In first, Gaza City goes to the dogs
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In first, Gaza City goes to the dogs

Current generation of Strip residents warming to raising of canines despite traditional cultural distaste

Lee Gancman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Palestinian man plays with a dog during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organized by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
A Palestinian man plays with a dog during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organized by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Dozens of canine breeders and lovers came out on Friday for Gaza’s first-ever dog show, held in the Al-Kuteiba park of Gaza City.

The show, which was organized and promoted largely through the Facebook group “German Shepherds in Gaza,” aimed to encourage the breeding of dogs among the Strip’s residents, who have traditionally refrained from owning dogs due to cultural reasons.

One organizer told Palestinian media that the show came about in a “spontaneous manner” and without coordination with any of the local authorities in Gaza.

“The turnout was a lot larger than we expected, and a lot of people came with rare dog breeds, including some brought in from Israel, and others brought from Egypt through the tunnels.”

Palestinian dog owners attend the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organised by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Emad Nassar/Flash90)
Palestinian dog owners attend the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organized by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Emad Nassar/Flash90)

Reports indicated that locals were, on the whole, pleasantly surprised to find the park, a popular leisure spot on Friday evenings, transformed into a dog show. Some, however, did express distaste, saying that the raising of dogs is not a custom of the Palestinian people. “There are other concerns which should be more important,” one said.

Palestinians, along with the majority of other Muslim societies, have largely refrained from raising canines as many Islamic scholars consider them to be “unclean.”

Palestinian youth take a selfie with a dog during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Palestinian youth take a selfie with a dog during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

The Palestine Today news site posted a religious ruling regarding the event by an unidentified Islamic scholar saying: “Raising dogs is only permitted for utilitarian purposes such as hunting and guarding. Raising dogs for reasons other than these is haram (religiously forbidden), and not allowed. This is based on the hadith saying ‘He who keeps a dog will lose out of his deeds equal to one qirat (unit of heavenly currency) every day, excepting those for watching the field or herd.’ Aside from this, dogs for any purpose are regarded as unclean.”

Despite the traditional objections, events like Friday’s indicate a growing trend among Gazans to raise dogs as pets.

A Palestinian girl poses for a picture with a dog during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organised by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
A Palestinian girl poses for a picture with a dog during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organized by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

“Raising dogs as pets is not so widespread in Gaza, and people in the past were not so interested, but this is changing,” one canine enthusiast was quoted by London-based al-Quds al-Arabi in early January.

According to the report, the trend is gaining popularity, particularly among the youth of the Strip, who, aided by social media, are arranging events to meet up with like-minded individuals.

Palestinians watch dogs fight during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organised by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Palestinians watch dogs fight during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organized by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

It’s an expensive pastime, though, as local breeders are few, and due to the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, import can be difficult.

“Just bringing in a dog can cost $500, while the dog itself can cost between $500 and $1,000,” said one dog lover.

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