Get­ting a kick out of don­keys

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DANIEL SUGARMAN

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

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