Palestinians have created hundreds of tunnels under the Gaza Strip-Egypt border to circumvent the Israeli blockade. In the border town of Rafah, Palestinians secure employment in these tunnels, smuggling goods such as food, livestock, appliances, and electronics. The work in the tunnels is not only dirty, but also dangerous. Sometimes, Israel bombs the tunnels or the tunnels collapse. Oftentimes, workers are buried alive.
One might question: Why would Palestinians choose to work in these conditions? In the Gaza Strip, the unemployment rate is around 80 percent. Palestinians with few employment opportunities – even young children – decide to work in the tunnels because of the financial appeal. For instance, some children earn up to $100 per day working in the tunnels.
Dr. Iyad Saraj, a child psychologist in the Gaza Strip, explains: “There is a pushing factor for the children, pushing them out in the streets because the house is so deprived. And there is a pulling factor in the tunnel business or any business to tell them, ‘You can make some money there.’ So the children are entangled into this cycle.”
Robert Merton identified a disjuncture between goals and the legitimate means to achieve goals in modern society. When people experience this disjuncture, they respond in various ways: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, or rebellion. For example, although Palestinians accept the goal of making money, some cannot work in the formal economy because of the high unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip. As a result, some innovate by working in the smuggling tunnels so that they can become financially sustainable.