The war between the Israelis and Palestinians is timeless, and one known all too well by most of the general population. The thought of the two groups working together seems decades away from now. However, a recent situation involving shelter animals has struck the hearts of thousands of readers. The safety and well-being of stray dogs has convinced this community to finally work together.
Just east of Bethlehem, in a town called Beit Sahur, the only Palestinian-run animal shelter in the West Bank was in danger of shutting down last week. A crowd-funding campaign was created through Headstart, in which they were asking for NIS 50,000 in order to keep the shelter running. As of Sunday, August 28th, more than NIS 74,000 had been raised. The most incredible part of all of this is that over 400 of the backers were Israeli.
Thanks to hundreds of Israeli donations, it appears [the shelter] will continue its mission of protecting dogs and cats.
The campaign was started and is hosted by Preserving the Rights of Animals (PTROA), an Israeli organization, which will collect funds, and distribute the money to the Beit Sahur shelter. There are currently 60 dogs within their care.
The shelter in Beit Sahur is run by a 38-year-old woman named Diana Babish. Before opening the shelter, Diana Babish was the regional branch manager of the Jordan Commercial Bank. She also has a Masters Degree in international cooperation and development from Bethlehem University.
Babish opened the shelter one year ago, in hopes of aiding the homeless animal population of Bethlehem, as the numbers have risen drastically throughout the years of war.
In an interview with Jerusalem Post, Babish described the reason why she believed an animal shelter was necessary for Bethlehem and surrounding areas.
The idea for a shelter came when I saw how dogs are being treated. Dogs are not a priority animal here and municipalities poison them.
Babish searched for a plot of land to build an animal shelter, but was turned down at every opportunity. Eventually, she was able to convince the Beit Sahur Municipality to provide a small piece of land, where she began construction of the animal shelter.
She paid for the construction out of her own pocket.
President of Preserving the Rights of Animals, Yoram Erez, stated that Babish “didn’t know what kind of trouble she was getting into,” as the epidemic of homeless animals began to overflow her small shelter.
Within months, she was over $3,000 in debt to contractors, and forced to pay daily for the upkeep of the facility.
Though Diana Babish has been able to cut costs by feeding dogs chicken and rice from wedding services, she is still overburdened with expensive medical bills.
Babish often takes in dogs who are injured or sick, and many are in need of greater care than she can give them. Dogs in need of medical treatment are sent to Israeli veterinarians, where the medical bills add up quickly. One dog’s medical bill was over NIS 45,000. Thankfully, PTROA helped cover the cost.
After aiding Babish with her veterinarian care, they aimed to assist her further by creating the crowd-funding campaign. Yoram Erez believes that Babish is headed in the right direction.
The situation is not good for many dogs and cats in the Palestinian Authority, but I think Diana is the point that we need to start from to make a change.
Yoram Erez and PTROA hope that they will be able to raise enough money to open a larger, more modern animal shelter in place of the one Babish has created. They hope to have an open door policy, where both Israelis and Palestinians will have equal access.
For now, they are working in the field to help homeless animals, while raising money to keep Babish’s shelter afloat.
Animals, whether they are in Palestine or in Israel, have to be helped. This is not about politics, this is not religious, this is pure human ethics. I thank all the people for their love and support.