As the eve of Eid al-Adha approaches in Dakar, Senegal, locals are heading to an unconventional location to pick up the holiday’s sacrificial sheep: the Israeli embassy.
Since 2006, the embassy has provided families with sheep for the holiday of Tabaski – the Wolof name for Eid al-Adha.“It’s always an emotional moment because you can see what this act means to the Senegalese community,” Ben Bourgel, Israel’s ambassador to Senegal, told The Jerusalem Post.For Senegalese Muslims, who make up roughly 95% of the country’s population, Tabaski is the year’s biggest holiday. It is a commemoration of the story of Ibrahim (Abraham), whom God asked to sacrifice his cherished son, Ismail (Ishmael), but then told him at the last minute he could swap in a ram.Celebrations began at sunset on Tuesday, June 27 and last until July 1.For poorer Muslim families, buying a sheep is a significant financial burden, and often requires months of saving in the buildup to the holiday.
“They’re very grateful. People come and pray for Israel, pray for the embassy,” Bourgel said. “We don’t even have to publish this event. People are expecting it and reach out way in advance.”
Years of tradition
To mark the annual tradition of gifting sheep, the embassy held a ceremony on Thursday with a celebration at the Dakar school Centre Guindi.The embassy, which regularly hosts meals on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, also works to support a number of local causes throughout the year.Ahead of each school year, the embassy distributes school supplies and IT equipment to schools in Dakar as well as more remote communities in Senegal.When it comes to the Tabaski holiday, the embassy purchased the sheep in advance and distributed them to local religious groups and also directly to local citizens in Dakar, according to Israeli Deputy Ambassador Waleed Gadban.Bourgel added that “through this tradition, our embassy wants to engage with the community and promote interfaith cooperation.”