Though the recent bombings of the tunnels along the Egyptian border of the Gaza Strip alarms us once again to the politics of violence in this area, I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that these tunnels are in existence in the first place. Not having paid a lot of attention to the plight of the Palestinians lately, I find it amazing that these tunnels amount to what is being considered a major industry for the Gaza Strip due to the Israeli border blockade being enforced in the region. In fact, some claim there would be almost no economy in Gaza at all without the tunnels bringing to the region everything from food, fuel and clothing to Viagra, Ipods and cement.
Of course, it’s all a black market economy, and with that black market is the surety of smuggled arms making their way in through the tunnels to the concern of Israel and Egypt alike. In fact, the tunnels were started by Hamas for just that purpose and some are currently “licensed” by Hamas as a stream of revenue for their endeavors. Some of the shafts are 5 feet high and four feet wide and are accessed by openings reinforced with scrap wood. Many tunnels openings are located in the foundations of people’s homes, and there are reported to be as many as a 1000 smaller tunnels in existence supported by an underground workforce of 6000 people. Many tunnels are crude and often collapse killing those inside.
Despite any political or military opinions and actions attached to either the existence or use of the tunnels, I find the whole situation to be a testament to the survivability and adaptability of humans when placed in a tough situation. Digging quarter mile tunnels to Egypt by hand is no easy task, and it’s hard to imagine a life where this is the norm. Most of the people who benefit from these tunnels seem to be ordinary people just trying to survive day to day in a tough and long-lasting situation.
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