The peace dividend: Gazans in exile plan to return home

The peace dividend: Gazans in exile plan to return home
People release pigeons during an event to show support for a unity deal between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, in Gaza City, on October 13, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 14 October 2017

The peace dividend: Gazans in exile plan to return home

The peace dividend: Gazans in exile plan to return home

AMMAN: Palestinian exiles from Gaza have spoken of their joy at the prospect of visiting home — and some plan to return for good.
The landscape has changed with a reconciliation agreement between rival factions Hamas and Fatah, ending a 10-year split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. A unity Palestinian government will run both territories, and Egypt, which brokered the deal, is expected to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.
That is good news for Nahed Abo Tueima, a lecturer at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, and her daughters Zein, 15, and Tana, 12. Zein was 3 when she last went to Gaza, and Tana has never been there.
“I have been living in the West Bank for 17 years, during which I was only able to visit Gaza a few times, usually to attend a funeral of a relative. My daughters only know their relatives by photos and Facebook conversations,” Nahed told Arab News.
When the border with Egypt is open and the situation is safe, Nahed will be going to Gaza for a long vacation. “I can’t wait to take my two daughters and go to Gaza to reunite with family and friends and enjoy Gaza in the same way I remember it during the first five years after the return of the Palestinian leadership following the Oslo Accords.”
Taghreed El-Khodary, who has lived in Amsterdam in the Netherlands for six years, said not a day went by when she did not communicate with Gaza. “My two kids born in Holland are desperate to see where I was born and grew up,” she said. “I keep telling them about the garden in our house where I spent a lot of time and they keep asking me when will they be able to visit.”
However, Taghreed does not expect to return permanently. “Many who left Gaza against their will and haven’t settled anywhere else can’t wait to return for good,” she said “but for many of us work, school and home have changed, and it would be difficult to return for good.”
The main effects of the reconciliation would be felt more by those inside Gaza than outside, said Mashhour Abudaka, a former communications minister in the Palestinian government. “A lot still depends on the implementation of the reconciliation, but the opening of the Rafah border crossing will help Gazans more because those in the West Bank need Israeli or Israeli and Jordanian permission to be able to get to Gaza.”
Wafa’a Abdel Rahman, a civil society activist from Gaza who runs the Filastinyat NGO, said tourism and the potential of the gas industry would attract incomers. “People working with the government and security, as well as potential investors, will go and live permanently in Gaza,” she told Arab News.
Abdel Salam Abu Askar, a television producer, is excited about going back to Gaza for good. “It has been hard on many Gazans in the West Bank, especially economically. I have been calling many of my friends and we can’t wait to be able to return home,” he told Arab News.