Helping Gazans fulfil Hajj dream

Palestinian Muslim pilgrims arrive at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip, on August 14, 2017, ahead of their departure to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah. (AFP)
Updated 03 August 2019

Helping Gazans fulfil Hajj dream

  • A special tent city has been set up to accommodate all pilgrims during their stay in Saudi Arabia

JERUSALEM: Omar Mohammad Raboun has been trying to perform the Hajj pilgrimage for 10 years.
This year his name and that of his wife, Amira, popped up when the Palestinian Ministry of Islamic Waqf chose them in the lottery for Gazans to participate. 
Omar, 69, is a retired employee of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and told Arab News that he could not wait to visit the Kaaba and tour Madinah. “I have been waiting a long time for this opportunity to carry out the fifth duty of all Muslim believers,” he said.
While the pilgrimage has been known for centuries as a source of hardship, this year’s delegation expect to have things made easier as a result of an agreement reached with Palestine Airways to fly the pilgrims from Cairo International Airport directly to Madinah. Omar has never flown before, but said: “I am a believer and I know that our lives are in God’s hands.”
Amira, mother of four boys and five girls, is not as keen. “I have never flown also but to be honest I am a bit afraid,” she said. 

HIGHLIGHTS

• While the pilgrimage has been known for centuries as a source of hardship, this year’s delegation expect to have things made easier as a result of an agreement reached with Palestine Airways to fly the pilgrims from Cairo International Airport directly to Madinah.

• Palestine Airways has rented modern planes from EgyptAir to help transport the pilgrims back and forth to the holy places in Saudi Arabia.  

Both Omar and Amira collected their tickets and vouchers at the Hanief Travel Agency, which organizes the Hajj trips. Mohammad Abdel Bari, the owner of the agency, told Arab News that this year’s pilgrims will have an easier time getting to Makkah and Madinah. “We have coordinated with the Egyptian and Saudi authorities and we have been promised that the travelers will be checked only at the first check point and then will be able to whiz through all other checkpoints in Sinai until they get to Cairo International Airport.”
Ramadan Barghouti, a senior official at Palestine Airways, told Arab News the Palestinian company has rented modern planes from EgyptAir to help transport the pilgrims back and forth to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. 
“We have secured excellent deals with EgyptAir and we are able to offer the pilgrims land and air transport, as well as accommodation, for $3,942 per person,” said Barghouti, adding that Gazan would depart on July 25 and be back in Gaza just after Eid Al-Adha, around the week of Aug. 18.
Assem Salem, the Palestinian minister of transport, has stated that 3,000 Gazans will travel on the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year exclusively with Palestine Airways in coordination with EgyptAir.
A special tent city has been set up to accommodate all pilgrims during their stay in the Kingdom.


Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

Updated 15 November 2019

Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

BEIRUT: Three major Lebanese parties have agreed on nominating Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, to become prime minister of a new government, the Lebanese broadcasters LBCI and MTV reported on Thursday.
The agreement was reached in a meeting on Thursday between outgoing Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician, and senior representatives of the Shiite groups Amal and Hezbollah.
There was no official comment from the parties or Safadi. The broadcasters did not identify their sources.
Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of an unprecedented wave of protests against ruling politicians who are blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Hariri remains caretaker prime minister for now.
Since quitting, Hariri, who is aligned with the West and Gulf Arab states, has been holding closed-door meetings with parties including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which had wanted him to be prime minister again.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim according to the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.
Mustaqbal Web, a Hariri-owned news website, said a meeting between Hariri, Ali Hassan Khalil of the Amal Movement and Hussein Al-Khalil of Hezbollah had discussed recommending Safadi for the post.
MTV said the government would be a mixture of politicians and technocrats. Mustaqbal Web said the type of government was not discussed, and neither was the question of whether Hariri’s Future Movement would be part of the Cabinet.
LBCI said the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party allied to Hezbollah, had also agreed to Safadi’s nomination.
They did not identify their sources.
Safadi is a prominent businessman and member of parliament from the northern city of Tripoli. He served previously as finance minister from 2011-2014 under prime minister Najib Mikati.
Prior to that, he served as minister of economy and trade in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who was backed by the West. He held that post again in the Hariri-led Cabinet that took office in 2009.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister of a Cabinet of specialist ministers which he believed would be best placed to win international aid and steer Lebanon out of its economic crisis, sources close to Hariri have said.