It’s a curious coincidence of history that the most anti-American parts of the globe are so dependent on old American cars. Havana is the classic example of this, and its still-rolling examples of classic American cars have become photographic icons, simultaneously representing both the failures of the communist government and the excesses of the preceding (but long-gone) American-backed regime. Another example of history written in the automotive landscape comes to us today from The BBC, which hosts a slideshow of cars from the Gaza Strip.
Mahfouz Caberetti is like any other classic car nut: he’s deeply proud of his still-running, classic Oldsmobile, and he gains intense satisfaction from wrestling with the wiring on his 1961 Mercedes. Unlike western car enthusiasts though, he must reckon with an Israeli blockade of Gaza, which prevents him from obtaining the spare parts he needs to keep his impressive collection of old iron running. And keeping these old cars running is more than just a hobby for Caberetti. Gazans young and old live under intense pressure and hopelessness, he says. Fixing old cars gives residents, especially teenagers, an escape from their 140 square-mile pressure cooker; it takes their minds off the constant stress of their situation. Though the travails of life in Gaza might be hard for American car nuts to fully understand, this escape into the simple pleasure of working on old machinery is a universal coping mechanism, crossing all lines of race, class and culture. And this rare point of common enthusiasm reveals our differences to be much smaller than we might otherwise imagine. In short, classic cars have succeeded in building cross-cultural bridges where 40 years of political negotiation have failed. That’s something every car nut should be extremely proud of. [Make sure to check out the slideshow, complete with commentary from Caberetti at The BBC’s website, Hat Tip: reader Ron Lason]