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Rami Almeghari

Ramadan looks different in Gaza

Azzawiya market is not the only place taking an economic hit this Ramadan [Rami Almeghari]

Date of publication: 15 June, 2017

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"I am not planning to buy more sweets during this holy month," a Gaza resident told The New Arab, as the under-siege enclave becomes overwhelmed by poverty.
The holy month of Ramadan is a special occasion for Muslims worldwide - not least in the Gaza Strip, with 1.5 million Palestinians, of a two-million population, now living under the poverty line.

In the Azzawiya marketplace in Gaza City, Abu Ehab Elyazjy, a long-time seller of Ramadan favourites including dates and peanuts, told The New Arab that the situation this year is quite different from previous years.

"Actually, my customers come over to the shop to buy much fewer goods, including dates," he said. "One of my customers used to get a whole five kilogram box of dates. This season, he only got half a kilo. People's purchasing power has dropped considerably, especially over the past couple of months."

One of my customers has four little children. This season, he could only afford one Fanoos...

On another corner of the market, Abu Mohammad, who sells Ramadan-related toys and lights, was surrounded by local customers.

"One of my customers has four little children," he told The New Arab. "This season, he could only afford one Fanoos [a special lantern adored by children] during Ramadan. This is an unprecedented situation. We hope that the situation gets better and that unity is realised, soonest."

Azzawiya market, Gaza City [Rami Almeghari]

Customers complain

Speaking to The New Arab, Abu Iyad Mohammad, a veteran administrator in the PA education ministry, was joined by his nephew.

"Over the past couple of months, my salary has been partially cut - by 30 percent," he said. "I am myself responsible for a family of six members along with seven grandchildren. You know, for this month of Ramadan, I plan to only buy some basic vegetables and foods. For example, I am not planning to buy more sweets during this holy month."


It's not only the marketplace, where many of the city's social classes go to shop, that is feeling the pinch. In major supermarkets across the city, Ramadan is being celebrated differently this year. Rewan Ajour is a private-sector dentist in Gaza City. At the French-owned Carrefour supermarket, she told The New Arab that the situation has overshadowed her day-to-day life.

"Actually, with the cuts of PA salaries, I myself began to receive fewer patients into my clinic. This of course makes me plan my expenditures as well. You know, I come here [to the supermarket] so I can find whatever I need, instead of moving around to buy things. Today, I am only going to buy some rice."

Today, I am only going to buy some rice

Politics

Over the past couple of months, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority has been slashing the salaries of Gaza-based public sector workers by 30 percent. This comes amid a heated controversy between the PA and Hamas, which rules in Gaza, over responsibility for a delay a national unity talks.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority had warned of measures against Gaza in order to force a "reconciliation" deal.

Hamas authorities in Gaza have long been cash-strapped, and a June 2016 deal to form a national consensus government hasn't appeared to have helped, as Hamas continues to reject Abbas' terms.

Mohsen Abu Ramadan, a leading economic analyst in Gaza, told The New Arab that the embattled Strip's current economic hardships could be eased, once both parties agree to a national unity administration.

"I believe that both parties should have the will to reach an agreement, based on the previous understandings in Shati, Doha and Cairo," Abu Ramadan said.

Jamal Alkhudary, a Gaza-based Member of Parliament, believes that there is one more reason for the current bad economic conditions.

"I believe that the Israeli siege that has been in place for more than a decade now, is causing many hardships for the Gaza population," Alkhudary told The New Arab.

According to the Gaza-based Palestinian committee for breaking the Israeli siege, the poverty rate in Gaza has reached more than 50 percent, while 80 percent of Gaza's industrial facilities have been either partially or completely damaged because of the siege and three major Israeli wars against Gaza.

The damage to those industries has left more than 250,000 workers jobless.

Rami alMeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari

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