FOR MANY THE NAME Rafah evokes an image of poverty and despair. It has been called the last city of Gaza, "the place at the end of the world". Once the entry and exit point to Palestine from Egypt, the city suffered tremendous hardship during nearly four decades of Israeli occupation.
It was mainly only aid workers, solidarity volunteers and journalists that ventured to the town. Most Palestinians have never been to Rafah, nor are they likely to go there, it is too far and too isolated and, in any case, most are not allowed to cross the Israeli corridor from the West Bank to get there.
But on 25 November 2005, good news finally came to Rafah and that date will henceforth be marked as the one on which the first modern Palestinian border-crossing was opened. For the first time since 1948 Palestinians finally have a border they man, operate and control, albeit one monitored by European Union personnel, and also watched by the Israelis through real-time closed circuit television cameras.