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West Bank: giving entrepreneurs a boost in the shadow of the barrier

20-04-2007 Feature

Most people in the village of Beit Sira no longer have access to jobs in Israel and Jerusalem and restriction on movement make working in Ramallah nearly impossible. The ICRC is helping 26 local businesses in the village under its Livelihood Support Programme.

AbdulKarim Abu Saffiyeh runs a small maintenance and repair shop, fixing small motors and household appliances in the village of Beit Sira located on the West Bank side of the barrier separating Ramallah from Israeli settlements. The ICRC provided him with tools including a drill, a welding machine, a grinder and a set of spanners.

  ©ICRC/B. Barrett/il-e-01262    
  AbdulKarim Abu Saffiyeh in his repair shop in Beit Sira.    
     " In the past it was much better, but now many people here don’t have enough money to pay for repairs, " says 45 year-old AbdulKarim. " The tools provided by the ICRC allow me to do types of work I was not equipped to handle before. "
Recently he was able to construct a metal window frame and to repair a washing machine with the tools he received, and he says his income has increased significantly.
AbdulKarim worked in the construction industry in Israel until 1991 when he was diagnosed with leukaemia. Although he says his health is better, he is still weak from the treatments.
He works in his shop from eight in the morning until early or late afternoon, depending on demand. Because he can work sitting down, he says it's easier on his health. AbdulKarim says the new income has reduced his dependence on assistance to support his family of six.
  ©ICRC/B. Barrett/il-e-01261    
  Ibrahim Abu Safiyyeh gives a haircut in his newly renovated barbershop.    
    40 year-old Ibrahim Hasan Khader Abu Safiyyeh is the one full-time barber in the village of Beit Sira. The ICRC provided him with a barber's chair, clippers, a hair dryer and other small tools of his trade. The equipment encouraged him to modernize and redecorate his shop located just off the main square of the village.
Since then he says his income has increased by about 33% per month. " More people are coming because the shop is more attractive, " he says, " I've been a barber here for twenty years, I know the people. "  But he adds that at times he has to cut hair for free, because some of his customers cannot afford to pay. " I charge 10 NIS (2.50 US$) for an adult haircut and half that for children, " he says, " but I can't raise the prices – no one would come. "
Among the 3,200 people in the village of Beit Sira, there are many entrepreneurs in need.
" Our criteria for selection involves finding skilled workers and ensuring there is a market for their services, " explains Mazen Masoud, the ICRC officer overseeing the project.