Poor unemployed Gaza workers dream of new jobs03 May 2014
Xinhua, Gaza :
For most people around the world, the first day of May is an international holiday and a celebration for the working classes. But for Billal Atallah, a 39-year-old single man from Gaza City, Labors' Day is just another day of anxiety, as he has been out of job since 2007.
Hoping to become a veterinarian, Atallah went to Ukraine 1996 to study veterinary. But he was not able to complete his courses after his father, who financed his education, passed away. That was the start of his tragedy, he said.
Shortly after the demise of his father, Atallah returned to Gaza in 1998 because of financial problems. Although he became the only bread-earner in his family, he turned unemployed in 2007.
Sitting on a chair just outside his dilapidated house in northern Gaza City and smoking the cheapest brand of cigarettes, Atallah said that he could hardly find a job that would last for a couple of months in Gaza. In April he hardly managed to make 600 Shekels (about 174 U.S. dollars).
"In Gaza there are no jobs at all and finding a job is a kind of a miracle," Atallah said. "We hope that formation of a new unity government between Fatah and Hamas would end the Israeli blockade and bring new job opportunities for Gaza workers."
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistic, Atallah is one of the 170,000 Palestinians who are currently unemployed. Figures indicated that almost 40 percent of the total population do not have a stable job.
Over the past seven years of blockade that was imposed right after Hamas violently took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel banned the entrance of basic raw materials used for construction, industry and agriculture, turning the territory into a mere consuming market for food products, fuel, and clothes.
To defy the blockade, the Palestinians dug hundreds of tunnels underneath the borderline area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, which brought materials into the area and created thousands of jobs. However, after the ouster of former Islamic President Mohamed Morsi in early July last year, Egypt destroyed more than 95 percent of these tunnels.
"Because of the Israeli blockade and banning of raw-materials into the Gaza Strip, mainly for construction and industry, in addition to the destruction of the tunnels, the rates of unemployment grew to 40 percent and the rate of poverty grew to 45 percent," Mo'een Rajab, a retired professor of economy, said.
Thousands of workers hope that the reconciliation agreement signed last week in Gaza between Hamas rulers of the enclave and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party would improve the unemployment issue.
International aid agencies in the Gaza Strip said that the vast majority of the area's population are poor, and most of them are receiving international food aid, in which the Hamas government also runs temporary job programs.
The Hamas-run ministry of labor said in a press statement to mark the International Labors' Day that it has temporarily employed around 17,000 unemployed workers for three months last year, and signed contracts with some 5,000 newly graduated students and employed them for 11 months.
Atallah, who still wants to continue his education in Ukraine, wishes that once a unity government is formed, Arab and foreign donors would start to carry out dozens of investment projects in all fields, which he believes would create hundreds of job opportunities.
"I hope I can find a job and I hope next year, I will celebrate May 1 as a worker, and then when I save enough money, I want to go abroad and continue my education," Atallah said, adding that it is also the dream for everyone in Gaza to get employed again.