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Gaza
Gaza City.JPG
Skyline of Gaza, 2007
Gaza coat.png
Coat of arms of Gaza
Gaza is located in the Palestinian territories
Gaza
Arabic غزة
Governorate Gaza
Government City (from 1994[1])
Also spelled Ghazzah (officially)

Gaza City (unofficially)

Coordinates 31°31′N 34°27′E / 31.517°N 34.45°E / 31.517; 34.45Coordinates: 31°31′N 34°27′E / 31.517°N 34.45°E / 31.517; 34.45
Population 409,680 (2006)
Jurisdiction

45,000  dunams (45[2] km²)

Founded in 15th Century BCE
Head of Municipality Rafiq Tawfiq al-Makki

Gaza (Arabic: غزةGhazza, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈɣazːa]; Hebrew: עזה"Azza", Hebrew pronunciation: [ˈʕaza]; also referred to as Gaza City) is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 410,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian Territories.

Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC, Gaza has been dominated by several different people and empires throughout its history. The Philistines made it a part of their pentapolis after the Ancient Egyptians had ruled it for nearly 350 years. Under the Romans and later the Byzantines, Gaza experienced relative peace and its port flourished. In 635 AD, it became the first city in Palestine to be conquered by the Rashidun army and quickly developed into a center of Islamic law. However, by the time the Crusaders invaded the city, it was in ruins. In later centuries, Gaza experienced several hardships - from Mongol raids to floods and locusts, reducing it to a village by the 16th century when it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. During the first half of Ottoman rule, the Ridwan dynasty controlled Gaza and under them the city went through an age of great commerce and peace.

Gaza fell to British forces during World War I, becoming a part of the British Mandate of Palestine. As a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egypt administered the newly-formed Gaza Strip territory and several improvements were undertaken in the city. Gaza was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967, but in 1993, the city was transferred to the Palestinian National Authority. Hamas took over the city in 2007 after months of clashes with its rival Fatah, and since then Gaza has been under a blockade by Israel.

The primary economic activities of Gaza are small-scale industries, agriculture and labor. However, the economy has been devastated by the blockade and recurring conflicts. Most of Gaza's inhabitants adhere to Islam, although there exists a Christian minority. Gaza has a very young population with roughly 75% being under the age of 25, and today the city has one of the highest population densities in the world—refugees make up over half of the residents.

Contents

Etymology

According to Zev Vilnay, the name "Gaza," from the Arabic "Ġazza", originally derives from the Canaanite/Hebrew root for "strong" (ʕZZ), and was introduced to Arabic by way of the Hebrew, "ʕazzā", i.e. "the strong one (f.)"; cpr. English stronghold.[3] According to Mariam Shahin, the Canaanites gave Gaza its name, the Ancient Egyptians called it "Ghazzat" ("prized city"), and the Arabs often refer to it as "Ghazzat Hashim", in honor of Hashim, the great-grandfather of Muhammad, who is buried in the city, according to Islamic lore.[4]

History

Gaza's history of habitation dates back 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest cities in the world.[5] Located on the Mediterranean coastal route between North Africa and the Levant, for most of its history it served as a key entrepot of southern Palestine and an important stopover on the spice trade route traversing the Red Sea.[5][6]

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Ancient period

Statue of Zeus unearthed in Gaza

Settlement in the region of Gaza dates back to Tell as-Sakan, an Ancient Egyptian fortress built in Canaanite territory to the south of present-day Gaza. The site went into decline throughout the Early Bronze Age II as its trade with Egypt sharply decreased.[7] Another urban center known as Tell al-Ajjul began to grow along the Wadi Ghazza riverbed. During the Middle Bronze Age, a revived Tell es-Sakan became the southernmost locality in Palestine, serving as a fort. In 1650 BCE, when the Canaanite Hyksos occupied Egypt, a second city developed on the ruins of the first Tell as-Sakan. However, it was abandoned by the 14th century BCE, at the end of the Bronze Age.[7] Gaza later served as Egypt’s administrative capital in Canaan.[8] During the reign of Tuthmosis III, the city became a stop on the Syrian-Egyptian caravan route and was mentioned in the Amarna letters as "Azzati". Gaza remained under Egyptian control for 350 years until it was conquered by the Philistines in the 12th century BCE, becoming a part of their "pentapolis".[9]

