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‘Hero of the day’: How this 10-year-old Palestinian boy saved an injured dog on his refugee camp

‘Hero of the day’: How this 10-year-old Palestinian boy saved an injured dog on his refugee camp

Stray dogs living in the West Bank used to rely on tourists and restaurants for food and water.

Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on 7 October, tourists have fled and catering establishments have closed.

Bethlehem Shelter, the only registered animal charity in the West Bank, has since been overwhelmed trying to help thousands of dogs.

With the help of international emergency aid organisation Animal Heroes, its Palestinian founder Diana Babish is providing water, food and medical attention for starving dogs, cats and other animals.

Animal Heroes volunteers recently travelled to the West Bank to help to deliver emergency aid.

“The situation is heartbreaking,” says Esther Kef, founder of Animal Heroes. “Each day Diana takes dehydrated and starving dogs back to her shelter. If we don’t act fast, thousands of animals will not survive.”

Esther Kef is the founder of Animal Heroes.
Esther Kef is the founder of Animal Heroes. - Animal Heroes

Human-animal conflict is on the rise in the West Bank

Although the Israel-Hamas conflict is now largely focused in Gaza, its effects are still being felt in the West Bank.

“Everything's closed,” says Esther, “So people are struggling because only 10 per cent of them have a paid job at the moment.”

Shuttered businesses and a lack of tourists have sparked a rise in human-animal conflict.

Without rubbish to sift through from cafes and restaurants, stray dogs are encroaching on homes and refugee camps in search of sustenance.

“[The animals] have no choice because they need the food,” says Esther. “And at the same time, there's tension in this area - people are tense as they don't have income, they can't travel.”

Every day Diana searches the streets for animals in need, some of which have been injured by people.

But getting them the treatment they need isn’t always easy.

A 24-hour vet clinic in Jerusalem can offer medical treatment but since 7 October, crossing the border is complex and dangerous, especially for Palestinians.

This has proved fatal for some animals.

“We picked up one puppy that was in a really bad condition,” says Esther. “He had been beaten up by a 50-year-old man and had four fractures in his head and in his neck.”

Unable to cross the border at night to get the puppy the life-saving treatment it needed, it sadly did not survive.

Diana Babish is the founder of Bethlehem Shelter, the only registered animal charity in the West Bank.
Diana Babish is the founder of Bethlehem Shelter, the only registered animal charity in the West Bank. - Animal Heroes

Injured dog saved by a 10-year-old boy

While some people are turning their backs on strays, others are taking them under their wing.

Last week, Diana received a call from a woman in the Dheisheh refugee camp. Her 10-year-old son Amer was caring for a dog that had been hit in the eye with a stone.

“He was actually the one who was begging his mother to please call for help,” says Esther. “He'd been giving water and food to the dog but realised that the wound was getting worse.”

Together, Bethlehem Shelter and Animal Heroes were able to take the dog to a local vet for treatment.

“It was beautiful to see that this little boy was so proud,” says Esther. “His mother said later that he's never she'd never seen him so happy in his life. And all the other boys around him looked at him like he was the hero of the day.”

Ten-year-old Amer helped to save an injured dog on a refugee camp.
Ten-year-old Amer helped to save an injured dog on a refugee camp. - Animal Heroes

Palestinians and Israelis are working together to save animals

Despite the conflict, citizens of Israel and Palestine are teaming up to care for animals in need.

“That's the beauty of this,” says Esther. “Israelis and Palestinians are working together side by side - both risking their lives because it's not safe for either to come to the border area.”

Once the rescued dog was stabilised, Diana’s team took it over the border into Israel on foot. There, Israeli organisation Dogs R Us was waiting to take it in and provide further treatment. It has now been placed with a foster family.

Israeli organisations Let the Animals Live and SOS Pets are also working with Diana to provide treatment for seriously injured animals and to place them with adoptive families.

Charities are working together to save animals in the West Bank.
Charities are working together to save animals in the West Bank. - Animal Heroes

How can you help those affected by the Israel-Hamas war?

Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on 7 October, more than 1,200 people have been killed in Israel and at least 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza, where more than 1.8 million people have been displaced.

Charities and NGOs have set up emergency appeals to provide humanitarian aid to civilians.

Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, Save the Children, UNICEF, Medical Aid for Palestinians and IsraAID are just a few.

Animals, too, are in desperate need of food, supplies, refuge and medical aid.

Animal Heroes is an international emergency organisation for animals with bases in Italy, Finland, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA.

“We support animal heroes - people that care for animals in the most difficult situations,” explains Esther.

You can support their work with Bethlehem Shelter in the West Bank by donating here.

“100 per cent of your donation goes to help Diana's animals… and we really make sure the money goes where it is needed” says Esther.

The cats and dogs rescued by Diana are placed in foster care or sent with flight volunteers to forever homes around the world.

As well as providing food and medical attention, Animal Heroes is planning to start an educational programme in schools and refugee camps to encourage sensitivity towards animals.