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Monday, September 21, 2009

Gaza's only spa

Yes, the poor 'Palestinians' of Gaza have a spa. And YOU are paying the bill for most of its customers. Yes, you, American, Israeli and European taxpayers. Because most of the spa's customers come from the 70,000 or so employees of the 'Palestinian Authority' who are paid to stay home from work.
"We have the highest quality services in the region," says Mohammed Faris, who launched the spa with his British wife in 1999.

"We had one customer, a woman who worked as an EU (European Union) advisor. She went to New York and called me from there and said she missed Rosy," he says as he smokes in casual defiance of the daytime abstinence practised by the observant during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The spa is a sign of how, despite a two-year blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt, a reasonably well-off minority has found a way to endure amid Gaza's bleak landscape of toxic politics and economic paralysis.

A handful of upscale restaurants and hotels still serve lavish meals and fragrant waterpipes to businessmen, landowners, aid workers, journalists and even the occasional senior Hamas official.


The spa offers a full range of amenities -- a steam room, a sauna, a small gym and a beauty parlour. There used to be a Jacuzzi, but Faris had to drain it in 2006 because he could not import the right filters.

A facial runs from 20 to 75 dollars (15 to 50 euros), a one-hour massage is around 40 dollars and a monthly gym membership is around 35 dollars -- small fortunes in a place where most people make less than 15 dollars a day.

Rosy's client base, like Gaza's middle and upper class as a whole, is largely an outgrowth of the political conflicts gripping the territory.

At the top of the pyramid are the international and local staff of UN agencies, aid organisations and human rights groups, and the journalists who cross in and out through Israel's Erez crossing on a daily basis.

Then there are the civil servants who work for the Hamas-run government -- around 20,000 doctors, teachers and other government workers who get regular monthly wages.

And there are the 70,000 employees of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) based in the West Bank who -- because of the internal political rivalry -- are paid to stay home and boycott Hamas.

"When they told us to stop going to work, I had a lot more free time, so I decided to spend some of it on sports," says Dana Khaled, 26, who is employed by the finance ministry, during a recent workout.
Maybe ACORN ought to open a Gaza branch.

I don't know about the rest of you but I'm still waiting for the first 'Palestinian' to do the Ironman Triathalon. They seem to have nothing else to do with their time. Maybe they could find time to train for it.

Yes, that's a picture of the spa at the top.


At 11:28 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I wonder how Israeli taxpayers feel about their government's mindlessly paying Palestinians not to work. Its not a recipe to promote peace and co-existence, that's for sure.


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