So, historically speaking, what IS Gaza? For starters, according to the ancient Tanach, or the Hebrew Bible, it was a Philistine city.
The city of Gaza lay on a hill near the southern border of Israel between the cities of Raphia and Ascalon. It has been the site of a great many battles throughout history.
At first held by a Persian garrison, the city was captured by Alexander the Great after a siege of two years.
It was then captured and destroyed by the Jewish King Alexander Janmaeus after another siege, this one lasting one year.
Roman statesman Aulus Gabinius captured the city somewhat later and rebuilt it again. Then, Emperor Augustus gave the city to the Jewish King Herod the Great.
According to historical texts Ghazzeh (or Ghuzzeh) soon grew to a thriving city of 16,000 inhabitants.
Wait a minute. That raises another question: who are the Palestinians? Are they actually descendants of the Philistines? That subject is hotly debated.
What is generally accepted is that the word Palestine comes from the Hebrew word ‘Peleshet,’ a word which the Jews used to describe those who lived in the area of Philistine.
So, who were these Philistines? According to most sources they were most closely related to the Greeks and had very little in common with the Arabs.
In fact, the first known use of the term “Palaistine” was made by the Greek historian Herodotus in the Fifth Century B.C. Back to city of Gaza and Philistine.
Historically, here’s where it gets interesting. After the Greek ruler Antiochus VII Sidetes conquered Jerusalem in the First Century B.C., the Jews were made to agree to a “Philistine” sovereignty over their own territory.
In the Bible, the area of Philistine was said to have been settled by Jews, starting with Abraham (or Avraham), who is described as having “stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.” Genesis 21:34 (New International Version)
Abraham’s son Isaac (or Yitzak) was on his way to the land of Egypt fleeing the famine in Canaan. Passing through the Valley of Gerar in the territory of the Philistines, he was visited by God.
God instructed him, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while and I will be with you and bless you. For to you and all your descendants I will give all this lands. “Genesis 26:2-3 (New King James Version)
When King Abimelech of Philistine saw how God was blessing Isaac and his family, he first told Isaac to leave but Isaac refused. Seeing that Isaac persevered, the two Philistine leaders, King Abimelech and General Phicol, came to meet with him.
Asked by Isaac why they had come, they responded, “We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you, so we said ‘Let there now be an oath between us…let us make a covenant with you. That you will do us no harm.” Genesis 26:28-31 (New King James Version)
Unfortunately for all, the peace didn’t last that long. The Jews were removed from the Gaza area repeatedly throughout modern history, by most notably by the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks, and then by the British, who declared Gaza off-limits to the Jews.
In 1946, the first “Kibbutz”, Kfar Darom,” was established within the area of Palestine by the Jews. It centered around fruit orchards operated by the citrus grower Tuvia Miller.
This settlement had been abandoned earlier after it was destroyed in the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. In the 1947-8 Palestine War, attacks by the forces of Muslim Brotherhood on Kfar Derom were the match that lit the tinderbox.
In the end, Israel got the majority of the British Mandate territory, Egypt gained control of the area of the Gaza Strip, and Jordan gained control of the West Bank territory.
After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Palestine and the West Bank were occupied by the Jewish State and numerous Jewish settlements were established throughout the areas.
However, as a result of the 1978 Camp David Accords signed between Israel and Egypt, Israel agreed to withdraw over time from the Gaza Strip and West Bank territories.
The Palestinians launched the first of their three “Intifada” movements (which in the Arab language literally means ‘shaking off’) in Gaza in 1987.
Two major Arab political/military groups arose to prominence at this time: the Palestinian Liberation Organization, or more simply, the PLO; and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya), or more simply, Hamas.
What happened after that is, well, obvious.
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