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Contradictions in Gaza

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16 Nov 2012 By Sami El-Yousef, Regional Director for Palestine and Israel, CNEWA-Pontifical Mission for Palestine, 16-18 October 2012.

Introduction

Since my last report on Gaza in late February 2012, I have been back in early May, again in August, and most recently for a three-day visit in October. This report shares my latest experiences so that many of you who care about Gaza — especially the small Christian presence there — yet do not have the means to visit, can continue to get a firsthand account of the situation, the way people live and how they cope with these extreme conditions.

Divide between Rich and Poor

During this trip, I could not help but notice the huge economic gap between the rich and the poor; many brand new cars share the same crowded roads with donkey carriages, new marble storefronts across the street from dusty, graffiti-filled street shacks. Nor could I avoid noticing the major construction boom — mainly because of the actions of the Hamas government, constructing brand new buildings on practically every corner.

Yet, the lives of ordinary people continue to be severely affected. Electrical outages last anywhere from 12-14 hours a day; countless supplies continue to be off limits, resulting in shortages; unemployment remains very high; and the political division between Hamas and Fatah is only getting deeper, with no hope for any reconciliation in sight. Moreover, many of the underground tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt, which continue to be Gaza’s main supply lines for goods, have been demolished by the Egyptian authorities as the “new Egypt” tries to find a new status quo with Hamas, the shape of which remains unclear.

Dedication of the People

In the midst of all this, I was touched and encouraged by so many fine people doing their best to tune out the depressing situation of Gaza and live their lives to be of service to others. There is a strong spirit that guides them no matter who they are: heads of institutions, professionals, board members, university students, or young children. It is truly amazing how ordinary Gazans have become accustomed to life amongst tension and turmoil.

Talking to various people during my visit, I was inspired at the deep sense of mission and pride in what they do to serve the greater community of Gaza: whether a decent education at various levels — kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, or a vocational training — public services in the health sector or social services including old age services and centers for the care of severely handicapped. Whether it is our partner institutions or the beneficiaries of our training and short term employment (S.T.E.) program, countless other institutions that find ways to cope and even improve, or whether it is in the eyes of our Christian university students, who despite all odds are continuing their higher education under extreme circumstances, I found strength in all of their heroism, and returned to Jerusalem charged, determined more than ever to work hard to continue supporting them.





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