Palestinians forgo Eid celebrations to mourn for Gaza The holy month of Ramadan concluded this week with Eid al-Fitr, a celebration with food, family and friends. For Palestinians, the war in Gaza has weighed heavily on this year's holiday.

Palestinians forgo Eid celebrations to mourn for Gaza

Pastry maker Rafe' Rummaneh, shown here in his home outside Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on April 9, is only making a few treats for friends this Eid. Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Catie Dull/NPR

Pastry maker Rafe' Rummaneh, shown here in his home outside Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on April 9, is only making a few treats for friends this Eid.

Catie Dull/NPR

RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank — Rafe' Rummaneh is covered in flour. He sifts cups of it over circles of dough and then flattens them with a rolling pin.

It's the first step in making the multilayered pastries he's become famous for in the Al-Am'ari refugee camp in Ramallah. The last step is pouring syrup over a tray of the golden pudding-filled pastries just out of the oven, filling his shop with a sweet-tasting steam.

Palestinians here in the West Bank typically line up to buy these treats to celebrate Eid, the conclusion of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan. But this year, there's no line out the door and barely any pastries. This is one of the only batches he's making, a pistachio-laced gesture for a few friends.

Rafe' Rummaneh prepares desserts at his bakery the Al-Am'ari refugee camp in Ramallah on April 9. Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Catie Dull/NPR

Rafe' Rummaneh prepares desserts at his bakery the Al-Am'ari refugee camp in Ramallah on April 9.

Catie Dull/NPR

Some of the desserts Rummaneh prepares at his bakery the Al-Am'ari refugee camp in Ramallah. Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Catie Dull/NPR

Some of the desserts Rummaneh prepares at his bakery the Al-Am'ari refugee camp in Ramallah.

Catie Dull/NPR

Rafe' Rummaneh prepares sweets at his bakery, April 9. Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Catie Dull/NPR

Rafe' Rummaneh prepares sweets at his bakery, April 9.

Catie Dull/NPR

"This year, we are limiting Eid to just religious and ritualistic activities," says Rummaneh. "My family won't eat sweets like these. It's the smallest gesture we can offer our people in Gaza who are being killed and whose homes have been destroyed. How can we possibly celebrate?"

Next door at the camp's hardware store, owner Younis Abu Murad is in no mood to celebrate either.

"Last night, Israeli soldiers came to our camp and arrested one person," he says. "They don't knock. You could be sleeping in bed, and they don't even wait for you to get dressed. They don't want anyone here or in Gaza to feel comfortable."

In past years, many Palestinians in the West Bank celebrated Eid by passing through Israeli checkpoints to the Mediterranean coast to enjoy the beach. This year, security is tight and hardly anyone is allowed to cross into Israel.

Instead, Israel's military has stepped up early morning raids in West Bank camps like Al-Am'ari, looking for militants.

Al-Am'ari refugee camp in Ramallah on April 9. Israel's military has stepped up early-morning raids in West Bank refugee camps like Al-Am'ari, looking for militants. Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Catie Dull/NPR

Al-Am'ari refugee camp in Ramallah on April 9. Israel's military has stepped up early-morning raids in West Bank refugee camps like Al-Am'ari, looking for militants.

Catie Dull/NPR

Israeli troops "don't want anyone here or in Gaza to feel comfortable," says Younis Abu Murad, sitting outside his hardware shop in the Al-Am'ari refugee camp in Ramallah on April 9. Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Catie Dull/NPR

Israeli troops "don't want anyone here or in Gaza to feel comfortable," says Younis Abu Murad, sitting outside his hardware shop in the Al-Am'ari refugee camp in Ramallah on April 9.

Catie Dull/NPR

A sign in the Al-Amari camp in Ramallah commemorates victims of a Nov. 9 raid on the camp. Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Catie Dull/NPR

A sign in the Al-Amari camp in Ramallah commemorates victims of a Nov. 9 raid on the camp.

Catie Dull/NPR

One of Abu Murad's customers, Nidal Qatari, says her nephew Mohammed Al-Qatari was shot in the head and killed in one of these raids, and her grandson was left with bullet wounds in both legs. Israel's military confirmed the death with NPR, but didn't provide details of the incident.

"What kind of Eid are we going to celebrate when we see our children being killed and when we see destroyed homes in Gaza?" she asks. "How can we eat? We're crying over all of this."

Eid this year in Gaza is observed amid ruins, with little food

In the Gaza Strip, on the first morning of Eid, men prayed in unison to mark the start of the holiday. They prostrated themselves on blue tarps beside the rubble of Rafah's Al-Farooq Mosque, destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. Massive cylindrical sections of what was its minaret lie topsy-turvy on its remains.

Worshiper Hani Al-Imam says in past years, he would wake up and pray in his best clothes.

"But now we are forced to wear these displacement clothes we've worn for weeks," he says. "And we try to encourage the children to be happy with Eid despite all of this destruction."

Children restlessly climb and play atop the rubble as men pray below. For the kids, the lack of celebration on this day is hardest. Some are wearing their best clothing, but no shoes or boots on their feet.

Many in Rafah were holding out hope that Eid would bring a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, but one hasn't materialized.

In the West Bank, Eid is somber too

In the Al-Am'ari refugee camp, 77-year-old Younis Taha chats with two friends about the news of the day from Gaza.

"This year for Eid," says Taha, "I'm only offering bitter coffee without sugar. That's what we drink when somebody dies."

Taha was born in what is now Israel — in the village of Dayr Tarif — but his family was among those forced to flee to the West Bank in 1948. Millions of Palestinians are now displaced from their Gaza homes, and Taha says he knows how that feels.

Baker Rafe' Rummaneh prays in his home outside Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on April 9. Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Catie Dull/NPR

Baker Rafe' Rummaneh prays in his home outside Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on April 9.

Catie Dull/NPR

Rummaneh, the baker, says he, too, feels vulnerable in his home. After 40 years of making pastries, he built his house without a permit on land administered by Israel, and it could be taken from him anytime.

His terrace overlooks the city of Ramallah, and midday prayer echoes from a nearby mosque.

Rummaneh faces Mecca and prostrates himself, eyes closed. A boom outside at first sounds like an explosion, but it's the start of a spring thunderstorm. Inside the comfort of his home, it's dry and quiet: a somber start to Eid.

Rummaneh prays for his family, his friends and for Gaza.

Nuha Musleh contributed to this report from Ramallah. Anas Baba contributed from Rafah, Gaza Strip.