In Judeo-Christian religions, Gaza was the place where, according to the Book of Judges, Samson was imprisoned and met his death.[10] After being ruled by the Israelites, Assyrians, and then the Egyptians, Gaza achieved relative independence and prosperity under the Persian Empire. Alexander the Great besieged Gaza, the last city to resist his conquest on his path to Egypt, for five months before finally capturing it 332 BCE;[9] the inhabitants were either killed or taken captive. Alexander brought in local Bedouins to populate Gaza and organized the city into a polis (or "city-state"). Greek culture consequently took root and Gaza earned a reputation as a flourishing center of Hellenic learning and philosophy.[11] Gaza experienced another siege in 96 BCE by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus who "utterly overthrew" the city, killing 500 senators who had fled into the temple of Apollo for safety.[12] Josephus notes that Gaza was resettled under the rule of Antipas, who cultivated friendly relations with Gazans, Ascalonites and neighboring Arabs after being appointed governor of Idumea by Jannaeus.[13] Rebuilt after it was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 63 BCE under the command of Pompey Magnus, Gaza was temporarily ruled by Herod the Great before becoming a part of the Roman province of Syria.[9] It was targeted by the Jews during their rebellion against Roman rule in 66 and was partially destroyed.[14] It nevertheless remained an important city, even more so after the destruction of Jerusalem.[15]

Throughout the Roman period, Gaza was a prosperous city and received grants and attention from several emperors.[9] A 500-member senate governed Gaza, and a diverse variety of Philistines, Greeks, Romans, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Jews, Egyptians, Persians, and Bedouin populated the city. Gaza's mint issued coins adorned with the busts of gods and emperors.[16] During his visit in 130 CE,[17] Emperor Hadrian personally inaugurated wrestling, boxing, and oratorical competitions in Gaza's new stadium, which became known from Alexandria to Damascus. The city was adorned with many pagan temples; the main cult being that of Marnas. Other temples were dedicated to Zeus, Helios, Aphrodite, Apollo, Athene and the local Tyche.[9] Christianity began to spread throughout Gaza in 250 CE, last in the port of Maiuma.[18][19][20][21] Conversion to Christianity in Gaza was accelerated under Saint Porphyrius between 396 and 420. In 402, he ordered all eight of the city's pagan temples destroyed,[9] and four years later Empress Aelia Eudocia commissioned the construction of a church atop the ruins of the Temple of Marnas.[22]

Islamic era

Following the division of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century BCE, Gaza remained under control of the Byzantine Empire. In 635 CE, Gaza was quickly besieged and captured by the Arab Rashidun Caliphate under general 'Amr ibn al-'As following the Battle of Ajnadayn in central Palestine.[11] Believed to be the site where Muhammad's great grandfather Hashim ibn Abd Manaf was buried, the city was not destroyed by the victorious Rashidun army. The arrival of the Muslim Arabs brought drastic changes to Gaza; its churches were transformed into mosques, including the present Great Mosque of Gaza (the oldest in the city), the population swiftly adopted Islam, and Arabic became the official language.[23] In 767, Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi'i was born in Gaza and lived his early childhood there; al-Shafi'i founded a prominent Sunni Muslim legal philosophy (or fiqh) called Shafi'i, in his honor.[24] In 796, Gaza was destroyed during a civil war between the Arab tribes of the area.[25] However, by the 10th century CE the city had been rebuilt by a third Arab caliphate ruled by the Abbasids; Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi described Gaza as "a large town lying on the highroad to Egypt on the border of the desert."[26] In 977 CE, a fourth Arab caliphate ruled by the Fatimids established an agreement with the competing Seljuk Turks, whereby the Fatimids would control Gaza and the land south of it, including Egypt.[27]

