I went about asking permission to print it, because that’s what’s required in their Terms and Conditions page.
I waited and waited and came to the conclusion that they might be very busy people.
In the end, I gave up and decided to write my own.
Of course the article in France 24, was definitely the one I liked the best.
It tells a tale of survival in Gaza and the birth of motorcycling in the war torn strip of land between Israel and Egypt. The story revolves around one man and his love of motorcycles, but at the same time it gives an illuminating insight into life in Gaza.
Since Hamas took over governing the strip a couple of years ago, the Israeli blockade has meant that parts for cars have been impossible to get hold of and the cost of maintaining them has skyrocketed.
There were only about dozen or so motorbikes in 2007 but since then, there has been an huge increase which are smuggled in bits through the tunnels from Egypt. Mainly Chinese and cheap, the number of motorcycles in Gaza has grown to around 15,000.
Like all basic bikes, they’re not difficult to repair and as the man in story (his name is Diyya) tells us – Necessity is the mother of invention – so cardboard can and does substitute cork as gaskets (and yes they don’t last long!).
I looked around for other articles about motorcycling in Gaza and found that France 24 did not have the exclusive on this subject, probably because motorcycles have taken over there as a genuine form of transport.
But the other reason was that like the rest of the world, it attracts attention from thrill seekers in fact it’s now become a major past time for bored Gazan youth. They don’t have much to do there and it’s not like they can travel far (the length of Gaza is 45 kilometres or 28 miles).
You could say that this is a good thing – it keeps their minds active and their hands busy.
Of course now that the motorcycle has caught on and everybody wants one, the Gaza authorities, have decided to introduce regulations.
But it makes sense that riders should have a modicum of training and maybe a licence. The Aljazeera blog informs us that “Police are trying to crack down on illegal bikes and unlicensed riders. They say they have registered about half of the bikes in a two month old campaign.
About 1,000 riders have gotten their licenses after taking mandatory motorcycle lessons. The police have also reduced the cost of registering motorcycles making it more affordable for the people to register their bikes”.
The blog has a video (also on youtube)
That offers an insight into everyday life in Gaza, using an example of a dad and his kids (all four of them!) on his bike, heading towards the beach – a real family affair. This dad tells us how important the bike is, not only to carry the kids to the beach, but that he needs it for work too.
Because of the blockade, motorcycles have become a critical form of transportation across the Gaza Strip and an important tool here for the youth to socially interact.
But like everywhere else, the authorities always have the final word.
According to Reuters, in October last year, “Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip say safety concerns and social traditions, not Islamic religious values, are the main reason behind a decision to ban women from riding motorbikes and scooters”.
The moral of the story is that it doesn’t take long before somebody has to make up rules about motorbikes – it doesn’t matter where you go, somebody knows “better”.
Diyya, from the France 24 article, commented that “When you’re on a bike, you’re in another world,” “You feel free.”
Most of the motorcyclists I know would agree with this statement – to be sure, this man knows nothing about riders’ rights or any of the issues we face across the globe, nor about our battles with authorities to maintain our freedom to ride.
All he’s interested in is the sensation it gives him riding up and down that 45 kilometre strip.
As somebody said – “It certainly puts things into perspective”.