Palestinian women take part in a yoga session in Gaza City
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - A small group of Palestinian women in Gaza are stretching their limbs with yoga to help them teach others to cope with the stresses and traumas of living in the embattled territory.
The Gaza Strip, which is dominated by the Islamist Hamas faction, has experienced three wars with neighbouring Israel in the past 11 years.
There are few recreational activities for women in the densely-populated enclave of two million people, which is under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt and has the highest unemployment rate on earth.
Amal Khayal, who teaches the class in a makeshift gym and also heads women's activities for Italian charity Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud (CISS), said the project was aimed at training some 30 women to teach.
"We are trying to use physical activities to help release psychological pressures so that women here can form a support network for one another," Khayal told Reuters during one of her classes.
Some of the participants are also involved in learning juggling. Nineteen will become yoga instructors and 13 will learn to teach circus tricks, Khayal said, adding that more women had expressed a wish to participate in future classes.
"Everyone in Gaza, specially women, needs yoga because we live in a tough place. There are no entertainment facilities where we can unload our depressions which come in addition to our daily life issues," said Amina Al-Zraiay, a sports teacher and occupational therapist.
(Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Ori Lewis and Peter Graff)