Feature: On new year’s eve, Palestinians in Gaza yearn for better life

– On the new year’s eve, the Palestinians living in the impoverished coastal enclave of Gaza Strip, under Israeli siege since 2007, wished for a better life in the year of 2020.

Gaza’s main streets were crowded on Tuesday with local residents busy shopping souvenirs and flowers or patronizing local restaurants to celebrate the new year’s arrival. Many children gathered around the souvenir stands on the streets to buy beautiful colored balloons.

Wassim Abdu, a 40-year-old owner of a flower store in Gaza downtown, was busy arranging roses as the sales dramatically increased because many customers purchased flowers as gifts for their relatives and friends.

“Gaza usually witnesses crowds of people taking to the streets to bid a farewell to the previous year with all its drawbacks, and to welcome the new year with hopes for better conditions,” Abdu said.

Abdu, who has been selling flowers here for decades, said that the new year’s eve always witnesses high customer turnout in Gaza.

He wished that Gaza would regain its vitality in the new year and Palestinians national unity would be restored by achieving “a true reconciliation that takes care of the interests of Gaza citizens.”

“I also hope that the Israeli blockade will end in a way that improves the dying economy of Gaza,” he said.

Emad Khalifa, a resident of the Beach Refugee Camp in western Gaza city, hoped he would recover soon from his leg’s injuries that he received during his participation in the anti-Israeli weekly protests, known as the “Great March of Return.”

Khalifa said that he spent most of the year 2019 receiving medical treatment in the hospital. “I don’t like that others feel sad for me for my injuries, but I love them to listen to me while I’m singing,” he said.

Khalifa, who sang for pedestrians on the main street in Gaza, said he would welcome the new year with singing “to show everyone that he has a desire to live like other people in the city.”

Not far away from Abdu’s store, fruit seller Ahmed Lubbad, 28, arranged fresh fruits in an attractive way on his donkey-pulled cart, waiting patiently for customers.

“I have heard that we will get rid of the blockade. I hope that this will come true,” said Lubbad, a father of three children.

“We need jobs, reconciliation, an end to the blockade and the disturbances that Gazans have been exposed to over the past years,” Lubbad said.

He said he would welcome the new year’s arrival with his small family at one of the cheap restaurants that he can afford.

“Poverty is not the biggest problem in Gaza. The biggest problem is the ongoing political conflicts that have deteriorated the economic conditions,” he said.

Lina Jamous, a 40-year-old woman, welcomed the new year with her daughter and son by shopping at local markets and malls.

She expressed the hope that peace and prosperity would prevail in Gaza in the coming year. “Gaza needs a fundamental solution and a return to normal life,” Jamous said.

The Palestinian enclave has been placed under a tight Israeli blockade since the Islamic Hamas movement forcibly seized control of the territory after defeating the forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

The blockade has had a negative social, economic and political impact on the life of local residents, many of whom are suffering from poverty.