There is continued buzz this week over new commercial developments in Gaza. The shopping mall is a media favorite, as are reports of a new water park, a media center and new cafes and restaurants. Never mind that all these are housed in either existing buildings that were refurbished or were built anew with materials and money coming in via the tunnel economy; the mere existence of a few places of recreation would seem to point to the total absence of any problems with regard to freedom of movement. Not the case, as we reported last week. Unfortunately, a new mall and a few new humanitarian projects don’t point in the direction of the real reconstruction, recovery and development Gaza needs, especially in order for the economic market to absorb Gaza’s young people.
In late July, the Tawjihi post-high school exam results were announced to the dread or delight of Gaza’s 36,594 exiting high school seniors. Over the summer vacation, these youngsters are making plans for their future like young people elsewhere. Will they attend one of Gaza’s five universities, which don’t offer badly needed degrees in environmental science, medical engineering, veterinary medicine and occupational therapy? Or will they seek to travel abroad, since travel to West Bank universities remains banned? Will they join the ranks of Gaza’s 34% unemployed, or seek work elsewhere, perhaps underground?
In July, following the Israeli Cabinet decision to “ease” the closure, only 4% of the goods entering Gaza were raw materials destined for production, and of course, export remains banned. Under these conditions, it’s clear that the market couldn’t have suddenly bounced back and that not all is good and well.
The youth of Gaza continue to wait for the promised, renewed “economic activity” and hope for opportunities to begin building tomorrow’s future. A new resort or restaurant built from tunnel money can’t possibly employ them all.