brown bar

Palestine Flag Gaza

brown bar
regional map

The Gaza Strip is an artificial geographic unit, created by the founding of the state of Israel and the subsequent illegal annexation of almost all of Palestine. One of the most densely populated places on earth, at 2773 people per sq km, it is only 42 km long and 10 km wide at its narrowest point but has a population of over 1.3 million. Today the Gaza Strip is considered to be the largest open-air prison camp in the world. Its inhabitants, mostly refugees forced out of their towns and off their agricultural lands by the Israelis, are trapped inside, by Israel on the North, East and South, and by Egypt on the West.

This tiny Strip of semi-barren desert has inadequate resources to support a population of such magnitude. Over 40% of the population is unemployed. 90% live below the poverty line. Of those fortunately enough to have employment, 25% work in Israel, where their wages are 40% lower than the wages of Israelis doing comparable jobs. Currently most of these poorly paid laborers are not being allowed into Israel, so unemployment is even higher.

About 33% of Gaza's inhabitants live in United Nations-funded refugee camps. About 8,000 Jewish settlers also lived in the Gaza Strip until September 2005 when they and the troops that protected them were withdrawn.

Israel controls Gaza's airspace, coast and most of its borders. In November 2005 Israel agreed to allow the Palestinians and Egypt to control the Rafah crossing point (with video surveillance by an EU-Palestinian team), and to increase traffic through Erez and Karni crossing points. The construction of a sea port was also given the go-ahead. However, since then the borders have been closed most of the time. The future of Gaza's destroyed airport has yet to be determined.

The Strip relies on international economic aid to survive in even the squalor it currently enjoys. There is a chronic shortage of safe water. Over 30% of houses are not connected to the sewage system. Many children have to take turns going to school because there aren't enough classrooms to accomodate them all. The local economy is largely agrarian, relying on olives, citrus fruits, dairy products, cattle, goats and sheep. Donkeys are still the favoured method of transportation and haulage, as they have been for centuries. Things got even worse when, in October 2007, Israel cut the water and electricity supply to the Strip, a blatant example of its ongoing policy of collective punishment of the civilian population, because a few have the nerve to fight back. Collective punishment of a civilian population by an occupying force is, by the way, illegal under international law.

Tourism is a major industry in Israel and the West Bank, but here too, the Strip has drawn the short straw. Gaza has little to attract the religious tourist, for unlike the West Bank which is dotted with Biblical sites, Gaza is mentioned only 15 times in the Bible, and is best known as the place where Samson got into problems with a hooker. In any event, since Israel won't let anyone in or out, tourism for any purpose is pretty much a dead issue.

Click on the thumbnail to see the full sized photo.

All photos are copyright Wayne and Patricia Primeau, all rights reserved.
kids walking home from school

Kids walking home from school.

older children

Older students going home from school, families are large in Gaza, 12 kids is not uncommon.

Gaza City street

A typical Gaza City street.

a home in Gaza City

A home in Gaza City.

grafitti in a refugee camp

Grafitti in one of the refugee camps near Gaza City.

bringing fruit to market on a rainy day

Bringing fruit to market by donkey cart on a rainy day.

butcher shop

A local butcher shop, meat hanging outside.

fruit cart

A cart piled high with fresh fruit.

produce shop

A neighbourhood fruit and vegetable shop.

waiting to cross a street

Women waiting for a break in the traffic.

donkey cart

The ubiquitous donkey cart.

PLO flag shop

The iconic "PLO Flag Shop, your one stop shop for Arafat balloons, Bush and Saddaam punching hand-puppets, Israeli flags to burn.

Follow this link to see photos of the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Gaza City.

As one drives from Gaza City down the Strip toward Rafah and the Egyptian border, it appears that one is going back in time. Towns seem to get progressively poorer and more primative. People seem to live as they did hundreds of years ago. As we waited in the interminable line to cross the Israeli checkpoint, we saw women herding their goats, a scene which might have taken been straight out of the Bible.

waiting to cross an Israeli checkpoint

Waiting to cross an Israeli checkpoint on the way out of Rafah.

woman herding goats

A woman outside Rafah herding her goats.

herding goats

A woman with her herd of goats beside a building pock-marked with bullet holes.

brown bar

Visit the other pages in the Palestine section. click the link to go to the page.

brown bar
brown bar
Patti

This page was updated on 26 November 2007.

Contact me at: patti.primeau@sympatico.ca

This site was updated using Nvu and Style Master.

brown bar