I walked past this car dealership’s window last night in Gaza City. It is remarkable!
Very bright lights, no noisy generator on the sidewalk, no trash or litter anywhere, and brand new sparkling cars. Kia from Korea.
The owner greeted me at the door and welcomed me in to see his inventory. Within a couple of minutes we were drinking Arabic coffee from little porcelain cups and he was introducing me to his family. This business is a family affair.
The owner left Gaza when he was a teenager to study abroad, and spent many years in Canada before returning recently to help his brother launch this dealership.
I asked him, “How is business?” Although I’ve seen some very nice vehicles around Gaza, the typical transport is a very old, beat-up 1970-80s model that looks like it is being held together with baling wire. Or the donkey cart.
The owner said business is very difficult these days. The banks aren’t loaning money to customers to purchase cars. Very few people have jobs that pay wages to afford a new car. And both Ramallah (the Palestinian Authority) and Hamas in Gaza add taxes and charges on top of the base price — to the tune of about 115%.
I asked him how he competes with the tunnel economy because I’ve heard that cars are brought in through the tunnel. He nodded his head and said that competition from the underground economy also makes it difficult for a legitimate business to succeed, but he tells his customers that he can provide a 3 year – or 100,000 warranty “whichever comes first” and he has the parts and experienced service men to take care of the cars. “It’s not just about making the sale. We establish relationships with our customers.”
There is definitely a class of people in the Gaza Strip that can afford his cars. I hope his family business succeeds. But his showroom is a stark reminder of how wide the gulf is between the “Haves” and “Have-Nots”!!