15.2 C
New York
Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Buy now


Four Hajj delegations leave besieged Gaza for Mecca | Israel-Palestine conflict news

Gaza – Four groups of pilgrims have left the Gaza Strip for the Hajj in Saudi Arabia in the past week.

Some 6,600 people from Gaza and the West Bank are heading to Mecca for the Hajj in 2023.

According to the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, the pilgrims departed from Gaza over the four-day period, with 900 on the first pilgrimage, 900 on the second, 600 on the third and 500 on the fourth day Pilgrims.

Those traveling from the West Bank will reach Saudi Arabia via Jordan, while residents of the Gaza Strip pass through Egypt.

Women on the Hajj from Gaza
Pilgrims on the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing wait for passport control [Abdelhakim Abu Raish/Al Jazeera]

The journey from the Gaza Strip to Mecca departs from the Rafah overland junction via the airport in Cairo, from there to King Abdulaziz bin Saud Airport in Jeddah and on to Mecca.

Ceremony to welcome pilgrims
Welcome ceremony for pilgrims prepared by the Ministry of Religious Affairs at the Rafah crossing [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

Hajj is the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca that is required of all adult Muslims at least once.

Every year, millions of Muslims gather in Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage. Palestinians, especially in the besieged Gaza Strip, have often encountered obstacles and delays due to Israeli restrictions.

a woman and her family
Fathia Al-Hassanat with her family before her departure for Hajj the next day [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

In the final preparations before the hajj, Fathia al-Hassanat, 58, from Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, said she was happy to perform the hajj after a long wait.

“My feeling is indescribable. For years, I have wanted to be able to do the Hajj. Thankfully, my name was included in this year’s lottery,” said Hassanat, who sat at the gathering that had gathered the night before her trip. next to the children.

Meanwhile, like other travelers in the Gaza Strip, Hassanat made no secret of her concern about the difficulty of getting through the Rafah crossing and the long wait before arriving at Cairo airport.

“As Palestinians in Gaza, one of the biggest inconveniences in our lives is that sometimes we have to spend more than 20 hours traveling from Gaza to Cairo to reach our destination. Our colleagues from the second regiment took a full 24 hours to reach the airport, ’ added al-Hasnat.

“Traveling from Gaza is torture, especially since most of the pilgrims are elderly and some of them suffer from chronic diseases.”

“But we are relieved to have reached the destination of our Hajj this year,” she added as she prepared her luggage.

A woman says goodbye to her daughter.
Al-Hassanat says goodbye to daughter in southern Gaza [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

Ahmed Abu al-Kass, 41, tried unsuccessfully to register for the Hajj five years ago, but this year, his name is on the list.

“I wept with joy when I got a call informing me that my name had been accepted for Hajj,” Abu Qass said. “It was a great moment. I am excited about the spiritual atmosphere of Hajj and we hope God accepts our Hajj.”

Abu al-Kass, who suffers from chronic bone disease, had not attempted the journey to the Rafah crossing before. He said he was worried because he had heard that there was an obstacle at the Rafah intersection and that the length of the road would be bad for his health.

a man and his family
Ahmed Abu al-Kass sits with his family in the southern Gaza Strip before heading for the Hajj [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

“Nevertheless, I am optimistic because we have heard that the Egyptian authorities are providing travel facilities for pilgrims. We hope this will be the case before we reach the airport.”

Abu Kass also cited the high cost of the Hajj, which is not commensurate with the difficult and deteriorating economic conditions in the Gaza Strip.

A man says goodbye to his family
Abu al-Kass’ family bid him farewell before he left for Hajj [Abdelhakim Abu Raish/Al Jazeera]

“I collected penny by penny until I achieved my Hajj dream. It was never easy, especially when it came to responsibilities, children and family, but they were all happy for me,” said Abu al-Kass in May. Surrounded by two children, he said.

A woman prepares for a trip
Samah al-Shurafa prepares luggage before leaving for Hajj [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

Samah al-Shurafa, 48, lost hope of making the Hajj this year because her name was not included in the tourist lottery twice. But luckily, her name was on the patient list because she was a cancer patient.

“I was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. I suffered a lot,” al-Shurafa told Al Jazeera while sitting at home.

“So I wanted to register to lighten my burden. I registered on the general list and the patient list. Alhamdolliah, my name is finally up with my eldest son, who is 30 years old.”

Under the lottery system introduced by Saudi Arabia, pilgrims need to apply online to go to Hajj. People are selected according to an electronic lottery system.

In 2022, Saudi Arabia will allow 1 million pilgrims from around the world – including 850,000 foreigners.

a woman and her son
Al-Shurafa and her son Sameh, who will accompany her on the Hajj [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]
pilgrims from gaza
Gaza pilgrims board a bus to transfer to the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

Despite the long distance from the Gaza Strip to Cairo, Al-Shurafa expressed no reservations about travel through the Rafah crossing.

“I am excited about this year’s Hajj and I pray to God that it will be a good and blessed year, that the situation in the Gaza Strip will improve and the complex blockade and other troubles of life will end.”

Rafah Transit Gate
A bus carrying Gaza pilgrims enters the Egyptian side of the Rafah land junction [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles