Clear blue water and clean, yellow sand are giving beachgoers in the Gaza Strip their first experience in years of clean and safe beaches.
A beach is an area covered with sand that is next to an ocean, lake or river.
Untreated waste has flowed directly into the waters off Gaza for years. The pollution has prevented Gazans from swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and enjoying low-cost fun.
But this season has been different. Government officials said water treatment centers, paid for by international groups, are operating across the territory. That has reduced pollution to its lowest levels in many years.
Sahar Abu Bashir, 52, said, "We couldn't come before because the sea was polluted and if we did, our children used to come back home with viruses and skin diseases.”
The mother of four told Reuters, "Today the area is clean and the sea is clean. We felt as if we were in another country.”
Many millions of cubic meters of untreated waste used to pour into the sea every day. But this week, the long sandy beach looked almost empty of red flags that warn people against swimming because of pollution.
People sat around plastic tables at the water’s edge and children played with rubber swimming equipment. In some areas, horse owners gave their animals a cooling sea bath.
The militant group Hamas runs the Environment Quality and Water Authority. It said waste that poured into the sea was now partly treated. That makes 65 percent of the beaches safe and clean. The territory’s rulers have plans to expand that. Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Mohammad Mesleh is the director of environmental resources. He said, “The summer season in Gaza Strip will be relatively safe compared to previous years because of the noticeable improvement of the quality of seawater.”
Gaza is small with an area of 375 square kilometers. It is home to 2.3 million Palestinians. Local and international records suggest most Gazans are poor and the unemployment rate in the territory is about 50 percent.
Both Israel and Egypt enforce border restrictions on Gaza because of security concerns.
Deir Al-Balah is a city in the southern Gaza Strip. There, people crowded a beachfront resort called The Old Nights, built on a hilltop looking down on the beach.
Families ate inside colorful wooden structures. The owner, Rami Al-Naa’ouq, said the structures were built to look like natural colored hilltops.
His business is doing very well this season.
He said, "When there is no pollution I will have many customers in my place. That helps me make up for the losses of innovating and getting the place ready for the new year.”
I’m Jill Robbins.
Nidal al-Mughrabi reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
previous –adj. existing or happening before the present time
resort – n. a place where people go for vacations
customer –n. a person who pays for good and services
innovate – v. to do something in a new way: to have new ideas about how something can be done
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