The Donkeys of the Holy Land

Forced to live in tents and ghetto slums, the Palestinian people, including more than 6 million homeless refugees, live a constant, daily struggle to survive and resist losing human dignity as they endure Israel’s grueling apartheid rule. According to Amnesty International, Palestinian homes are being demolished within a few minutes or no warning at all by Israeli Defense Forces, causing material loss and trauma to thousands of men, women, and children.

But, oh, to be an Israeli donkey!

New home for Israel’s rescued donkeys

According to a report earlier this year from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Israel relocated its home for the country’s neglected and abused donkeys to a spacious new five-acre site at the foot of Israel’s Gilboa mountains. The sanctuary, Safe Haven For Donkeys in the Holy Land, had originally been located on a kibbutz near Ramla until conditions became overcrowded.

WSPA campaigns director, Jonathan Pearce, commended the home’s founder, Lucy Fensom, for her dedication to improving the lives of Israel’s suffering donkeys. The WSPA 2001 newsletter states that all of the donkeys at the sanctuary have “terrible histories of suffering and distress, but with Lucy’s help they are assured of living out their lives in peace.”

If only the shell-shocked children of Palestine — with eternal nightmares from watching mothers murdered senselessly in cold-blood, from hearing the ominous roar of bulldozers razing homes still filled with family pets and grandfathers — could be so fortunate. If only the generation of Palestine not yet born could be assured of living their lives in peace.

No such haven for Palestine’s donkeys

Documented reports over the last seven years have shown that Palestinian animals have not fared as well as their Israeli counterparts. Animals in Palestine have increasingly become the victims of Israeli aggression.

The New York Times in April 14, 1995 reported that Israeli patrols placed one Arab town under curfew and then hunted down and killed 90 dogs that Palestinians claim barked to alert them of the whereabouts of the Israeli army controls. Israel’s Environmental Minister called the shootings “unacceptable” and Hebron’s Palestinian health official pointed out that many of the dogs were pets and working shepherd dogs.

Neither are Palestine’s animals immune to violence from Israeli settlers. Using syringes filled with poison, Israeli settlers living in the colony of Itimar, which was built on the Israeli government’s confiscated indigenous villagers’ land, systematically poisoned and slaughtered a pasture full of Palestinian sheep on August 2001 in the Valley Yanun located 3.5 km north west of Aqraba village. The village has a population of 10,000 inhabitants who mostly work in agriculture, especially olive cultivation and animal breeding. Since the colony’s establishment, Palestinian shepherds and farmers have been the victims for years of the Israeli settlers’ attacks using either trained dogs or weapons to prevent them from tending their land and livestock.

In an August 14, 2001 Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin article calling national attention to “Palestine’s lively peace movement that has been working at a grass-roots level in every Palestinian community throughout the occupied territories,” reporter Kathryn Kingsbury warned that by our silence, we condone Israel’s own atrocities against the Palestinians.

Only two weeks before her visit to a desert community of about 75 cave-dwelling shepherds near the West Bank town of Yatta, the Israeli Defense Forces had bulldozed every one of the community’s centuries-old caves, burying clothing, cars and even live sheep under tons of rock. When the Red Cross supplied emergency tents to the families, the Israelis returned with their heavy machinery and buried those as well. The Israeli government justified the cave demolitions by saying that they were built without the required construction permits.

“Bambi” of Palestine

Last April, two Palestinian children rode their pet horses when, without warning, Israeli soldiers began shooting at them from a military base on a nearby hill. The two boys, along with other children playing in the area, ran for cover and escaped but both of their horses were killed by Israeli fire.

One of the horses was pregnant and after the motherless “Bambi” of Palestine was born, witnesses reported that the young colt, too young to understand what murder is, was still trying to nurse from his mother’s bloodied corpse. The market value of these horses was approximately $5,000 U.S. dollars, a substantial sum for a Palestinian farmer.

A European Union funded report prepared by The Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) and the Arab Studies Society Land Research Center (LRC) – Jerusalem in May 2001found that Palestinian farmers have lost livestock to Israeli attacks in increased proportions since the Aqsa intifada, the latest civil rights movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This has resulted in great financial losses, loss of transportation, and loss of jobs because animals are large investments to Palestinians because they gain cumulative value over the years as they produce offspring.

“Such attacks on animals”, as stated in the report, “are not motivated by military needs at all but are meant to punish the Palestinian people, destroy their livelihoods, and strike fear in every Palestinian household”.

During the May 15, 2001 demonstration march commemorating the Al Nakba (“great Palestinian Catastrophe”), Palestinian Bambi, the orphan horse, participated alongside the children — a symbol of hope and survival against the odds for the occupied people and animals of Palestine who aren’t quite as fortunate as newly settled Israeli donkeys, who, safely nestled in their new haven, have been assured of living out the rest of their lives in peace.

Minerva Wright can be reached at: MinervaWright@yahoo.com

For more information:

World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) http://www.wspa.org.uk/

Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ) http://www.arij.org

Arab Studies Society, Land Research Center (LRC) – Jerusalem


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