Palestinian children hold candles during a protest against the blockade on Gaza Strip in Gaza City on July 14, 2017. The United Nations warned earlier in the month that the Gaza Strip may already be ‘unlivable’, after a decade of Hamas rule and a crippling Israeli blockade.

Jane Looking Forward: From Gaza To Shoes And Shakespeare

Gaza. It’s the four-letter word of the Middle East.

Nobody wants to say it. Nobody wants to think about it.

Yet the contentious strip of land controlled by Hamas for the past 10 years is sinking into crisis and despair. A United Nations report issued last week described living conditions as “more and more wretched” and predicted that the coastal enclave would become unlivable as soon as 2020. Electricity is scarce, sometimes reduced to two hours a day. Youth unemployment stands at 60%. The sea — which should be Gaza’s economic engine and recreational respite — is so polluted that it’s causing skin rashes in children.

“Every indicator, from energy to water to health care to employment to poverty to food insecurity, every indicator is declining,” Robert Piper, the U.N. coordinator for humanitarian aid and development activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, told Reuters in an interview.

Most of us pay no attention to this looming humanitarian crisis, because it is, at its core, the result of long-standing political fighting between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, punctuated by horrific terrorism and war. But Israel is an accomplice, since it controls Gaza’s borders and the delivery of power and other goods. Neighboring Arab countries and the United States are implicated, too, in part because Gaza is supported by Qatar, now the new villain in the Middle East.

And civilians are the victims.

There are solutions. Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, a Palestinian-American humanitarian activist, suggested in last week’s Jewish Journal that given the animosity between Hamas and Fatah, the United Nations should step in to govern the strip. Others have also argued for a regional approach.

I have no grand plan to put forward. I only know that Gaza is an hour and a half from Jerusalem, which strikes fear in many hearts, for good reason. But this proximity ought to remind us that Gaza’s suffering is close at hand, potentially dangerous but also potentially solvable — unless it remains a four-letter word.

(Not) Made in America

The Washington Post last week published an in-depth expose of the business practices at Ivanka Trump’s company — which she still owns, even though she works in the White House. The money quotes:

“While President Trump has chastised companies for outsourcing jobs overseas, an examination by The Washington Post has revealed the extent to which Ivanka Trump’s company relies exclusively on foreign factories in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and China, where low-wage laborers have limited ability to advocate for themselves.

And while Trump published a book this spring declaring that improving the lives of work women is “my life’s mission,” The Post found that her company lags behind many in the apparel industry when it comes to monitoring the treatment of the largely female workforce employed in factories around the world.”

Some of the women’s stories are heartbreaking. Trump, as a businesswoman and a Jew, has a lot to answer for.

Shakespeare and Yiddish in the Summer

One of the great delights of living in New York is being able to snag a ticket to see the Public Theater perform Shakespeare in Central Park. While I’ve had the pleasure of seeing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” before, never have I enjoyed a production as much as the one I saw last week. That was in part because of the way Danny Burstein — aka Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” — played Nick Bottom, a would-be actor famous for being turned into a donkey. Burstein’s performance reminded me of a character in Jewish vaudeville whose puffery and exaggerations are both hilarious and endearing. Surely Shakespeare would agree.

Another delight is seeing films before they officially open. Later this week, I plan to see “Menashe,” the first Yiddish-speaking film to hit the big screen in 70 years, about a single Hasidic father struggling to raise his son. “ I wanted to explore the nature of faith and how it affects someone,” Joshua Z. Weinstein, the director, told my colleague Simi Horwitz. I’ll let you know how it does.

Looking forward

And what day is it tomorrow? Why it’s the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, whose six (only six!) novels remain as brilliant, relevant and challenging as ever. Read why here.

My dogs were named for characters in “Pride and Prejudice.” Email me about that and anything else on your mind.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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Jane Looking Forward: From Gaza To Shoes And Shakespeare

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