When dreams are arrested: Students stuck in Gaza at the Rafah crossing

Esraa Yaseen, Mondoweiss, November 5, 2013

The Rafah border crossing. (Image via RafahToday.org)The Rafah border crossing. (Image via RafahToday.org)

I was supposed to be in Egypt on Sunday October 27 to start my trip to Doha along with a distinctive group of Palestinian students. We were planning to attend the WISE conference. We spent three months preparing for it to speak on behalf of educated students in the Gaza Strip. (WISE is an annual conference organized by the Qatar Foundation in Doha and it refers to “world innovation summit for education.)

We dreamed of unforgettable days. My passport, with its very distinguished sentence– “valid for all countries”– written inside it was kept under my pillow for days. I was thinking of myself everyday looking prettier and more glorious and confident when holding my country and people’s message. I thought that this event will make my year. I once saw myself at the airport then in the plane flying between clouds. I might be exaggerating, but honestly this is the logic of a girl who has her dreams hovering over the world yet restrained by borders.

I was expecting a lot to happen as I live in Gaza, the city where disappointments always pop up from everywhere, bringing out the fact that our passport is not valid to any country. The unacceptable fact was that not one of us was able to get out of Rafah crossing. This is the message we have received:

“Due to the critical security situation in Egypt that keeps deteriorating, I regret to tell you that the Trip to WISE Conference has been cancelled.”

For those who do not know a lot about Gaza, the only two ways to leave to the other side of the world are Erez checkpoint and Rafah crossing. The first one is totally controlled by the Israeli occupation who decide who can enter or leave. The other one is controlled by Egypt, where no one can pass but students who are at risk of losing their studies or people who are on critical health condition.

The situation in Rafah crossing is worsening due to lots of restrictions; if someone wants to leave Gaza, there are two main risks he has to consider: the dangerous situation in Egypt and the way back to Gaza. I do not know why the Palestinians always have to be punished. Don’t we deserve to live, move, have our human rights like any person in the world?

Monday at 01:55 was supposed to be the time of our departure on the plane. It took off but we didn’t. I wished to tell people in Doha to put Legion of Honor on our seats, for we should have been there, if the world did not have this attitude.

After feeling sorry for missing the WISE conference, I am now a bit better as we have had a chance to attend by video conference. We felt happy to participate in some of the WISE sessions, even though it was not a physical attendance. In reality, sending our message from Gaza was the most important for us!

Speakers mentioned our empty seats and appreciated our struggle to attend. Our absence has made sense. We sent the message of our Palestinian people that we do not know to give up. We only know the meaning of life that we should live in all its meaning.

Esraa Yaseen is a 22-year-old studying computer engineering at the Islamic University of Gaza.

How does Palestine’s economy work?


Its legal status is contested, its land is divided and thousands of its citizens emigrate every year – so how does Palestine’s economy function?

A Palestinian labourer works at a construction site of a residential project funded by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Photograph: Said Khatib/Getty Images

Mona Chalabi, The Guardian, 14 October 2013

These days, the economic health of any country relies on that of others – but the Palestinian Territories are exceptionally dependent on factors outside of them. On what do Palestinian economic fortunes rely on and how does the future look?

Israel

Israeli occupation in Palestinian territories, the barrier it has constructed along and within the West Bank as well as its land, air and sea blockades in the Gaza strip have placed severe limitations on the success of Palestinian economic policies.

A complex web of checkpoints and roadblocks make it difficult for Palestinians to travel within the Palestinian Territories for jobs, to bank or to trade. Farmers whose land is now behind the barrier are required to apply for ‘visitor permits’ which Israel regularly rejects – in Akkaba it approved 49% of applications in 2011, and just 20% by 2012. More recently, a report from the World Bank found that Israeli restrictions in the West Bank alone cost the Palestinian economy $3.4bn (£2.1bn) a year, or 35% of its GDP.

Image: Visualizing Palestine.

Israel may have policies that hamper the Palestinian economy, but it is also a major source of Palestinian livelihoods. Unemployment is exceptionally high in the West Bank and the Gaza strip where almost 1 in 4 adults are jobless. According to the latest report from the International Labour Office, some 87,000 Palestinians aged over 15 (around 10% of all those with jobs) are employed in Israel and its settlements.

The majority of these Palestinians are employed in the construction sector, followed by manufacturing and agriculture – all of which tend to be characterised by insecurity. A survey by Palestine’s main trade union found that only 11% of workers in Israeli settlements said they had job security, over half received less than the minimum wage and 65% had been exposed to toxic substances.

Palestinian authority

Corruption is rampant inside many of Palestine’s institutions. In its latest report, the Coalition for Integrity and Accountability (part of the Transparency International Secretariat) produced a catalogue of corruption cases within Palestine’s public bodies. In just over six months, the Corruption Crimes Court received 41 cases, which they say:

included embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, and exploitation of position for personal gain. Those involved in these crimes were high-level employees, such as heads of government divisions, who were conspiring with lower and intermediate level employees.

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Rafah Prep School Water Filter

Girls Preparatory School A, Rafah

A gift from the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project and others, Dedicated to Karin Sandvik

 

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