Showing 21 - 40 from 65 entries
> Life in Beit Sahour: Jaela Andoni’s Story
> Sada, living in Dheisha, 120 years old
> Hend, from Al-Walaja near Bethlehem
> Abu-Yaser Recalls Life in Tel el-Safi
> Najwa Ahmed, a Palestinian refugee in Khan Younis
> Ramzt Baroud's father
> Ishaq al-Shami, Arab Jew
> A Palestinian child in a Syrian refugee camp
> This Is Me! By Dina Meo
> Mazin Sukkar, taxi driver
> Prisoner of War: Yusif Sayigh, 1948 to 1949
> A Palestinian in Dhahiat al-Barid Records a Life...
> Talbiyeh Days: At Villa Harun ar-Rashid
> Sa’id Nimr’s Stormy Career:From the Dungeons...
> A Personal Account of the Life of Zahra al-Ja’uniyya
> Growing Old in Palestine: Gabriel Khano
> Our Palestinian Elderly: A Sociological View
> Elderly people in Palestine
> Families in Beit Ummar
> Interview with a Muslim Teacher from Artas Village
Working for Nothing Except Setting a Good Example
By Mazin Sukkar
As I drive my taxi every day in Gaza, I often think of the training course I took to learn the fundamentals of driving before receiving a permit to be able to serve the public. The three-month course emphasized two basic notions: “drivers” who need to be fully aware of how they conduct themselves on the road, and “policemen” who should actively enforce the law and organize public transport. In principle, we were taught that the way these two principal groups perform their jobs offers the initial impression of what life is like in any civilized city. Today in Gaza, as has been the case for a long time now, neither the drivers adhere to the law nor are the police equipped or able to carry out their responsibilities as required.
The general public has not been immune to this disarray. Recently, as Gaza has become further isolated, more people have become unemployed and poor. Unfortunately, some are becoming creative in finding alternative, but unjust, sources of income.
About a year ago I picked up a customer near the centre of town. He put a box in the trunk of my car and got in wanting me to drive him to several places around Gaza, which I did over the next two hours. And then we got to a place where he stepped out saying that he wanted to pick up his wife to join him on the last leg of the trip. On his way out, he reminded me to be careful not to lose the box in the trunk while he was away. I waited for a full hour and the customer did not show up. I got worried and started wondering what this man had put in the trunk of my car in the first place. It turned out that the box had a big stone in it. I knew immediately that he would never appear again. The man simply had no money to pay for transportation and had to conjure up a story to eventually flee at the end of the free ride.
In this business, customer appearance does not really count. How well groomed people are has no relation to how they conduct themselves. But, with the tremendous poverty in Gaza, good looks and well-groomed appearances are sometimes utilized to make whatever amount of money in unlawful and crooked ways.
Six months ago, I picked up a very well-dressed customer who wanted me to take him to buy something and deliver it to a friend’s house in Jabalia Refugee Camp in northern Gaza, and then back. On the way, he produced a $100 bill and asked whether I had enough shekels (NIS) to exchange it for him, which I did not. He said all he really needed before we got to the shop was about 40 NIS. So he wondered whether I could give him this “small” money and said he would return it as soon as we got to an exchange shop after his friend’s house. Eventually, we got to Jabalia, he stepped out to his “friend’s house,” disappeared into a small alleyway, and never showed up again. This time, not only did I not get paid but had lost 40 NIS, my estimated net after 15 hours of driving.
Encountering crooks has always been part of the job ever since I started working 21 years ago. But things never accelerated at this rate.
Our troubles continue to multiply. Today in Gaza, I rarely get to bring home more than a small amount of money, barely enough to cover 50 percent of my household needs, and sometimes nothing after a full day on the road. With the long-standing siege imposed on Gaza, higher diesel prices and skyrocketing prices of spare parts, if available, are a growing challenge. Sometimes I wonder whether I should continue driving the taxi or simply stay home. But I have got to provide for my family of nine. More importantly, I have to continue to set an example for my children: waking up early and going to work is a mainstay of a decent life, good ethics, and sound education and development. Otherwise, why would my children be motivated to continue going to school if their father elects to stay at home when he could go to work, however difficult that is today?
On other occasions, I quietly think about whether I should sell my car and use the money to start a project such as a small supermarket or utilize a small space to raise chickens. But then I remember that, even if I were to do so, just like people are often unable to pay me one or two NIS for their trips in my taxi, they would most likely be unable to afford to buy from my would-be supermarket or chicken farm.
But life is no different for my family and relatives, who are in business on a larger scale. One of my brothers shut down his successful clothing business months ago and now seeks contracts to cook for guests at weddings and other events, which are also declining in number. An uncle of mine is struggling to find animal feed for his small cattle farm and has recently had great trouble finding medications for some of his diseased cattle. This is not an easy situation we are in.
My days are fairly plain in that I simply wake up, take my children to school or just kiss them goodbye on my way out at six or seven in the morning, knowing that I will most likely see them 24 hours later. But the highlight of every morning to me is how I delegate to my children, once they wake up and before going to school, all the duties of prepping the taxi for another long day of work. The eldest cleans the car, the younger one takes care of the carpets, the one after cleans the windows and dusts the interior, and the youngest of all, a girl, remains on standby to hand her brothers anything they need while working on the car. I say it is the highlight of the morning because it teaches them teamwork, coordination, pride of workmanship, and productivity.
I rarely get to see my children when I get home at night just like any other busy person. The difference, however, is that maybe unlike people with other more lucrative professions, I have been forced to cancel the weekly drives I used to take the family on during the weekend. My declining income together with the skyrocketing prices of diesel fuel and household needs make it just impossible to continue family outings. But my wife understands and continues to find great alternatives. She is never out of ways to keep our children occupied in educational and recreational activities as well as computer games. I am very glad that I saved, when income was much better than these days, and bought my children a computer.
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