European Crusaders conquered Gaza from the Fatimids in 1100 and King Baldwin III built a castle there in 1149. After the castle's construction, Baldwin granted it and the surrounding region to the Knights Templar.[22] He also had the Great Mosque converted into the Cathedral of Saint John.[17] In 1154, Arab traveler al-Idrisi wrote Gaza "is today very populous and in the hands of the Crusaders."[28] In 1170, King Amalric I of Jerusalem withdrew Gaza's Templars to assist him against an Islamic Ayyubid force led by Saladin at the nearby city of Deir al-Balah; however, Saladin evaded the Crusader force and assaulted Gaza instead, destroying the town built outside the castle. Seven years later, the Templars prepared for another defense of Gaza against Saladin, but this time the Islamic forces attacked Ascalon. In 1187, Saladin captured Gaza and ordered the destruction of the city's fortifications in 1191. Richard the Lionheart apparently refortified the city in 1192, but the walls were dismantled again as a result of the Treaty of Ramla agreed upon months later in 1193.[22] The Ayyubid period of rule ended in 1260, after the Mongols under Hulagu Khan completely destroyed Gaza, which became his southernmost conquest.[23]

Following Gaza's destruction by the Mongols, Muslim slave-soldiers based in Egypt known as the Mamluks began to administer the area in 1277. The Mamluks made Gaza the capital of the province that bore its name, Mamlakat Ghazzah ("the Governorship of Gaza"). This district extended along the coastal plain from Rafah in the south to just north of Caesarea, and to the east as far as the Samaria highlands and the Hebron Hills. Other major towns in the province included Qaqun, Ludd, and Ramla.[23][29] In 1294, an earthquake devastated Gaza, and five years later the Mongols again destroyed all that had been restored by the Mamluks.[23] However, circa 1300, Syrian geographer al-Dimashqi described Gaza as a "city so rich in trees it looks like a cloth of brocade spread out upon the land."[16] In 1348, the Bubonic Plague infested the city, killing the majority of its inhabitants and in 1352, Gaza suffered from a destructive flood, which was rare in that arid part of Palestine.[30] However, when Arab traveler and writer Ibn Batutta visited the city in 1355, he noted that it was "large and populous, and has many mosques."[31] The Mamluks contributed to Gazan architecture by building mosques, Islamic schools, hospitals, caravansaries, and public baths.[7]

Ottoman rule

Muslims studying the Qur'an with Gaza in the background, painting by Harry Fenn
Painting of Gaza by David Roberts, 1839

In 1516, Gaza—by now a small town with an inactive port, ruined buildings and reduced trade—was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.[30] The Ottoman army quickly and efficiently crushed a small-scale uprising,[32] and the local population generally welcomed them as fellow Sunni Muslims.[30] The city was then made the capital of Sanjak Gaza, part of the larger Province of Damascus.[33] The Ridwan family, named after governor Ridwan Pasha, was the first dynasty to govern Gaza and would continue to rule the city for over a century.[34]

Although no explanation is provided in the biographies of the Ridwan family, they chose Gaza as their home and the location of their castle, Qasr al-Basha.[34] Husayn Pasha, a member of the Ridwan family, inherited the impoverished governorship of Gaza in the 17th century. His period in office was peaceful and prosperous for Gaza and he gained a good reputation for considerably reducing the strife between the nearby Bedouins and the settled population. In 1660, Gaza was designated the capital of Palestine, indicating the city's rapid recovery. The Great Mosque was restored, and six other mosques constructed, while Turkish baths and market stalls proliferated.[30] Anonymous petitions sent to Istanbul complaining about Husayn's failure to protect the Hajj caravan, however, served as an excuse for the Ottoman government to depose him. After the death of Husayn's successor, Ottomans officials were appointed to govern in place of the Ridwans. The Ridwan period was Gaza's last golden age during Ottoman rule. After the family was removed from office, the city itself went into gradual decline.[35]

