ship restaurant fuels Gazans' longing for the sea
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[August 03, 2017]
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - For
decades, Palestinians have dreamed of having their own
port on the Mediterranean, from where they could sail
the world. Instead, they are making do with a wooden
ship run aground on a Gaza beach, which has become a
The "Lolo Rose" may not look like much, but its
eight tables are in heavy demand, with Gazans queuing for a
chance to eat fish in an unusual spot where they can hear the
waves crashing on the sides, even if they can't make it out to
"It is a nice idea but it is a standstill, it does not move,"
said Manar Shaqoura, 19, a law student who managed to snag a
table at the front of the vessel. "We wish the ship could sail
and take us to Turkey."
In Roman times, Gaza was an important port on the Mediterranean,
a stopover in the Middle East for merchants on the way between
Asia Minor and north Africa. That status continued into the 20th
century and World War One.
But recent decades have not been so good. After Israel seized
Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war, the port was effectively put
out of use. In the mid-1990s, under the Oslo accords, plans were
drawn up for a much larger port for Gaza's now 2 million people,
but they never came to fruition.
Israel withdrew its forces and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but
still controls entry and exit, access to the sea and the
territory's airspace. Locals feel trapped and frustrated.
Despite Palestinian and international efforts, Israel will not
allow a new port to be built, citing security. The concern is
that Hamas, the Islamist group that has controlled Gaza since
2007, will smuggle weapons into the territory.
[to top of second column]
Israel's minister of intelligence and transport
has been pushing the idea of building an artificial island off
Gaza's coast that would provide a port and other facilities, but
that has so far failed to win the government's backing.
So for now, the "Lolo Rose" is one place where Gazans can go to
get a feel for the sea and imagine themselves on it.
The owners once used the vessel for fishing, but Israel's tight
restrictions on access to the sea -- fishermen can only go out
6-9 nautical miles, rather than the 20 miles agreed under the
Oslo accords -- have made the industry unprofitable.
"We are under blockade, the idea is that you feel yourself
inside the water," said Thabet Tartouri, the ship's owner.
"We hope one day, we will be allowed to have tourist ships that
will go from Gaza to the whole world."
(Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Luke Baker and
Matthew Mpoke Bigg)
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