Last week was Eid al Dahia. This holiday celebrates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, against all rational instincts, in order to serve God alone and submit to His commands. In the majority religion of the Sandbox, it is believed to have been Abraham’s son Ishmael (via Hagar the servant of Sarah) instead of Isaac, his only son from his wife, Sarah. Regardless of the specific son discussed, the rest of the story is held in common between the majority religion and Christianity. At the last moment, as Abraham was lifting the knife over his son, God’s voice rang out calling Abraham to stop. He had shown his devotion. Then a ram was seen caught in the brambles close to Abraham, and, untying his son, the two of them sacrificed this ram to give praise to God for His Mercy.
Each year every family in the this part of the world re-enacts this event. Needless to say, there is a lot of sheep to eat! Those with more will freely share with those who have less, and it is a time of generosity. We were invited to share a meal with our neighbors and were able to share with them in this feast. Before the meal, however, was a most educational time for the kids and me.
Spoiler: brace yourself for the following: butchering description to follow!!
We headed outside in the early morning as another of our neighbors was sharpening his knife on a brick. The sheep was at hand. The kids were very interested in going over as he called to us to join him. I felt a bit uneasy for the kids, but thought I would go and then come back before the “deed” was going to happen. I explained what was going to happen and they were OK with staying. Well, I thought, this is part of life, so, why not?
The sheep did not bleet and did not fight as our friend laid it on its side, exposing the neck. A quick slice and it was over. It was a bit shocking, but again I was surprised at how the kids seemed OK with this and were not bothered. I explained it was to honor God and that this was a basic thing that has to happen for anyone to eat meat.
I was more interested by what followed. The skinning. Our neighbor took a sharp stick and poked a hole in between the two bones near the rear knee, and then used the stick to poke inside the upper thigh between the hide and the flesh. Then, he put his mouth to the hole and proceeded to “inflate” the sheep like a balloon! I talked with another neighbor later (who spoke more English) to confirm my suspicion: namely that this helped separate the hide from the flesh.
Once this was done, he took his knife and cut a very long slit in the hide between the two back legs. After hanging up the sheep by the rear legs, he then began “peeling” the hide off by pulling down. It was much like watching a banana being peeled. I found out later that often these hides are donated to local Mosques who in turn sell them to tanners.
Back to the kids: they were so interested in watching this course of events that, far from wanting to run away, they went to the next house down as another sheep was just getting ready to be sacrificed and watched the process again!
– Mr. Rikshaw