Gaza was briefly occupied by the French Army under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799, but they abandoned the city after the failed siege of Acre that same year.[30] Starting in the early 1800s, Gaza was culturally dominated by neighboring Egypt; Muhammad Ali of Egypt conquered Gaza and most of Palestine in 1832.[17] American scholar Edward Robinson visited Gaza in 1838, describing it as a "thickly populated" town larger than Jerusalem, with its Old City lying upon a hilltop, while its suburbs laid on the nearby plain.[36] Gaza's port was inactive in the mid-19th century, however, the city benefited from trade and commerce because of its position on the caravan route between Egypt and Syria as well as from producing soap and cotton for trade with the Bedouin.[37] Robinson noted that virtually all of Gaza's vestiges of ancient history and antiquity had disappeared due to constant conflict and occupation.[38] The Bubonic Plague struck again in 1839 and the city, lacking political and economic stability, went into a state of stagnation. In 1840, Egyptian and Ottoman troops battled outside of Gaza. The Ottomans won control of the territory, effectively ending Egyptian rule over Palestine. However, the battles brought about more death and destruction in Gaza whilst the city was still recovering from the effects of the plague.[30]

Modern era

Gaza after surrender to British forces, 1918

While leading the Allied Forces during World War I, the British won control of the city during the Third Battle of Gaza in 1917.[30] After the war, Gaza was included in the British Mandate of Palestine.[39] In the 1930s and 1940s, Gaza underwent major expansion. New neighborhoods were built along the coast and the southern and eastern plains. International organizations and missionary groups funded most of this construction.[40] In the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan, Gaza was assigned to an Arab state but was later occupied by Egypt following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Gaza's growing population was augmented by an influx of refugees fleeing nearby cities, towns and villages that were captured by Israel. In 1957, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser made a number of reforms in Gaza, which included expanding educational opportunities and the civil services, providing housing, and establishing local security forces.[41]

Gaza was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War following the defeat of the Egyptian Army. Frequent conflicts have erupted between Palestinians and the Israeli authorities in the city since the 1970s. The tensions lead to the First Intifada in 1987. Gaza was a center of confrontation during this uprising,[30] and economic conditions in the city worsened.[42] In September 1993, leaders of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo Accords. The agreement called for Palestinian administration of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, which was implemented in May 1994. Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza, leaving a new Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to administer and police the city.[11] The PNA, led by Yasser Arafat, chose Gaza as its first provincial headquarters. The newly-established Palestinian National Council held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996.[40]

Palestinians in a Gaza neighborhood during the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza Conflict (Source: Al Jazeera English)

Since the Palestinian organization Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian elections of 2006, it has been engaged in a violent power struggle with its rival Palestinian organization Fatah. In 2007, Hamas overthrew Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip and Hamas members were dismissed from the PNA government in the West Bank in response. Currently, Hamas has de facto control of the city and Strip.[43]

In March 2008, a coalition of human rights groups charged that the Israeli blockade of the city had caused the humanitarian situation in Gaza to have reached its worst point since Israel occupied the territory in the 1967 Six-Day War,[44] and that Israeli air strikes targeting militants in the densely populated areas have often killed bystanders as well.[45] In 2008, Israel commenced an assault against Gaza.[46] Israel stated the strikes were in response to repetitive rocket and mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel since 2005, while the Palestinians stated that they were responding to Israel's military excursions and blockade of the Gaza Strip. In January 2009, Palestinian sources stated that at least 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the conflict.[47] Later, an official IDF investigation found that 1,166 Palestinians were killed, 709 of which were identified as Hamas terror operatives. 162 of them could not be identified, and 295 were confirmed as civilians.[48] In addition, 4,000 buildings have been destroyed and 20,000 damaged throughout the Gaza Strip.[citation needed]

