One Gaza Family Observes A Grim Holiday In Wartime

The Eid festival, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, serves as a time for visiting relatives and exchanging gifts. But one family's holiday in Gaza traces the death and displacement wrought by the war between Hamas and Israel.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In the Gaza Strip, it's a time of war and also a Muslim holiday, Eid al-Fitr. Rocket fire continues from both Israel and Hamas, and the death toll continues to rise. But in the midst of all this yesterday, NPR's Emily Harris followed one Gazan as he marked a holiday during wartime.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Every Eid, Rafik el-Masri goes visiting relatives, a fitting ritual for a family leader. This year, he just went to different places than usual. First stop - al-Shifa, Gaza's main hospital, to greet a young man - his nephew - wounded by shrapnel. Two floors up, Masri drops in on another nephew in his 20s.

RAFIK EL-MASRI: (Foreign language spoken).

HARRIS: The young man's legs are burned, both wrapped in bandages. Seven thousand members of the Masri family lives in Beit Hanoun, in Gaza's northeast, right near Israel's border, where fighting has been constant and fierce. Rafik el-Masri nods to the young man's mother, sitting next to the bed.

R. EL-MASRI: (Through translator) Both were injured because of shelling at his house. The mother too had injuries in her stomach. But because there are not enough beds and her situation is better than him, they put her on a chair next to his side.

HARRIS: Masri is a political science professor. In his Prada glasses and a bright striped shirt, he fills the role of a family statesman, checking on the clan during this crisis of war. From the car, he spots cousins on the sidewalk and sticks his head out the window.

R. EL-MASRI: (Foreign language spoken).

HARRIS: His next stop - several U.N. school buildings where hundreds, if not thousands, of Masris are staying.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD)

HARRIS: There are more hugs and handshakes...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

HARRIS: ...And in one classroom, a relative who has just lost her son.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

HARRIS: She calls him a resistance fighter and said, he stayed in the house and died in the shelling. She has nine other children, but with no money, they can't do anything special for Eid. In another classroom, a young father, Rasan el-Masri (ph), says, this year he chose to not mark the holiday. He did let his son pick out a toy. The 4-year-old chose a plastic gun.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOY GUN)

HARRIS: It's much quieter than the big guns he's been hearing. Although Rafik el-Masri left his home two weeks ago, he has not slept in a school. Instead, he borrowed a friend's spare apartment in Gaza City.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD)

HARRIS: There are 53 people staying in this three-bedroom apartment, including, the mothers say, eight babies, at least.

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)

HARRIS: The matriarch of the bunch, 84-year-old Amna el-Masri (ph), wakes up from a nap on the floor. She remembers big Eid celebrations.

AMNA EL-MASRI: (Foreign language spoken).

HARRIS: We used to make cakes and sweets and get dressed up in new clothes, she said. Sometimes, we'd slaughter a cow or a sheep and give meat away. This Eid, she lets fly a dark insult in Arabic. There is no slaughter, no sweets. They'll eat hummus and sandwiches from a local shop. Twenty-eight-year-old Tamer el-Masri remembers Eid traditions like his grandmother had.

TAMER EL-MASRI: My old days - my Eid - it was a beautiful thing. We go to the mosque and pray. And after that, we go to uncles, aunts and my cousins and see them. This day was - it's a nice day for every Muslim in the world. But I'm sorry for my kids. They don't - they don't have the sweet of this Eid - this holiday.

HARRIS: With some family killed, others injured and almost all displaced, Tamer el-Masri says, he's never felt as angry or hopeless before. Still, he says, there is one special thing about Eid in Gaza

T. EL-MASRI: The good part - we will be together - being together.

HARRIS: - Crowded together. For how long? They're not sure. Emily Harris, NPR News, Gaza.

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