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Water Security in Gaza
The Gaza Strip is a Palestinian territory, located on the Mediterranean Sea, that borders with Egypt and Israel. However, it is separated from the West Bank, with Israel severely limiting movement of Gazans wishing to transit between the two territories. Additionally, since Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamist fundamentalist organization, got elected to power in 2007, the help from the Western nations to Gaza has been limited.

This has hampered Gaza’s infrastructure, including a resource vital for all life on Earth, water. Pollution and groundwater depletion are the major concerns, with some sources estimating that 95 percent of groundwater sources are contaminated in the area. Water security in Gaza depends mainly on improving infrastructures, such as sewage treatment and groundwater withdrawal practices.

A Brief History of Gaza

Following the partition of Israel into Jewish and Palestinian territories in 1948, Egypt occupied Gaza. The territory remained under the Egypt control until Israel seized it in the Six Day War of 1967. Israel withdrew in 2005 and only two years later, the Palestinian Authority was ousted in elections in favor of Hamas, considered to be a terrorist organization by most of the world. Israel’s response was a complete blockade of Gaza, limiting the abilities of goods and services to enter the territory.

With the blockade came severe restriction of movement for Gazans, at both the Israeli and Egyptian borders. Beginning with the second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, Israel drastically reduced the number of Palestinian crossings at the Erez border, the only land crossing for the movement of the people, generally limited to humanitarian aid and medical treatment. Statistics outline the decline in crossings. Before the outbreak of the intifada in 2000, an average of 780,000 Palestinians entered Israel through Erez monthly. That number is now around 12,000. Such restrictive border controls have implications for water security in Gaza as well.

Water Security in Gaza

Water accessibility and quality in Gaza are quite poor. Compounding to the problem of poor facilities, Gaza’s location in a water-stressed, drought-prone region affects water security in Gaza. Israel handles droughts through innovate methods such as drip irrigation and desalination plants. The Israeli government can afford to finance these projects because they are a highly prosperous nation. However, these methods are a luxury in Gaza.

Gaza’s main source of drinking water for decades, an underground aquifer, is depleted, with rapid population growth outpacing supply. Consequentially, seawater from the Mediterranean is seeping in, making the aquifer largely unusable. Gaza imports desalinated water from Israel, but the tense situation on the border has resulted in an increase of just five million more cubic meters of water in 20 years, a meager amount for a population of over two million people.

International Response

The international community has a strategic interest in water security in Gaza. The present, squalid conditions in Gaza create an environment ripe for extremism and resentment towards its more affluent neighbor. Recently, Israel has approved a shipment of building materials to enter Gaza in order to construct a large desalination plant. A notable nonprofit organization called Interpal is providing Gazans with immediate solutions, such as water filtration systems. However, effective water quality reform will require infrastructure reform, as well as coordination with Israel to ensure lasting water supply in the region.

Water security in Gaza affects at least two million people living in the region but should concern the international community as well. Desperate conditions create desperate civilians, and given the history of conflict in the region, solving this problem is paramount. A water-secure Gaza improves Israel’s long term security and improves the security of the Middle East, which has positive implications for everyone.

– Joseph Banish
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Jerusalem
The period between 2014 and 2016 proved to be an especially difficult time for the people of Jerusalem. It was reported that in 2014, 82 percent of East Jerusalem lived in poverty, while in 2016, about four out of five East Jerusalemites were living in a vulnerable situation.  

How Did Poverty in Jerusalem Reach Its Present Levels?

According to the Jerusalem Post and Naomi Hausman, poverty in Jerusalem increased due to the unique disparities in its population. 61 percent of its people are Jewish (30 percent of whom are ultra-Orthodox), 36 percent are Arab and the remaining 3 percent are Christian-Arab or another minority. Hausman states that different educational standards and work ethics between groups have caused a social and economic divide, while both groups are willing to work for a lower rate. However, there are a few ways to help combat poverty in Jerusalem to create a safer environment for its people.

Tsidkat-Elaou Organization

The Tsidkat-Elaou Organization is a sanctuary that provides resources for those in Jerusalem experiencing and living in hardship. Tsidkat-Elaou has been fighting poverty in Jerusalem by taking donations to providing necessities for children, such as school supplies, food and clothes, provides financial aid vouchers, organizes altruistic events and contributes goods for Shabbat and other Jewish celebrations such as Passover and Rosh Hashanah. Tsidkat-Elaou also provides a safe space for those who would like to study or worship through building their synagogue, Ohr Yaacov Velsraёl. Tsidkat-Elaou is truly a key part of fighting poverty in Jerusalem.

School Improvement Program

Funded by USAID, the School Improvement Program (SIP) has budgeted $20 million over four years to invigorate school leadership, improve the quality of teachers and promote community engagement within 50 schools in areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Each school will undergo pervasive assessment strategies to identify the underachieving schools. Once the list of institutions is complete, SIP and USAID will host district-wide events with parents, teachers, students and other members of the community to get them engaged in the educational journey. The School Improvement Program will not only improve educational tactics, but will also provide career guidance and experiential training as well as vital life skills training.

Facilitating Access to Infrastructure Resilience (FAIR)

The FAIR Program was put into action by the Ministry of Local Government (MoLG) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The project will aid national institutions in addressing infrastructure concerns and provide access to viable, equitable and affordable industrialization to decrease poverty in Jerusalem. These infrastructure plans will concentrate on housing, cultural heritage, energy, transportation and water. MoLG and the UNDP are hoping this will strengthen communities and improve living standards while preserving their existence.

Partnering with the FAIR program, the Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People and the Royal Charity Organization – Kingdom of Bahrain are establishing a public library in East Jerusalem for $517,880. Their hope for this library is to renew the position of culture within East Jerusalem by promoting national identity. The plan is to remodel and restructure an old building in the Old City of Jerusalem in the area of Aqbat Risas. The library will be equipped with books, furnishings, IT equipment, a library system and a website where the library catalog can be accessed.

Enduring years and generations of war and turmoil, Jerusalem has definitely seen hardship and fallen on difficult times. Through education, infrastructure and an increase in appreciation for their culture and heritage, poverty in Jerusalem is sure to decrease throughout the next few years, rebuilding social status and enriching traditions.

– Rebecca Lee

Photo: Unsplash

 

Learn more about poverty in Israel