The married couple, Alaa and Salama Badwan, turned the roof of their house overlooking the seashore into a nursery for growing aloe vera, from which they extracted the gel and stored it for use in making natural soap and selling it in the local market, in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
Alaa Badwan aspires to expand her project to reach the markets of the West Bank and Arab countries, and for the “natural aloe vera soap in Gaza to become a registered brand like the Nabulsi soap,” which is made in the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank from olive oil.
And she adds, “I do not add any colors or perfumes, and if I need a color, I use natural materials such as orange peel.”
As for her husband, Salama, who is 40 years old, he says, “We are the first in the sector,” explaining at the same time that the financial return he reaps is insufficient and does not cover production costs.
Alaa points to the “increasing demand” of citizens to buy natural soap, which she sells through accounts on “Facebook” and “Instagram”.
Cardboard recycling into children’s toys
Islam Abu Tohme wanders around the markets in Gaza City in search of scraps of cardboard to recycle to make toys and sell them later, seeking a source of livelihood to help her support her poor family.
Like a number of Gaza residents, she is looking for new inexpensive ideas to compensate for the lack of job opportunities and provide a monthly income.
Job opportunities in the Gaza Strip, which has been besieged by Israel by land, sea and air for a decade and a half, appear to be very scarce, and by the end of 2021 the unemployment rate reached 45 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Abu Tohme, 39, studied English literature, but that did not open a door for her to find a job. She is married and a mother of five children, while her husband is sick and unemployed, and he shares with her the craft of making toys from cardboard.
In her small house in Al Shati refugee camp, where there is no water, electricity or kitchen utensils, Abu Tohme says, “Anything we dream of owning, we make it ourselves out of cardboard (paperboard). We don’t have a house, so we make a house out of cardboard. I made a villa because I dream of owning it.”
And she adds, “My husband thought of making an old plane and convertible cars similar to those that celebrities ride in order to get out of his depression.”
Her husband, Muhammad Abu Tohme, 34, says, “In the beginning, I made the first wardrobe for children. Cardboard is a beautiful material that you can do anything from.” Then he made a set of lanterns to decorate his house and others to sell in the month of Ramadan, explaining that “some works need a whole day, such as Residential building by adding lighting.
On a sidewalk at the corner of the commercial street in the center of the upscale Al-Remal neighborhood in western Gaza City, Islam sits selling her handicrafts to passers-by for a measly sum of five or ten shekels ($1.40 to $2.80) per piece.
But even if she sold all her goods, she wouldn’t make a profit of more than 450 shekels ($120), which is the amount she needs to pay her monthly house rent.
crab burger kiosk
After losing hope of finding a job in the Gaza Strip, Amani Shaath, who holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting, moved to Turkey, where she worked for four years in a number of restaurants before returning to her home country to help her family.
Shaath, 25, who lives in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, established a hamburger stand on the sidewalk of the Corniche in Gaza City, and called it “Salat Burger”.
Shaath chose the Corniche as a point for her work, since the sea is the only outlet for the residents of the Strip.
In addition to the hamburger, of which a sandwich sells for 15 shekels (about $4), Shaath prepares five types of fast food in the kiosk.
She says, “On the first day I opened the kiosk, people began to come and look in amazement. I was stunned and afraid of the failure of the project.”
But she added, “People began to come to try the burger, and I was surprised by their reactions, and gradually they began to encourage me, especially since I am a girl.”
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics in the Gaza Strip, the number of unemployed persons over 15 years of age reached about 239 thousand people in the Gaza Strip. According to the Ministry of Labor in Gaza, the percentage increased as of May 1, 2022, to 74 percent.