Hebron - report in Corona days

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Rachel A. (by Skype); Translator:  Charles K.

Report in Corona days

Report based on a Skype conversation

The economy in the time of corona

I spoke with M., the Arabic teacher, who lives in Hebron’s area H1.  He tries to describe the situation in Hebron, in general and in particular. 

In general:  Food stores are open.  There’s no shortage of food.  More and more people don’t have money to buy.


Some 100,000 people employed in Israel have stopped working.

Some 80,000 teachers stopped working a month ago or more but are being paid.

About a million people are currently not working.

Those employed by the Palestinian Authority, the civil servants, are being paid even if they’re not working (teachers, civil servants, etc.).  Essential workers like the security forces and police, physicians, are working as usual.

The self-employed, merchants, salaried people not employed by the Palestinian Authority, have no income.

Many have no bank account, particularly those not employed by the Palestinian Authority.  They keep their money beneath a floor tile.  They’re saving it for when they need it, for weddings, for the corona.

There’s talk of emergency committees to ensure food for the poor.  It’s said they might start functioning when the money really runs out and there will be less food in stores.

He says the authorities don’t communicate directly with the population.  There’s no Bibi on the Palestinian eight o’clock news.

The question is what will happen when people grow hungry, what will laborers do – these are some of the existential question being asked that have no answers.

Most predictions regarding the question that everyone is asking, “When will it end?”, have failed, certainly among those who believed it would end quickly.  Now they’re saying “at the time of Ramadan,” before or after.  Ramadan begins around April 24.

On the one hand, Ramadan could relieve the sense of fear and of shortages, since it’s a time that requires a personal soul searching and giving charity.  It may reduce the violence that threatens to erupt during an economic crisis.  On the other hand, it’s a month that usually requires large expenses – festive meals, gifts, hosting guests, new clothes, etc.

Mosques are closed – routines are upended, people pray at home.  The sermon is still broadcast over the nearest mosque’s loudspeaker, and it has a calming effect on people.

Enterprises have been established in Hebron to manufacture face masks and disinfecting gel.  People know how to use the situation to make money.  Soon a factory will be established to make ventilators and respirators, which will want to provide equipment to Israel as well.

People must stay home, which might help combat the epidemic, inshallah, but that worsens the economic situation.

There’s no governmental solution.  Most people depend on family.  Whoever is employed, or is receiving a salary, shares it with those in need.  There’s talk of providing compensation, but nothing has happened yet.  There’s no social security system in Palestine.

Personal examples from the past few days:

Friends called from a village near Bethlehem.  They have a flock.  They say they’ve no money for electricity, gas, food.  To buy fodder for the sheep.  What do they eat: milk, tea, olives, cheese.  They slaughter a lamb.  They have no fresh produce or other fresh items.

A friend from another location has been complaining for a week that she’s running out of money and food.

Someone else told me about the emergency food distribution committees that were to be established in every locality.  I told her to look for one.  She couldn’t find it in her locality.

The owner of a buffet restaurant in Hebron’s Old City said the situation is unbearable.  Merchandise has become much more expensive and it’s hard to make the payments.  There’s fear and helplessness about the future.

Our friends from the beach days call, talking about many difficulties, but without being specific.  People are very, very worried. 

I heard a different view from someone who wrote from another village, that things are very difficult but those who find ways to use their free time will know how to take advantage of the current situation and benefit from it.