims. According to tradition, the pilgrims must complete the ritual during daylight hours on a specified day, which was extended to a 30-hour period in recent years as the number of pilgrims climbed into the millions.
Saudi authorities were on high alert to avoid a repeat of a 1998 stampede in which more than 100 pilgrims were trampled to death during the stoning ritual, but were unable to prevent the deaths due to the sheer size of the crowds. The hajj has frequently been marred by tragedies, but the past two years have been trouble-free, mainly due to improvements in facilities and roads.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.