Tuesday, March 02, 2010

American Thinker: Gaza's Rich Jewish History

American Thinker: Gaza's Rich Jewish History
By Victor Sharpe

The four thousand year old association of Jewish life in Gaza is little remembered in today's world. Of course people know of the biblical story of Samson being blinded by the now extinct Philistines and how he brought down the temple to their gods in Gaza. But very few have any idea of the rich Jewish history in the following millennia.

In the Second millennium BC, Gaza served as an administrative city and residence of the Egyptian governor of Canaan. The bible tells us that the Jewish patriarch, Isaac, dug wells in Gerar, an ancient site between Beer Sheba and Gaza, and in the 13th century BC the Philistines or Caphorites (Cretans) annihilated the Avite inhabitants of Gaza and made the city the largest of their five centers. After the Israelite Exodus from Egypt and entry into the Promised Land, the tribe of Judah was given Gaza as a possession but did not include it fully in their territory. The bible reports in Joshua 15.47 and Judges 1:18 how the city of Gaza, and those of Ekron, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gat became a possession of Israel but how some of them were among those places ‘lying in the remaining country,' i.e., not fully possessed by the Israelites.

Down the centuries, Gaza was captured by Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, followed by Persians and later still by Alexander the Great who incorporated it into his growing empire in the 5th century BC. The strategic territory, lying as it does at the crossroads of two continents, Africa and Asia, has repeatedly fallen since earliest times to invading armies.

In 167 BC, Judah Maccabee led his Jewish fighters to victory over the Syrian-Greek pagan king, Antiochus Epiphanies. Jerusalem was liberated and the defiled Temple cleansed. The miracle of this event is now celebrated by Jews during the festival of Hanukah. But it was the Hasmonean king, Yochanan, who liberated Gaza in 145 BC. He was the brother of Judah the Maccabee and it was their other brother, Simon, who sent Jews to repopulate Gaza and its environs.

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