Families of Palestinian martyrs given royal Hajj award hit by rise in travel fees

This aerial photo from a helicopter shows Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, durning the hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (AP)
Updated 15 August 2019

Families of Palestinian martyrs given royal Hajj award hit by rise in travel fees

  • Talib: If it were not for this offer, we would not have been able to perform Hajj because of the high fees and financial costs for the Palestinian pilgrims, and the deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip
  • Al-Barawi praised the Kingdom’s role as the biggest supporter of the Palestinian cause and the relatives of martyrs

GAZA CITY: For Mohammed Talib and his mother, their dream of performing Hajj has become a reality, thanks to the generosity of Saudi Arabia’s leadership.
After years of waiting, the pair were selected for the pilgrimage as part of King Salman’s hosting of 1,000 families of Palestinian martyrs.
Talib, whose father Adnan was killed in an Israeli air strike in 2006 while driving an ambulance, said: “If it were not for this offer, we would not have been able to perform Hajj because of the high fees and financial costs for the Palestinian pilgrims, and the deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip.”
The initiative began in 2001, with the goal of allowing thousands of pilgrims to perform Hajj, annually divided between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Suspended in 2006 and revived again in 2008, the selection process of the martyrs’ families is based on seniority covering those killed after the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Since 2011 a total of 1,000 pilgrims a year have benefitted from the royal award.
However, even when selected, some relatives still struggle to pay the 800 Jordanian dinars (SR4,230) per person demanded by the Palestinian authorities toward trip costs. The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs raised the fees for ordinary pilgrims this year to about JOD2,790, up more than 300 dinars from last season, which sparked a wave of anger among pilgrims.
Agricultural worker Nabil Turbani suggested that the Palestinian authorities should exempt struggling families from having to pay the fees. He said a lack of employment opportunities meant he and his family had to live on social welfare assistance.
Secretary-general of the national committee for the martyrs’ families in Gaza, Maher Badawi, said there was controversy surrounding Hajj fees not only for regular pilgrims but those specially selected by Saudi Arabia.
He said most martyrs’ families suffered under difficult economic and living conditions, and some had decided not to perform Hajj because of the restrictive travel costs between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Spokesman for the national committee of the martyrs’ families, Alaa Al-Barawi, said that each of the 1,000 people selected could travel with another family member. He added that Gaza granted 20 places to people living in Egypt, and the West Bank gave some of its share to the families of martyrs in Jordan and Lebanon.
He said this year’s quota reflected the high number of loses in Gaza and the West Bank due to Israeli attacks in recent years. In 2009, Saudi Arabia increased to 4,000 the number of beneficiaries of the honor of the Palestinian martyrs’ families because of the casualties of war.
Al-Barawi praised the Kingdom’s role as the biggest supporter of the Palestinian cause and the relatives of martyrs.


350,000 books to feature at Jeddah fair

Updated 14 November 2019

350,000 books to feature at Jeddah fair

JEDDAH: Hundreds of authors from around the world are preparing to take part in a prestigious Saudi book festival.

The Jeddah International Book Fair, to be staged in South Obhur from Dec. 11 to 21, will feature more than 350,000 volumes to cater to all reading tastes.

Now in its fifth edition, the cultural event, run under the patronage of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, will see the participation of 400 Saudi, Arab and international publishing houses from 40 different countries.

Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed, who is head of the fair’s supreme committee, has been coordinating the organization of the event which will include book-signing sessions by 200 authors.

The exhibition, occupying 30,000 square meters, is one of the biggest specialized expos in the Kingdom, and aims to promote reading and the cultural environment.

The fair will also include a program of seminars, lectures and indoor and outdoor theater productions, along with documentary films for families and children, and workshops in visual arts, photography and Arabic calligraphy.

The Jeddah fair is supported by Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, who believes it reflects the city’s culture and traditions, along with backing from Minister of Media Turki Al-Shabanah. SPA Jeddah