Shaun Anthony Fitl
Palestinians risk their lives at the Israel-Gaza border to make a living catching and selling birds
Approaching the heavily-fortified Israel-Gaza security border without warning can be a bit bird-brained – but this is exactly what Palestinian parakeet trappers recently started doing to make a living.
In the early mornings, Gazans will advance toward the frontier barrier to set traps and observe the prize waiting on the other side; a bird from the parrot family.
“In the morning, my children ask me ‘where are you going?’ I tell them to hunt. Pray for me and thank God, who responds to their prayers and provides a living for me,” said Khaled al-Najjar.
The desired species is the ring-necked parakeet which is a foreign, invasive species that likely arrived in Israel through the pet trade.
“There is great demand because it is a beautiful bird. Its colors are green, blue and white, and there is a price for each. In the past, the price of a pair was between $90 to $120, but today the price of a green couple is only $18,” said bird seller Yousuf Ashraf.
The catchers wait for Israeli farmers to enter their fields… this spooks the birds to take flight. Next, chirping is played on speakers to lure them into nets.
A feat that is easier said than done.
Israel’s military routinely monitors the border to detect any dangerous activity. However, it is not unknown for bird-catchers to be shot at, or, even shot dead.
“What drives many young people to go to the border areas that are shared with the occupying country and hunt birds, is the difficult economic situation and the lack of job opportunities for these young people, especially as they face difficulties in obtaining work permits inside Israel as other workers do,” said economist Mohsin Abu Ramadan.
A trapper will return to Gaza to sell his trophy in a pet shop, but only if he is lucky and gets away with his bird and his life.
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