Amira Hass
October 17, 2007 - 10:55am

UNRWA, the UN organization that helps Palestinian refugees, was unable to keep its promise to give students at its schools in the Gaza Strip NIS 100 each with which to buy clothes for the Id al-Fitr holiday. Why? Because Israel would not allow it to bring the cash into the strip.

The hermetic closure of Gaza over the last four months has also left its mark on the currency still circulating: The notes are ragged and torn, a visible reminder of the severance of commercial ties between Gazan farmers and manufacturers and their external markets. Only basic necessities are allowed into the strip.

Buying new clothes for Id al-Fitr, which ends the month of Ramadan, is a long-standing tradition to which Gaza children look forward every year. Even during Gaza's most difficult periods, the tradition of buying new clothes for the holiday continued. Other traditions, like family trips to Israel, lapsed long ago: It has been 16 years since Gazans were last allowed to leave the strip whenever they pleased.

But even those who had money to buy new clothes for the holiday went home disappointed, after discovering that there are no new clothes appropriate for the fall/winter season. That is because Israel has not allowed the necessary raw materials, such as cloth and thread, to enter Gaza. It is no wonder that some shopkeepers have decided to liquidate their businesses.

Appliance and computer stores have empty shelves; even the stock of light bulbs and electric cables is being steadily depleted. People are saving things they would not have saved in the past - even medicines: A. went to every pharmacy in Gaza City yesterday in an effort to buy a medicine imported from Egypt for his anemic wife, but came home empty-handed.

Prices in the strip have risen accordingly. The price of basic products such as gas, fruit, flour and meat have gone up 10 to 30 percent. Gazans have learned how strong Israel's agricultural lobby is: Despite shortages of other products, the strip's markets are filled with fruit. But who can pay NIS 7 for a kilogram of pears?

Some 60,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority received their salaries on the eve of the holiday from "the Ramallah government." Those affiliated with Hamas received their salaries from "the Gaza government." But tens of thousands of construction workers have been laid off from projects run by UNRWA and other international agencies, due to the dearth of construction materials.


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