Geography

Beach in Gaza City

Central Gaza is situated on a low-lying and round hill with an elevation of 45 feet (14 m) above sea level.[49] Much of the modern city is built along the plain below the hill, especially to the north and east, forming Gaza's suburbs. The beach and the port of Gaza are located 3 kilometers (2 mi) west of the city's nucleus and the space in between is entirely built up on low-lying hills.[36]

Gaza is 78 kilometers (48 mi) southwest of Jerusalem, 71 kilometers (44 mi) south of Tel Aviv,[50] and 30 kilometers (19 mi) north of Rafah.[51] Surrounding localities include Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, and Jabalia to the north, and the village of Abu Middein, the refugee camp of Bureij, and the city of Deir al-Balah to the south.[52]

The municipal jurisdiction of the city today constitutes about 45 square kilometers (17.4 sq mi).[2] In the British Mandate era, Gaza's urban or "built-up" area consisted of 7,960 square kilometers (3,073.4 sq mi), while its rural area was 143,063 square kilometers (55,236.9 sq mi).[53] Irrigated land made up 24,040 square kilometers (9,281.9 sq mi) and lands planted with cereals made up 117,899 square kilometers (45,521.1 sq mi).[54]

The population of Gaza depends on groundwater as the only source for drinking, agricultural use, and domestic supply. The nearest stream is Wadi Ghazza to the south, sourced from Abu Middein along the coastline. It bears a small amount of water during the winter and virtually no water during the summer.[55] Most of its water supply is diverted into Israel.[56] The Gaza Aquifer along the coast is the main aquifer in the Gaza Strip and it consists mostly of Pleistocene and sandstone. Like most of the Gaza Strip, Gaza is covered by quaternary soil; clay minerals in the soil absorb many organic and inorganic chemicals which has partially alleviated the extent of groundwater contamination.[55]

A well-known hill southeast of Gaza, known as Tell al-Muntar, has an elevation of 270 feet (82 m) above sea level. For centuries it has been claimed as the place to which Samson brought the city gates of the Philistines. The hill is crowned by a Muslim shrine (maqam) dedicated to Ali al-Muntar ("Ali of the Watchtower"). There are old Muslim graves around the surrounding trees,[57] and the lintel of the doorway of the maqam has two medieval Arabic scriptures.[9]

Old City and districts

A mosque in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood

The Old City forms the main part of Gaza's nucleus. It is roughly divided into two quarters; the northern Daraj Quarter (also known as the Muslim Quarter) and the southern Zaytoun Quarter (also known as the Christian Quarter). Most of the structures date from the Mamluk or Ottoman era ans some are built atop earlier structures. The ancient part of the Old City is about 1.6 square kilometers (0.6 sq mi).[40]

There are seven historic gates to the Old City: Bab Asqalan (Gate of Ashkelon), Bab al-Darum (Gate of Deir al-Balah), Bab al-Bahr (Gate of the Sea), Bab Marnas (Gate of Marnas), Bab al-Baladiyah (Gate of the Town), Bab al-Khalil (Gate of Hebron), and Bab al-Muntar (Gate of Tell al-Muntar).[58] Some of the older buildings use the ablaq style of decoration which features red and white masonry, prevalent in the Mamluk era. A few of Gaza's main markets, such as the Gold Market as well as its oldest mosque, the Great Mosque of Gaza, are located here.[59] In the Zaytoun Quarter is the Church of Saint Porphyrius, the Welayat Mosque, and Hamam as-Sammara ("the Samaritan's Bathhouse").[60]

Gaza is composed of eleven districts (hai) outside of the Old City.[61][62] The first extension of Gaza beyond the city center was the district of Shuja'iyya, built on an eastern hill during the Ayyubid period of rule.[63] In the 1930s and 1940s, a new spacial residential district, Rimal, was constructed on the sand dunes west of the city center, and the district of Zeitoun was built along Gaza's southern and southwestern borders, while Shuja'iyya expanded into the east to form the al-Judeide ("the New") and al-Turukman districts.[40][64]

