There’s no getting around it: Life in Gaza appears better than it has for years. The major centers, especially Gaza City, are being kept clean, the stores have an abundance of products (and this is before the benefit of Israel’s policy of allowing more goods into the blockaded territory has had much effect) and the coastline is full of makeshift beach cafés and thousands of swimmers.
Topping it all was the opening this month of Gaza’s first mall.
The “Gaza Mall” sounds like an oxymoron. How could one of the world’s great hardship cases, where flotillas of ships are fighting their way to deliver humanitarian supplies, be home to a shopping mall?
First of all, it isn’t much of a mall. The first two floors of an eight-storey office building have been converted to house eight shops, a grocery store and a fried-chicken fast-food restaurant.
People seem happy enough to come inside from the heat – and a group of women said they liked how clean the place is – but apart from the grocery store, there didn’t seem to be many purchases being made.
Women said that stores elsewhere had better selections of clothes than the two clothing shops in the mall, and while people seemed to relish the grocery store’s western style (large display aisles and shopping carts) those big shelves are filled with a small variety of products. One entire side of an aisle showed only three laundry detergents – hundreds of boxes of the same three things.
Second, Gaza has never been the basket case some people make it out to be. A combination of people’s enterprise in constructing hundreds of tunnels to Egypt, food aid from the United Nations Relief Works Agency and the territory’s own farmers has made sure no one starved.
What the place lacks is a vibrant economy and full employment, two things that would flow from an opening of the borders to Israel and Egypt, freedom to use Gaza’s small seaport, and the right to use the airport that once upon a time had been built here.
That’s why people such as British Prime Minister David Cameron call this place a “prison camp.” Though now, it’s a prison camp with a mall.
There’s been another change in Gaza; this one is not to everyone’s liking. The Hamas government last week announced that women now are forbidden in public to smoke nargila, the aromatic tobacco water pipes, popularly known here as hubbly-bubblies.
Nargilas have been a fixture for centuries in Gaza coffee shops and just about anywhere people gather to sit and talk.
At some point in the past half-century women joined in the smoking. No more.
According to a Hamas police spokesman, Ayman Batniji, the continued practice would lead to a high rate of divorce. Men, he said, would leave their wives if they were seen smoking the pipes in public.
In a similar vein, Hamas security this week issued new orders to the territory’s lingerie shops: No scantily clad mannequins can be on display in the shop windows, and no risqué pictures of women can be displayed anywhere in the shops. The penalty for either violation is a hefty fine.
However, a stroll through some shops this week uncovered several stores flouting the new edict, by keeping revealing pictures of women in underwear at the rear of the shops. “I don’t expect the police will come this far into the store,” said one shop owner. “They’ll be too shy.”
Another example of Gaza’s new look was surprisingly visible this week in Gaza City, as Prime Minister Ismail Haniya could be seen at sunset taking a power walk on the road that runs along the beachfront. Dressed all in black, with black sport shoes, the grey-haired Hamas leader kept a brisk pace, with his hands pumping high, while half a dozen security men (their weapons out of view) tried to keep up with him.
The Globe and Mail
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -