18 December 2015
CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, Sami El-Yousef, third from left, meets with recipients of a CNEWA scholarship who are now employed at Al Ahli hospital through its training and job creation program. (photo: CNEWA)
This was my first visit to Gaza since Israeli authorities placed a ban on East Jerusalem ID holders back in July 2015. Though the ban is still in effect, a limited number of permits were allowed, and I feel lucky to be one of the few approved.
Upon arrival in Gaza, there seemed to be a general feeling that life is gradually returning to “normal.” Traffic was busy and more people were on the streets; shops seemed sufficiently stocked with no lines at gas stations. There were also a limited number of construction projects and more workers doing odd jobs. People seemed more relaxed than in previous visits. The two main streets crossing Gaza from the north to the south — Salah Eddin Street and Beach Street — have been widened and paved with new street lamps and beautiful landscaping, and the promenade area has been totally refurbished.
However, when one digs deeper into the situation, it is clear that not much has really changed. Electricity is still on either 6- or 8-hour shifts; unemployment continues at an all-time high; the Rafah borders continue to be tightly closed, severely limiting travel; the fragile industrial base is still in ruins; prices of goods and services are through the roof; and most of the people who lost their homes during previous wars continue to face extreme temporary living conditions. The hoped for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas continues to be a dream. Thus, for all practical purposes, not much has changed, except that the people of Gaza have become resigned to their current state of affairs and accustomed to living on much less than their counterparts in the West Bank, and certainly with much lower standards than their neighbors in Israel. For now, they seem content with what is available to them. There is a strange sense that life must go on regardless of the harsh reality on the ground.
What did we find? You can read a full report on the Gaza visit here.
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Economic hardships