World Bulletin/News Desk
The two and a half year armed conflict in Syria has largely overshadowed celebrations of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim religious festival that marks the climax of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the occupied Golan Heights.
For years, residents of the Majdal Shams village, the closest to the Syrian borders, used to flock to the nearby hill to communicate with relatives and cousins on the other side of the border.
The practice gained special importance during important occasions, including religious feasts, where separated families would exchange Eid greetings.
"For the past two years we have stopped going to the hill where we used to stand and offer our Eid greetings to our cousins and relatives in Syria," Ali Safadi, a 72-year-old honey maker, told Anadolu Agency.
"Our homeland Syria is facing terrible and bloody events and we can’t celebrate Eid al-Adha while our families and friends are being killed every day," he lamented.
Syria has been gripped by violence since Syrians took to the streets in March 2011 to oust the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The government has been accused of using excessive force to suppress the popular uprising.
Opposition groups later raised arms against the government.
According to UN estimates, thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced inside Syria and in neighboring countries since the beginning of the conflict.
The first thing to attract a visitor's attention in Majdal Shams would be the statues of the martyrs of the 1927 Great Syrian Revolution aimed at getting rid of the French occupation.
The statues were decorated with flowers and lights for the Eid.
"These statues were built as reminder to the people of the Golan about the sacrifices they made to their homeland, Syria, and to emphasise their feeling of belonging to their beloved country," Sidki Fakhr Aldien, the head of the village council, told AA.
The Syrian Golan Heights territory was occupied by Israel during the 1967 war, before being annexed to Israel in 1981.
The region is inhabited by a small Syrian Druze community.
"We take advantage of the Eid to decorate our village and visit our relatives in other Golan villages," Fakhr Aldien said.
"It is a good time to strengthen our social relations," he added.
Many people from all the Golan villages flocked to Majdal Shams to attend the annual Eid festival of Arts and Culture.
The festival, which started on October 11 and will continue until October 25, features music concerts and art shows.
A youth group in Majdal Shams also sponsored another festival during the first and second days of the Eid, which started this year on October 15.
"Despite all the bad events in the area, the Golan Heights still has its beautiful spirit," Faris al Safadi, a 45-year-old blacksmith, told AA.
"I was watching the festival with a lot of joy and happiness and feeling proud to be a part of this community."Last Mod: 21 Ekim 2013, 09:16