The areas between Rimal and the Old City became the districts of al-Sabra and al-Daraj.[62] To the northwest is the district of al-Nasser, built in the early 1950s and named in honor of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.[65] To the northeast is the district of Tuffah,[62] which is roughly divided into eastern and western halves.[59] The district of Sheikh Radwan is 3 kilometers (2 mi) to the north of the Old City and is named after Sheikh Radwan—the tomb of whom is located within the district.[62][66] Gaza has absorbed the village of al-Qubbah near the the border with Israel, as well as the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Shati along the coast,[52] although the latter is not under the city's municipal jurisdiction. In the late 1990s, the PNA founded the more affluent neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa along the southern edge of Rimal.[67] Along the southern coast of the city is the neighborhood of Sheikh Ijlin.[61]

Climate

Gaza has a relatively temperate Mediterranean climate with mild winters and dry, warm to hot summers.[49] Spring arrives around March-April and the hottest months are July and August, with the average high being 33 °C (91 °F). The coldest month is January with temperatures usually at 7 °C (45 °F). Rain is scarce and generally falls between November and March, with annual precipitation rates approximately at 4.57 inches (116 mm).[68]

Climate data for Gaza
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 17
(62)
17
(63)
20
(69)
26
(78)
29
(84)
31
(89)
33
(91)
33
(91)
31
(88)
28
(83)
24
(75)
19
(65)
26
(78)
Average low °C (°F) 7
(45)
7
(45)
9
(49)
13
(55)
15
(60)
18
(65)
20
(69)
21
(66)
19
(66)
17
(62)
12
(54)
8
(47)
14
(57)
Precipitation cm (inches) 3.51
(1.38)
1.98
(0.78)
1.64
(0.65)
0.36
(0.14)
0.06
(0.02)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0.21
(0.08)
1.04
(0.41)
2.81
(1.11)
11.6
(4.57)
Source: MSN Weather[68] 2009-01-15

Demographics

Population

Year Population
1596 6,000[69]
1838 15,000-16,000[37]
1882 16,000[70]
1897 36,000[70]
1906 40,000[70]
1914 42,000[71]
1922 17,426[72]
1945 32,250[53]
1982 100,272[73]
1997 306,113[74]
2004 (Projected) 342,247[75]
2006 (Projected) 395,680[75]

According to Ottoman tax records in 1557, Gaza had 2,477 male tax payers.[76] The statistics from 1596 show that from the Muslims there 456 household heads, 115 bachelors, 59 religious persons, and 19 disabled persons. In addition to the Muslim figure were 141 Jundiyan or soldiers in the Ottoman army. Of the Christians there 294 household heads and 7 bachelors and there were 73 Jewish household heads 8 Samaritan household heads. In total, an estimated 6,000 people lived in Gaza, making the third largest city in Palestine after Jerusalem and Safad.[69]

In 1838, there were roughly 4,000 Muslim tax payers and 100 Christian ones, implying a population of about 15,000 or 16,000—making it larger than Jerusalem at the time. The total number of Christian families was 57.[37] Before the outbreak of World War I, the population of Gaza had reached 42,000; however, the fierce battles between Allied Forces and those of the Ottomans and the Germans in 1917 in Gaza resulted in a massive population decrease.[71]

According to a 1997 census by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Gaza and the adjacent al-Shati camp had a population of 353,115 inhabitants, of which 50.9% were males and 49.1% females. Gaza has an overwhelmingly young population with more than half being between the ages of infancy to 19 (60.8%). About 28.8% were between the ages of 20 to 44, 7.7% between 45 and 64, and 3.9% were over the age of 64.[74]

A significant number of Gaza's pre-1948 residents were Egyptians or their descendants who had fled political turmoil in Muhammad Ali's Egypt.[77] A massive influx of Palestinian refugees swelled Gaza's population after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. By 1967, the population had grown to about six times its 1948 size.[40] In 1997, 51.8% of Gaza's inhabitants were refugees or their descendants.[78] The city's population has continued to increase since that time to 409,680 in 2006, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.[75] Gaza has one of the highest overall growth rates and population densities in the world, with about 5,261 people per square mile.[40] Poverty, unemployment and poor living conditions are widespread and many residents rely on United Nations food aid to survive.[40][79]

