As he walks through the streets of Nazareth, Salim Sharif follows his guide dog Winston. Though Sharif may not see with full vision, he knows that Winston is protecting him just as much as he needs to protect Winston. Of the 27,000 people in Israel who are blind, about 250 have guide dogs, and about 3 of those are Israeli Arabs, Sharif included. Dogs are not popular in the Islamic culture and widely thought of as impure. Back in May 2017, Hamas, the Islamist terror organization which controls the Gaza Strip, banned dog walking in public places, claiming they are protecting Gazans from harm.
Sharif, who grew up in Nazareth, went blind when he was about 13 due to a problem with his retina. In addition to dealing with the struggles of being disabled, he has also encountered bullying and fear because of his sweet, lovable and protective pup Winston. When he first brought Winston home, he admitted it was strange to awaken with a dog in his room, and even his mother was filled with fear.
Now, Sharif has a vision to close the gap between dogs and people, especially in the Islamic culture. He speaks at schools and teaches children how to play with dogs safely. When he first started walking the streets of Nazareth, he would not be allowed to sit in any restaurant, and now as time goes on, he is seeing more and more allowance for his sidekick and calm creature. Day by day, Sharif is continuing to shine a light on how dogs can be of service and not harm, especially in a culture and community which can use as much love as it can get, more puppies might just be the answer.