Palestinian Jerusalemites mourn Aqsa 'cat man' following Covid-19 death
72-year-old Ghassan Younes, who was nicknamed “the father of cats” dedicated his life to feeding cats at the al-Aqsa Mosque Compound.
Throughout his life, he was famous around East Jerusalem for walking over an hour a day from his home to feed cats and birds and hand out sweets to local children and students in the mosque.
The retiree, who used to commute for 90 minutes every day, five days a week to feed cats and other animals around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, also used to give classes on character development in Islam to youngsters.
He lived in the town of Ar'ara inside of Israel, south of the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, but was a regular at the mosque for over 30 years.
He tested positive for coronavirus in November.
In previous interviews, Younes said he was inspired by one of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions, who was nicknamed “Abu Hurayrah”, Arabic for “father of a kitten”, to dedicate such a large portion of his life to take care of cats around the holy site.
Palestinians grieved his death, saying he was among the kindest men in the local community and consoling each other by posting a Prophetic saying that those who die of a plague are considered as martyrs in God’s eyes.
"Hajj Younes was one of the most selfless men in the community", Qasem Abdelhaq, a community leader in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighbourhood told The New Arab.
“He was commonly nicknamed ‘Abu Al-Qatt’ (father of cats) because he used to come to al-Aqsa Mosque from his hometown inside the 1948 territories at dawn to feed the cats and birds,” he added
Abdelhaq added that Younes, who was regularly photographed cuddling cats outside of the sacred complex, was not only kind to animals, but to children and other local residents, as well as visitors to the mosque.
“He was known for distributing sweets and balloons to the children, and then distributing clothes and candies to the visitors of the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque. He was a very good person; may God have mercy on him and forgive him and grant him the greatest reward in the afterlife.”
The news of his death also went viral on social media, with many sharing photos and videos of Younes’ moments of kindness.