Natives of Gaza

Religion

The population of Gaza is overwhelmingly composed of Arabic-speaking Muslims, who mostly follow Sunni Islam.[40] While held by the Fatimids, Shia Islam was dominant in Gaza, but after Saladin conquered the city, he promoted a strictly Sunni religious and educational policy, which at the time was instrumental in uniting his Arab, Kurdish, and Turkish soldiers.[7]

There exists a small minority of about 3,500 Arab Christians in the city.[80] The majority of Gaza's Christians live in the Zaytoun Quarter of the Old City and belong to the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Baptist denominations.[81] In 1906, there were only 750 Christians, of which 700 were Greek Orthodox and 50 were Roman Catholic.[70]

Gaza's Jewish community was roughly 2,000 years old,[40] and in 1481 there were sixty Jewish households.[82] Most of them left Gaza after the 1929 Palestine riots, when they consisted of fifty families.[40] In Sami Hadawi's land and population survey, Gaza had a population of 34,250, including 80 Jews in 1945.[53] Most of them left the city after the 1948 War, due to mutual distrust between them and the Arab majority.[83]

Economy

Nineteenth century

Gaza was among six soap-producing cities in Palestine, overshadowed by Nablus. Gaza's factories purchased qilw from merchants from Nablus and Salt, Jordan.[84] Gaza's port was eclipsed by the ports of Jaffa and Haifa, however, it retained its fishing fleet.[40] Although its port was inactive, commerce thrived because of its strategic location. Most caravans and travelers coming from Egypt stopped in Gaza for supplies, likewise Bedouins from Ma'an, east of the Wadi Araba, bought up all sorts of provisions from the city to sell to Muslim pilgrims coming from Mecca. The bazaars of Gaza were well-supplied and were noted by Edward Robinson as "far better" than those of Jerusalem.[85] Its principal commercial crop was cotton which was sold to the government and local Arab tribes.[36]

Modern era

Backyard industry

Since occupying Gaza in the Six-Day War, Israel has controlled Gaza's borders and restricted the flow of goods and people into and out of Gaza. Israel greatly intensified its blockade of Gaza in June 2007, when Hamas took over. Since then, according to the BBC, "there are high levels of poverty, deprivation and unemployment in Gaza City ... Only basic humanitarian items have been allowed in [the Gaza Strip], and virtually no exports permitted, paralyzing the economy."[45]

Following the Six-Day War, Israel closed down Gaza's port and consequently, the city lost its fishing income. There were previous Palestinian and international attempts to construct a major port in Gaza for the benefit of the planned State of Palestine, but objections from Israel prevented such attempts. The major agricultural products are strawberries, citrus, dates, olives, flowers, and various vegetables. Pollution and massive population pressure on water have reduced the productive capacity of the surrounding farms, however.[40]

Small-scale industries in the city include the production of plastics, construction materials, textiles, furniture, pottery, tiles, copperware, and carpets. Following the Oslo Accords, thousands of residents were employed in the various government ministries and security services, while others were employed by the UNRWA and other international organizations that support development of the city.[40] Gaza contains some minor industries, including textiles and food processing. A variety of wares are sold in Gaza's street bazaars, including carpets, pottery, wicker furniture, and cotton clothing; commercial development in the city is minimal.

