Palestinian, like St Francis, Cares for Abused Animals
God gives everyone a mission, Diana George Babish said as she fielded a phone call about a dog which had been shot in Hebron. The mission God gave her is to take care of the abused and abandoned animals in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, she said.
“God is pushing me to do this work. I believe it is something sacred,” said Ms Babish, who uses an image of St Francis surrounded by animals for her online profile.
Ms Babish, a Catholic, admitted that it is not an easy mission in a place where, traditionally, society gives little importance to treating animals with compassion and routinely considers government-approved shooting and poisoning of stray animals as the best solution to population control.
“It is very difficult for me with the culture here; it is a very closed mentality,” she said. “They continue to poison and shoot dogs because they don’t consider their lives to be of value.”
A few years ago, she travelled to Assisi, Italy, and she said she continues to draw strength for her work from the pilgrimage.
Last year Ms Babish quit her day job as a bank manager to dedicate herself full time to running the first animal shelter in the West Bank, the Animal and Environment Association–Bethlehem Palestine.
Donations and Shelter
In addition to money she received in donations, Ms Babish used her own money to build the shelter. Currently it is run solely on donations and other forms of assistance. She has rescued more than 400 dogs and more than 100 cats from the streets of West Bank cities. Recently she sent 15 dogs for adoption to Canada.
Ms Babish has many critics within Palestinian society, including members of her own family, who complain that she is working with Israelis and spending her efforts on animals rather than people. Some charge her with profiting from the donations she receives, she said.
Still, Ms Babish brushes off the insults and accusations thrown at her.
“If we had vets here in Palestine who had the proper equipment and treatments to care for the animals, I would leave them here. We in the rescue community put aside politics for the wellbeing of the animals. I tell my critics God gives each one of us our mission, and there are a lot of organisations taking care of people. My mission is to take care of the animals, the most vulnerable beings in the world”, Ms Babish said. By Judith Sudilovsky, CNS