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In Gaza, it's not easy being green

Hamas, seeking to portray Gaza as undeveloped, stifles green projects.

Much of the international community has condemned the blockade, saying it creates a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep political pressure on Hamas, which lists the destruction of the Jewish state among its chief priorities.

Switching to green energy and building techniques, analysts said, could help Gaza thwart Israel’s obstruction.

A recent project by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza aimed to build houses using mud instead of cement and steel, which are on the list of items Israel prohibits from entering Gaza.

New houses are essential for Palestinians to keep up with their booming population. Palestinians have also, for the most part, been unable to rebuild houses damaged or destroyed in last January’s war with Israel.

So with a local company providing the design work, the United Nations’ relief agency began its project to build mud houses.

“At first the local government encouraged using mud as alternative building material because cement and steel were not allowed to enter Gaza,” said Ahmed Mohaisen, a professor of architecture at the Islamic University of Gaza.

Quickly, though, the government had a change of heart.

“They were afraid that when the international community saw that the people had found another way to build buildings, the pressure would go down for Israel to open the gates,” Mohaisen said.

While both Hamas and Israel have all but ensured that alternative energy projects can’t progress in Gaza, some small-scale entrepreneurs have managed to achieve some small degree of success.

El Khazendar, whose green innovation became a casualty of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, isn’t sure he’ll build a new electric car, saying that he’s too devastated by the loss of the last one.

He does, however, offer words of encouragement to future Palestinian green innovators, suggesting that the common man controls the future of Gaza’s environmental movement, despite an adversarial government.

“Because you need it, you do it,” El Khazendar said. “If I do it, many people can do it.”

Editor's note: In the fourth century B.C., Alexander the Great forged a path from Greece through the modern Middle East to Persia. It was a path of conquest that empires would follow through the ages. Traces of each can be seen today in the culture, monuments, continuing military presence and people along the route, which ended for Alexander in Babylon, in modern-day Iraq. In this project, GlobalPost correspondent Theodore May sets out to see how Alexander’s influence lives on. He will be blogging about his travels at Backpacking to Babylon.