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23.10.12

Rodeo Daze In Jakarta

OK, so it's not REALLY a rodeo, but for a Texas boy, it sure looks like one.

You see, Friday is Iddul Adha, or if you prefer the original Arabic, Eid al-Adha.  That's the Feast of Sacrifice for those who aren't Muslim.  It celebrates one of the most contentious events in history, since it is the basis of all the problems in the Middle East today.

According to Jews, "Abraham" was told by Yahweh to go sacrifice his son, Issac.  According to Islam, "Ibrahim" was told to go sacrifice his son, Ishmael.  If you're not up on your Old Testament, old Abe wanted a son, but at well over 100 years old, his wife wasn't up to the job, so he did the deed with a handy maidservant.  The offspring was Ishmael, who went on to father the semitic races.  Later, Yahweh told old Abe that He was fixing things so Abe could have another son with his wife.  Sure enough, she plumped right up and eventually had Isaac, who went on to father the Hebrews.

At some point, Yahweh (thinking this would be great fun apparently) told Abe to sacrifice his son, and here's where the fun really starts.  Abe took either Ishmael or Isaac up a mountain and prepared to let one of them have it.  Reports are that Abe's wife was so distressed by this that she died on the way.  Just as Abe was about to do in Ishmael/Isaac, Yahweh stopped the show and provided a lamb instead.

This incident set up one of the hottest family feuds in history, and even though the Hebrews have all but vanished off the face of the Earth, the Jews (actually Russians from the Caucasus mountains), along with their Christian dupes, have carried on the tradition of killing and hating.  Needless to say, this makes the Jews the most anti-semitic people around.  How's that for screwball?

So anyway, back to the rodeo.

Celebrating Idul Adha involves sacrificing goats, or if you're particularly rich, cows, to atone for one's sins.  In order to pull this off, this past week has seen truckloads of goats and cows being brough into the city.  Make-shift bamboo pans have sprung up around every mosque in town, with the attendant sounds and smells of livestock assaulting one's senses every 200 meters.

On Friday, the festival begins at sunrise.  Families pool their resources to buy one of the animals for sacrifice.  Afterwards, the meat is divvied up, with the poor folk getting a share of the bounty.  The scene is replicated at mosques all over the country, and even on vessels at sea, though I have no reports of this occuring on airplanes as yet.

A few years ago, a particularly corrupt politician (but I repeat myself) was showing off his pocket change and bought a cow for sacrifice at the main mosque in city center.  After the sacrifice, it was discovered that the animal's liver was riddled with worms.  Keep in mind that the liver in this culture is the seat of the soul and emotions, much as the heart is in Western cultures.  This was taken as a sign that the politician's sins were quite extensive and there was a minor scandal over the following weeks.

Much like Houston, the week has been full of trucks, push carts and any other rolling vessel delivering hundreds of animals across the city.  And like Houston, the got-rocks folks will show off their wads of cash by buying the most expensive and showiest animals.  Unlike Houston, they will be slaughtered on the street, rather than the butcher shop, and none of them will be ridden, as far as I know.  But the overall effect is very similar.

It's enough to make one homesick.  Similar events a world apart for very different reasons and histories, but still one of those interesting little quirks of Life on the Far Side.