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Gaza 'train' symbol of lost connections

Sept. 7, 2010 3:08 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 15, 2010 2:36 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- "We had a tough time collecting all the parts - mostly spares - the raw materials were mostly from dismantled cars and things, but we collected what we could until we had this: what we call a train."

The project was an initiative by Hussam Badawi and Gaza Mechanical Engineers, where he works. Badawi said the train-like vehicle, which travels at 30km/hour, was based on the American Jeep, with several alterations in scale and power.

Its outer structure was originally similar to a jeep but was altered to make it more similar to a train. A horn, a fake brazier, and trailers with bus wheels, were added to give it the feel of an authentic train.

"We made it for entertainment ... we wanted to remind people that Gaza can to anything with nothing despite the siege," Badawi said.

Until 1967, a train operated from Gaza City to Cairo. Between 1892-1918, train systems were being constructed to link Istanbul and Cairo, mostly under the initiative of Europeans and Ottomans.

Politics slowly shut down international train lines, as services to Palestine ceased when the British pulled out and a State of Israel was declared. Services were not renewed as a state of war continued and the tracks fell into disrepair.

A post-Annapolis peace process initiative proposed the construction of an Arc-shaped rail system, linking Jenin to Gaza City and providing a rail line between the West Bank and Gaza as part of a job-creation peace plan.

As Israel continues to upgrade and expand its internal rail system, Gaza residents enjoy the two-shekel train ride that takes children of all ages from one end of the coastal road to the other in an hour and a half.

"When we opened the train there were line-ups, everyone wanted to take a ride," Badawi said. "It can only take 36 people, but with music coming out of speakers set along the cars, its a lovely ride."
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