In Gaza, Christians share in the spirit of Ramadan

In Gaza, Christians share in the spirit of Ramadan
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Young Palestinians ride a bicycle and a mini pedal-powered car along a street decorated with lit up umbrellas in Rafah. (File/AFP)
In Gaza, Christians share in the spirit of Ramadan
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Gaza's Kateb Wilaya mosque, which dates back to the early 14th century CE, and a church stand together. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 April 2021

In Gaza, Christians share in the spirit of Ramadan

In Gaza, Christians share in the spirit of Ramadan
  • According to church statistics, there are 390 Christian families living in Gaza among roughly 2 million Muslims
  • As is the prevailing custom among Gazans, Tarazi said she traditionally cooks Mulukhiya on the first day of Ramadan

GAZA CITY: Many Christians in the Gaza Strip participate in the customs and rituals of Ramadan, Sanaa Tarazi, secretary of the Supreme Presidential Committee for Churches Affairs, told Arab News. She stressed that Christians in Gaza are “an integral part of the Palestinian people.”
According to church statistics, there are 390 Christian families, with an estimated 1,313 members, living in Gaza among roughly 2 million Muslims.
“No one can distinguish a Muslim from a Christian, for we are all close neighbors, having a bond of love and affection between us,” Tarazi said.

Tarazi grew up in her family’s home in the heart of old Gaza. Ramadan, she said, is a month of “beautiful childhood memories” when she and her friends from the neighborhood would play with lanterns and fireworks in the streets, transforming night into day.
She has passed that love on to her two children, who are currently studying abroad, decorating the house with lanterns and other ornaments every Ramadan.

“Our eating and drinking habits change greatly during Ramadan,” she said, “Many days, we will (forego) lunch and eat at the Maghrib (evening) prayer call.” She added that she is careful to delay cooking her family’s food so that the smell will not disturb her Muslim neighbors when they are fasting.
As is the prevailing custom among Gazans, Tarazi said she traditionally cooks Mulukhiya on the first day of Ramadan, in anticipation of a good and blessed year.
She and her neighbors exchange Ramadan food and sweets. Tarazi said she makes Qatayef at home to distribute to her Muslim and Christian neighbors throughout Ramadan.

Tarazi’s husband, Majed — leader of the Arab Orthodox Scouts in Gaza, shares her love for the Muslim holy month. He told Arab News that Ramadan nights out with friends are a “special experience” and that this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is missing a number of the usual Ramadan rituals with his many Muslim friends.
The scouts are often deployed on Gaza’s streets during Ramadan to distribute water and dates to those returning home late after work before iftar, he explained. The scouts also normally host an iftar at the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza, but it has been canceled this month, for the second year in a row. “We host that iftar at the church to express tolerance and show the depth of the relations with Muslims that bind us in Gaza,” he said.

He pointed to the historic minaret of the Kateb Wilaya mosque, which dates back to the early 14th century CE and overlooks the church. “This is our relationship: Loving neighbors, partners in the homeland, sharing a common destiny,” he said.
“Just as our Muslim brothers congratulate us on our religious occasions, and they share our joys and sorrows, we exchange love and respect with them, and we appreciate the holiness of their rituals and religious occasions,” he added.


Dubai warns residents over ‘big cat’ on the loose

Dubai warns residents over ‘big cat’ on the loose
Updated 19 May 2021

Dubai warns residents over ‘big cat’ on the loose

Dubai warns residents over ‘big cat’ on the loose
  • The creature has been prowling one of the Springs 3 community

DUBAI: Dubai Police and Municipality officials were attempting to capture a “wild animal” on the loose since Tuesday morning.

The creature, described by residents as a black big cat, has been prowling one of the city’s gated communities.

Dubai Media Office tweeted saying Dubai Police had reassured the community that it is taking all measures to minimize any potential danger to people from a wild animal that was spotted in The Springs 3 area.

Trained professionals are currently conducting an extensive search to locate and capture the animal.

However, authorities advised members of The Springs community to exercise all necessary caution.

Dubai Police cautioned the public saying “bringing out any kind of wild animal into a public environment is strictly prohibited under the emirate’s laws.” Violators can face a jail term of up to six months in addition to severe financial penalties.


Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Co. rescues, rehabilitates 2 endangered turtles

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Co. rescues, rehabilitates 2 endangered turtles
The Red Sea Development Co., as part of its initiative to protect rare turtle species, released two endangered Hawksbill sea turtles into their natural habitat near Al-Waqadi Island. (SPA)
Updated 19 May 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Co. rescues, rehabilitates 2 endangered turtles

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Co. rescues, rehabilitates 2 endangered turtles
  • Hawksbill turtles named Amal and Hayaat — meaning “hope” and “life” — were discovered in two separate incidents by TRSDC contractors
  • TRSDC, in cooperation with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, spent weeks rehabilitating the reptiles at a specialized center in Jeddah

RIYADH: Two of the world’s rarest turtles were returned to a natural habitat in Saudi Arabia after being rescued and nursed back to health.

The hawksbill turtles named Amal and Hayaat — meaning “hope” and “life” — were discovered in two separate incidents by contractors for the Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC).

TRSDC, in cooperation with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), spent weeks rehabilitating the reptiles at a specialized center in Jeddah as a part of its initiative to protect endangered sea turtles.

Both turtles were unable to dive when they were discovered so the National Center for Wildlife Development delivered the turtles to Fakieh Aquarium in Jeddah for treatment.

Hawksbill turtles have a beak-like mouth, span 65-90 centimeters and weigh between 45-70 kilograms. They can be found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, along with the Red Sea.

TRSDC put out a video titled “Journey of Hope” documenting the turtles’ release. The Red Sea environmental sustainability team chose to release the rare turtles at Waqadi Island, as it served as a primary nesting ground for them. The island provided the necessary environment to grow their species and live peacefully without any threats of overfishing, pollution, boat traffic or industrial development.

Waqadi Island will remain untouched and undeveloped as one of the protected areas by the TRSDC, which has developed 22 islands for tourism. It will ensure that 75 percent of the area will remain untouched to ensure the purest levels of environmental sustainability for species like the hawksbill turtles.

The TRSDC aims to enact special laws for the development and preservation of the environment and targets an increase of biodiversity in the area by 30 percent over the next 20 years.

The TRSDC and KAUST will continue to grow the turtle tracking program to support the enactment of new standards for sustainable development in an initiative that includes 10 other hawksbill turtles. The studies will lay the foundation for sustainability in future development plans.


‘This needs to stop!’: Celebrity socialite Paris Hilton expresses support for Palestine

‘This needs to stop!’: Celebrity socialite Paris Hilton expresses support for Palestine
Updated 17 May 2021

‘This needs to stop!’: Celebrity socialite Paris Hilton expresses support for Palestine

‘This needs to stop!’: Celebrity socialite Paris Hilton expresses support for Palestine
  • ‘This is so heartbreaking. This needs to stop! #SavePalestine #GazaUnderAttack #stopthegenocide’

DUBAI: Socialite Paris Hilton has expressed support for Palestine and the Palestinian people as Israel continued its heavy bombardment of the occupied territories in an escalating conflict with Hamas militants.

The celebrity personality, who built her way from being a pampered hotel scion to a successful entrepreneur with a billion-dollar global brand, called for a halt in Israeli attacks against Gaza and a stop to the ‘genocide.’

““This is so heartbreaking. This needs to stop! #SavePalestine #GazaUnderAttack #stopthegenocide”,” Paris tweeted in an accompanying article from The Guardian where Israel claimed attacks in Gaza would continue until there is ‘complete quiet.’

Israeli air strikes killed 33 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst reported daily death toll yet in the almost week-long clashes.

 


The heaviest fighting since 2014, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, saw Hamas and Israel again trade heavy fire, with the death toll rising to 181 in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza since Monday and at 10 in Israel, according to authorities on either side.

The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation opened an emergency meeting Sunday over the heavy fighting, the first major move among Middle East nations still grappling with how to address the conflict.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki of the Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, decried what he called Israel’s “cowardly attacks” at the start of the meeting.

Israel said Sunday morning its “continuing wave of strikes” had in the past 24 hours struck over 90 targets across Gaza, where the destruction of a building housing news media organizations sparked an international outcry.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “dismayed” by civilian casualties in Gaza and “deeply disturbed” by Israel’s strike on Saturday on the tower housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera bureaus, a spokesperson said.

Israel’s army said Sunday that about 3,000 rockets had been fired from the coastal strip towards Israel, the highest rate ever recorded, of which about 450 failed launches fell in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted over a thousand rockets, the army said, in almost a week during which Israeli residential buildings have been hit, with over 500 people wounded.


