Gaza – an Integral Part of the Land of Israel

Straight from the Jerusalem Cloakroom #165, August 22, 2004

1. The current Jewish community of Kfar Darom was established on the site of the 3rd-4th century AD Talmudic Jewish town of Kfar Darom (The Talmud's Massekhet Sota' referred to the sage Eliezer the son of Yitzhhak of Kfar Darom).  At the end of the 19th century, the land of Kfar Darom (“The Village of the South” in Hebrew) was acquired by Tuvia Miller from Rehovot, who transformed swamps into a blossoming orchard.  The Arabs destroyed the orchard and its well during the anti-Jewish pogrom of 1936-39, which plagued Jews throughout Israel. Jewish presence in Kfar Darom was renewed in October 1946 – along with 10 other communities – as a response to the British Mandate attempt to disengage the future Jewish State from the Negev.  The village was evacuated following the Egyptian siege of 1948/9, but became the first Jewish community in Gaza following the 1967 Six Days War.

 

2. THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF GAZA CITY was expelled (lynching was prevented by the Arab A-Shawa family), during the 1929 anti-Jewish Intifadah, which exterminated the Jewish community of Hebron. Rather than punishing the lynching mob, the British Police evacuated the Gaza Jewish community. In 1885, the Jewish leadership decided to resettle three historical Jewish locations – Lydda, Nablus and Gaza. The largest nucleus (30 families) was referred to Gaza.  A Jewish day school and a Jewish-managed bank were established in 1910 and 1914 respectively. Upon the eruption of WW1, The Ottomans deported the Jewish community.  Jews returned to Gaza in 1919, operating its windmill and hotel and reopening the Shimshon (Samson) Jewish day school.  They left for a few months due to the 1921 Intifadah. Former President Ben-Zvi and the Jewish daily "Halevanon" wrote about the 1870-72 and 1882/3 Jewish presence in Gaza, following the 1799-1820 flight of its Jews, during the Napoleon siege, which devastated the city.  The 1492/1497Jewish expulsion from Spain/Portugal directed some families to Gaza, headed by the seven Castil brothers.  The flow of Jews to Gaza was bolstered upon the Ottoman takeover in 1517 (116 Jewish families in 1549), producing prominent Jewish clergies, such as Chief Rabbi Israel Najarah (1620), the composer of "Yah Ribon Olam" hymn, who was buried in Gaza, succeeded by his son, Rabbi Moshe Najarah. The 17th century prosperity of the Gaza Jewish community was aborted in 1660, when eerie Shabtai Zvi was declared at the Gaza synagogue as the supposed Messiah. 

 

3. RENOWNED TRAVELERS documented Jewish presence in Gaza.  In 1384, Georgio Gucci complimented Gaza Jews for producing excellent wine. In 1395, De Angelir noted that the Jews of Gaza had to wear a Yellow cloth.  In 1481, Meshulam from Voltera noted that Gaza Jews were entrenched in Gaza, since they owned substantial real estate, including vineyards and controlled the wine industry.  He was impressed with the hilltop synagogue, which was destroyed in 1831 by Egypt's Ibrahim Pasha (the Gaza hilltop neighborhood is currently known as Khart Al Yahood, the Jewish Neighborhood). In 1488, Ovadia from Bartenura described the wholesome Jewish community of Gaza. In 1507, Martin Baumgarten noted the presence of Jews in Gaza and Hebron. 

 

4. GAZA SUBSTITUTED JERUSALEM (135-600 AD) – just like Tiberias - when Rome prohibited Jewish pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Gaza Jewish community dates back to biblical time, including – as noted in Cloakroom #164 - the era of the Patriarchs, Judges and Kings.  Jonathan the Maccabee took over Gaza in 145 BC and Shimon the Maccabee settled it, King Alexander Yanai-Janeus renewed the Jewish community in 96 BC, which was expelled by Rome in 61 BC. Rome's Constantinus The Great failed in his attempt to convert the 4th century AD Jewish community to Christianity.  Remnants of ancient synagogues were discovered in Gaza, most notably a mosaic floor next to the Gaza pier, dating back to 508/9 AD. 

 

5. GAZA HAS ALWAYS BEEN A CRITICAL SECURITY ASSET, constituting an invasion route, beginning with Egypt's Mentuhotep 2nd (2004-1992 BC), Sennacherib (681-704 BC), Ptolemi 1st  (284-304 BC), Alexander the Great, Napoleon, General Alenby and the 1948 Egyptian military. The Gaza population has recently been (at least since early 20th century) a terrorist safe haven. Control of Gaza (until 1993) constrained Palestinian terrorism, as far as incitement, recruitment, training, operational maneuverability, manufacturing and smuggling of explosives, missiles, etc.  Disengagement from Gaza has dramatically exacerbated terrorism. 

 

The aforementioned data was researched by HAGAY HUBERMAN (humberman@zahav.net.il), an expert on the Gaza Jewish community.