Gaza war shatters pilgrimage dream for Palestinian couple

Gaza war shatters pilgrimage dream for Palestinian couple


Hajj is one of the five basic obligations for a Muslim

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KHAN YOUNIS (Reuters) - Palestinian couple Mahmoud and Fatima Jarghoun sold their jewellery so they could perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca - a journey they have been yearning to make for years. But with no way out of the Gaza Strip, their dream has been dashed.

“We are living inside a prison. Without the Rafah border, there is no way in and no way out,” said Mahmoud Jarghoun, 67, referring to the crossing to Egypt that has been shut since Israel seized it in May during its Gaza offensive.

Jarghoun said the deep disappointment of being unable to make the pilgrimage had compounded the pain inflicted by the war, speaking at his shattered home in Khan Younis, where the floor was strewn with rubble and masonry.

"Unfortunately, we lost our house," he said, estimating repair costs at some $20,000. "Then came the closure of the border and we can’t go to Hajj, we can’t go to it. It was two blows at once," he said.

"The pain of the war, the pain of the destruction, the pain of the siege and the pain of not being able to go to Hajj.”

The Hajj is one of the five basic obligations of a Muslim and every believer who has the means should perform the pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime. It begins on Friday.

Palestinians typically wait years for their turn after registering their names with the Palestinian authorities. Jarghoun said they had been waiting for almost 18 years.

He said they had "sold everything in our possession, so that we can perform this duty. We are at the end of our lifetime. Unfortunately, the border was closed, closing with it all our hopes to perform this duty".

Fatima Jarghoun, 65, said the couple had been very happy when their names were approved for the Hajj. But "at the end, all our dreams were gone. We were very, very upset", she said.

Israel has besieged and laid waste to much of the Gaza Strip since launching an offensive in retaliation for the Oct 7 Hamas-led attack that killed some 1,200 people in Israel, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,000 people in Gaza, according to the Palestinian enclave's health ministry.