Getting a kick out of donkeys
A UK charity based in Israel is bringing Jewish and Arab children together in an unlikely fashion — bonding over donkeys.
Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land has a sanctuary near Netanya, but plans to move to a new, larger home later this year, in Israel’s Gilboa region.
“We’ve got just over 240 donkeys at the moment, so they need a bit more space”, Wendy Ahl, UK Operations Director, said.
The charity, which now counts Des Lynam, Anne Widdecombe and Princess Alexandra among its patrons, was set up in 2000 by an British visitor to Israel.
“She was actually living in Israel temporarily, and she saw that there were a lot of donkeys in need out there, but there were no charities set up to help them”, Ms Ahl said.
Thousands of donkeys in Israel and the Palestinian territories face overwork and cruelty.
One of the donkeys now at the sanctuary had suffered severe burns after someone poured petrol on him and set fire to him, Ms Ahl said.
“But they’re not all horror stories”, she said.
“Sometimes they’re simply donkeys that are too old, perhaps, to work anymore, and people have very sensibly called us and said ‘could we take the donkey in’, rather than just turn it onto the streets, which is good.”
Ms Ahl said the sanctuary received visits from groups of Jewish and Palestinian children.
“We’re also trying to educate children. We quite often have children from local schools here to learn about the animals, and we’ve actually been successful in bringing Jewish and Arab children together at the sanctuary, which is lovely for them to get to know each other.”
The charity, which needs to raise around three quarters of a million pounds a year “just to keep going”, doesn’t just focus on donkeys — it works with donkey owners as well.
“Very often people just don’t know how to look after their animal — or they want to look after their animal but they’re quite simply so poor themselves that they can’t,” Ms Ahl said.
“Long-term we know that the only way to really help the donkeys is to try and help the owners and change their attitudes towards the animals, so that the animals get a better standard of care.
“We’re trying to be more than just a sanctuary, we’re trying to help donkeys and people.”
Jewish and Arab children visiting the sanctuary