Joel S. Migdal, professor at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, is on sabbatical and in Israel. He recently took a trip to Gaza City and was astonished to find wealth, a high standard of living for residents, and...900 mosques to a mere 2 libraries.
In an online account, he documented his shock and awe at how everything he'd read and heard about Gaza being a human wasteland was nowhere in evidence. He also spoke to fellow scholars who told him that Hamas is erecting mosques at record-pace in a town that was never so religious until now.
Below are excerpts from the professor's eye-opening journey:
I was flooded with impressions as we drove into the old city of Gaza. The first was, unexpectedly, that it looked nothing like India. Given the severe poverty, even humanitarian crisis, that Gaza as a whole is experiencing, I had expected the obvious and wrenching poverty that I had seen in some Indian cities or many other Third World countries, for that matter—collapsing infrastructure, rickety shacks, a surfeit of beggars, children in rags, adults sleeping on the sidewalks. At least in this part of the city and others that I saw later in the day, none of that was visible. Instead, I saw hordes of children going to school, university students walking in and out of the gates of the two universities—both the children and the university students reasonably dressed. I observed morning shoppers buying vegetables and fruits from stands, shopkeepers opening their shops, and people walking purposefully to wherever they were going for the start of the day. There were cranes and construction workers everywhere, with lots of uncompleted buildings being worked on. A garbage truck, with a UN sign on it, was making its rounds.
There was the occasional bombed out building, from the 2014 War. One had the entire top of the building, several stories, simply blown off. But other than those, most buildings were in decent shape, and some apartment buildings were downright nice.
People were certainly not in rags. Men were mostly in chino-type pants and button-down shirts. With very few exceptions, women were covered with the hijab and burka. Perhaps 10-20 percent of them were in black with their faces totally covered. Incidentally, this sort of veiling was not a traditional practice in Palestinian society; it is very much a product of the “new fundamentalism.”
The professor noted that while people on the street he spoke to showed no love for Israel, they also blamed their own community and Hamas leadership for their overall strife. The professor's last stop on his six-hour tour was to meet with fellow academic Atef Abu Saif, who said Gaza has turned into "one huge mosque."
In fact, 879 mosques alone have been erected in the Gaza Strip while only a mere two libraries have been erected.
More people, particularly university professors, should perhaps stop relying on propaganda as their source of information concerning Israel.