Kazakhstan says 350 rare antelopes killed by lightning

Kazakhstan says 350 rare antelopes killed by lightning
Updated 14 May 2021

Kazakhstan says 350 rare antelopes killed by lightning

Kazakhstan says 350 rare antelopes killed by lightning
  • Discovery came during calving season for the Saiga, which is known for its distinctive bulbous nose
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Saiga among five critically endangered antelopes

Almaty: Kazakhstan said Friday that around 350 critically endangered Saiga antelopes had been killed, probably by lightning, after villagers found their bodies in steppe land in the west of the country.
The discovery came during calving season for the Saiga, which is known for its distinctive bulbous nose.
The Kazakh ecological ministry said in a statement that lightning was the probable cause of their deaths “as there are traces of lightning strikes on the carcasses.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), whose “Red List” is the scientific reference for threatened wildlife, lists the Saiga as among five critically endangered antelope species, with a population of around 124,000 adults.
Kazakhstan is home to the vast majority of the animals, with Russia’s Kalmykia region and Mongolia hosting much smaller populations.
In 2015, around 200,000 of the antelopes — well over half the total global population at the time — were wiped out by what scientists later determined was a nasal bacterium that spread in unusually warm and humid conditions.
In an aerial survey in 2019, Kazakhstan said its Saiga population was estimated at more than 330,000 individuals.
Poaching is a persistent threat, fueled by demand for horn in traditional Chinese medicine. Kazakhstan’s leaders pledged to crack down on the crime after two state rangers were killed by poachers in 2019.


As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets

As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets
Updated 14 May 2021

As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets

As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets
BEIRUT: Ibrahim Al-Dika had raised his Belgian shepherd Lexi since she was a tiny pup, but then Lebanon’s economic crisis made him jobless and he had to sell her to repay a bank loan.
“It got to the point where I was no longer able to feed her, the bank was pressuring me, and I hit a wall,” said the 26-year-old, devastated beside her empty kennel outside his Beirut home.
“I didn’t sell a car or a telephone. I sold a soul. I sold a part of me.”
Can you afford to keep your pet? Animal activists say this is a dilemma a growing number of Lebanese owners are facing as their purchasing power nosedives.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese have lost their jobs or seen their income reduced to a pittance due to Lebanon’s worst economic crisis in decades.
As many families struggle to stay afloat, activists say increasingly more pet owners are asking for help to feed or re-home their animals, selling them, or in the worst cases abandoning them.
Dika, after losing his father to illness, was laid off last year when his employer, a fashion retailer, closed shop, affecting his ability to support his mother and brother.
He had spent around a year caring for Lexi, and training her to sit, heel, give him the paw, and play dead.
But when the bank started calling, he saw no option other than to sell her.
He drove over a few days later to check in on her, and Lexi thought he had come to take her home.
“She leapt straight into my car,” he said. “She broke my heart the way she looked at me.”
With more than half of Lebanon’s population now living in poverty, many Lebanese have to depend on non-governmental organizations to get by — even to feed their pets.
Amal Ramadan, 39, said she used to make donations to animal charity PAW. But these days it is her receiving free bags of food from them for her pit bull and bichon, Nelly and Fluffy.
Her monthly salary working in car rental, once equivalent to $1,000, is now worth just $120 because of the Lebanese currency’s sharp devaluation.
“I don’t have enough income to feed my pets,” said the widowed mother of two, who has taken on extra work to make ends meet.
Ramadan said she would rather starve than give up Nelly and Fluffy.
But as the price of imported pet food, meat and veterinary care soars, activists said some other animals have not been so lucky.
At the Woof N’ Wags dog shelter in southern Lebanon, volunteer Ghada Al-Khateeb watched a female dog lying on her side, breathing weakly under a grubby white coat, after she was rescued from the local trash dump.
She said pet abandonments were on the rise.
“Nobody can afford to feed their dogs anymore,” said the 32-year-old hairdresser and divorced mother of twins.
“When they come to hand them over, they tell us: ‘our children are our priority’.”
The shelter’s founder, 28-year-old Joe Okdjian, said he was in desperate need of more donations.
“Sometimes they go a day or two without food,” he said of the 90 dogs already in his care.
As Lebanon’s economy crumbles, people’s fates are mirrored in those of their pets.
In the capital, rescuer Soraya Mouawad said two or three people a week were asking her to re-home their animal.
They say they are emigrating, moving into a smaller home, or can no longer look after them “for personal reasons,” said the founder of Animals Pride and Freedom.
Many young professionals have fled Lebanon since 2019, especially after a massive explosion in Beirut last summer killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of the city.
Dedicated activists are working to ensure dozens of pets can also emigrate.
In one room at the Animals Lebanon shelter in Beirut, two cats lay in their beds.
One of them, Hips, was hit by a car in February and is paralyzed below the waist. The other, Edward, was dumped in a box in the street in November and appears to suffer from an allergy.
Soon, the charity said, Hips and Edward are set to travel to a new life in the United States.