Social media initiative aims to join neighbours for Ramadan

Ela Jary, which means To My Neighbour, is a socio-cultural movement that aims to revive relationships and communications among neighbours. It will begin during Ramadan.

True spirit of holy month: Khalifa Binhendi, right, gives a Ramadan greeting card to ‘Sultan’ as part of the Ela Jary initiative. Pawan Singh / The National
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ABU DHABI // Ramadan has always been a time to spend with loved ones and community – and a group of young Emiratis are determined to see that it stays that way.

They have launched Ela Jary, or “To my neighbour”, in which they will visit homes in Dubai with gifts and food in the true spirit of the holy month.

“Visiting neighbours is part of our religion and a tradition that most of us have forgotten,” said Khalifa Binhendi, 22, an entrepreneur.

“We are striving to bring it back through innovative and creative ways and to post it on social media pages during the holy month of Ramadan.”

Ela Jary was launched this month on social media, where well-known figures spoke of the importance of visiting during the season.

Sharing food is an old tradition that has started to fade away, Mr Binhendi said. “The UAE culture and especially our religion taught us to be kind to neighbours, especially by giving food to express love.”

The group will reach out to nationals and expatriates.

“This is part of the UAE’s culture and where our success came from, coexisting and welcoming others to be part of us,” said Aisha Harib, 26.

Ms Harib, a social entrepreneur, said that with the support of the public the group wanted to continue the initiative every Ramadan.

“This type of awareness is part of our culture, tradition and religion. In order to sustain it, we would be creating different creative initiatives every year for us to give out our awareness messages,” she said.

She said the rise in the use of technology had caused a “semi-separation between an individual and the circle he is in”.

“We used to visit our family, friends and neighbours more often, but now statistics we studied showed it has started to decline more and more,” said Ms Harib.

“People are more attached to social media devices. Hopefully we would be able to bring back this type of tradition through social media.”

It is important that the whole community get involved, said student Hessa Al Suboosi, 19.

“The youth, adults, government departments and companies – they will all interact with it,” she said.

Participants can record film or photographs of their visits and, with their hosts’ permission, spread them on social media.

“We brought together a creative group of individuals and formed a dedicated team for the initiative,” Mr Binhendi said. “We would like to thank this lovely team for making it a success.

“We would also like to thank Sheikh Saif bin Zayed and the Ministry of Interior for their support and encouragement.”

The idea was inspired after two social groups – Social Bandage and 1971 Team – merged.

1971 Team is a non-profit social group, whose name was derived from the year the UAE was created. The team gives back to the community and supports youth and creative talents.

Social Bandage is a social enterprise that takes part more in the social and medical fields in the UAE, and educational projects abroad.

The online campaign can be found via Twitter or Instagram @Ela_Jary.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae