A man holds a pigeon at a pigeon exhibition in Gaza City, April 25, 2019. In the Palestinian Gaza Strip, an exhibition gave fancy pigeon keepers an opportunity to show their various kinds of birds to the public. TO GO WITH Feature: Fancy rare pigeons on show in Gaza to convey aspiration for peace (Xinhua/Stringer)
GAZA, April 26 (Xinhua) -- In the Palestinian Gaza Strip, an exhibition gave fancy pigeon keepers an opportunity to show their various kinds of birds to the public.
"Such events help us introduce our fancy pigeons to the public," Mohammed al-Najjar, a 41-year-old bird keeper, told Xinhua during the exhibition that was organized by the Palestinian Pigeon Fancier and Keeper Association.
"The exhibition is an opportunity for keepers to show their pigeons to people so that they can see them closely and know their different kinds and shapes," al-Najjar told Xinhua as he stood next to his pigeons' cages.
Al-Najjar, who has been keeping pigeons for 25 years, said his pigeons come from many countries such as Germany, Belgium, Egypt and Jordan, adding he also has some pigeons from the West Bank and Jerusalem.
"The prices of pigeons vary ... for rare kinds, the prices start from 100 U.S. dollars to 10,000 dollars per pair," he added.
Al-Najjar, who is also a government employee, said keeping pigeons is a hobby that he cannot give up.
The man expressed hope that the Israeli blockade, which has been imposed on Gaza since 2007, would be lifted so he and his colleagues could participate in regional and international exhibitions and competitions.
At the exhibition, a medical team of the association was present to ensure that the pigeons are healthy and free of any diseases or viruses.
The association has about 300 affiliated members, and has a Facebook page with more than 19,000 fans.
"The exhibition has included 40 to 50 species of exotic and precious birds," said Khalid Hellis, head of the association.
He added that the exhibition aims to convey a message of love and peace from Gaza to the world that there is a glimmer of hope for freedom despite the siege and conflict.
He said that the members of the association have a "wealth of decorative doves that are worth 8 to 10 million dollars," pointing out that prices of some birds in Gaza go beyond 10,000 dollars.
Hellis expressed hope that his association would be able to join the Arab Federation for Fancy Pigeons.
The exhibition was widely attended by local visitors of all ages, who took pictures of the various breeds of doves.
Ziad al-Sharabasi, a 39-year-old visitor, told Xinhua that he liked the pigeons at the exhibition, adding that the show is an opportunity for the public to get to know the strange and precious types of pigeons in Gaza.
In Gaza, pigeon keeping is gaining popularity. Both the hobby and commercial aspects of keeping pigeons are thriving in the blockaded territory where unemployment and poverty rate have hit unprecedented levels.
The Gaza Strip has been under strict Israeli blockade since Hamas seized the territory after routing security forces of the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
The blockade and the repeated military conflicts between Israel and Palestinian factions have pushed the 2 million population in Gaza deeper into poverty and despair.
A report released in February by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics showed that unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip reached 52 percent in 2018, up from 44 percent in 2017.
Local and international organizations warned that Israel's embargo has led to a severe humanitarian deterioration in all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip.
According to Palestinian figures, the per-day income in Gaza is only 2 dollars, while 85 percent of the populations are living under the poverty line.