There are six hotels in Gaza: Palestine, Adam, al-Amal, al-Quds, Cliff, and Marna House. All, except the Palestine Hotel, are located along the coast. The United Nations (UN) has a beach club on the same street. Gaza is not a frequent destination for tourists, and most foreigners who stay in hotels are journalists, aid workers, UN and Red Cross personnel. Al-Quds Hotel is regarded as the most up-market hotel in the city, and is the most recently built.[86]

Many Gazans worked in the Israeli service industry when the border was open, but part of Israel's 2005 disengagement stipulated that Gazans will no longer be able to work in Israel and few Gazans are presently allowed to enter Israel. Gaza has serious deficiencies in housing, educational facilities, health facilities, infrastructure, and an inadequate sewage system, all of which have contributed to serious hygiene and public health problems.[87]

According to a recent report by OXFAM, unemployment in Gaza is close to 40% and is set to rise to 50%. The private sector which generates 53% of all jobs in Gaza has been devastated, businesses have been bankrupted and 75,000 out of 110,000 workers are now without a jobs. In 2008, 95% of Gaza's industrial operations were suspended due to lack of access inputs for production and the inability to export what is produced. In June 2005, there were 3,900 factories in Gaza employing 35,000 people, but by December 2007, there were just 195 remaining, employing only 1,700 people. The construction industry was paralyzed with tens of thousands of laborers out of work. The agriculture sector has also been damaged severely and nearly 40,000 workers who depend on cash crops now have no income.[87]

Gaza's economic conditions have been stagnant in the long-term and most development indicators are in decline. Food prices have risen during the blockade, with wheat flour going up 34%, rice up 21%, and baby powder up 30%. The number of Gazans who live in absolute poverty has increased sharply, with 80% relying on humanitarian aid in 2008 compared to 63% in 2006. In 2007, households spent an average of 62% of their total income on food, compared to 37% in 2004. In less than a decade, the number of families depending on UNRWA food aid has increased ten-fold.[87]

Culture

Skyline of Gaza

Cultural centers and museums

The Rashad Shawa Cultural Center, located in Rimal, was completed in 1988 and named after its founder, former mayor Rashad al-Shawa.[88] A two-story building with a triangular plan, the cultural centers performs three main functions: a meeting place for large gatherings during annual festivals, a place to stage exhibitions, and a library.[89] The French Cultural Center is a symbol of French partnership and cooperation in Gaza. It holds art exhibits, concerts, film screenings, and other activities. Whenever possible, French artists are invited to display their artwork, and more frequently, Palestinian artists from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are invited to participate in art competitions.[90]

Established in 1998, the Arts and Crafts Village is a children's cultural center with the objectives of promoting comprehensive, regular and periodic documentation of creative art in all of its forms. It interacted on a large scale with a class of artists from different nationalities and organized around 100 exhibitions for creative art, ceramics, graphics, carvings and others. Nearly 10,000 children from throughout the Gaza Strip have benefited from the Arts and Crafts Village.[91]

Gaza has one film theater, the Gaza Theater, which opened in 2004 using donated equipment and movies from Norway.[92] The theater is not properly equipped and does not receive much funding from the PNA, depending mostly on donations from foreign aid agencies. The Qattan Foundation, a Palestinian arts charity, runs several workshops throughout Gaza that helps the local youth find artistic skills and give teachers basic drama skills. In 2005, the Gaza Theater Festival was held, playing in makeshift venues, although no foreign theater companies attended, as well as any company from the West Bank or Israel's Arab community.[93]

The Gaza Museum of Archaeology, founded by Jawdat N. Khoudary, was opened in the summer of 2008. The exhibition is in a hall made partly of stones from old houses, discarded wood ties of a former railroad, and bronze lamps and marble columns uncovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers. The museum collection features thousands of items, but some will not go on display, including a statue of a full-breasted Aphrodite in a diaphanous gown, images of other ancient deities and oil lamps featuring menorahs.[94]

Cuisine

Gaza's cuisine is characterized by its generous use of spices and chillies. Other major flavors and ingredients include dill, chard, garlic, cumin, lentils, chickpeas, pomegranates, sour plums and tamarind. Many of the traditional dishes rely on clay-pot cooking, which preserves the flavor and texture of the vegetables and results in fork-tender meat. Traditionally, most Gazan dishes are seasonal and rely on ingredients indigenous to the area and its surrounding villages. Poverty has also played an important role in determining many of the city's simple meatless dishes and stews, such as saliq wa adas ("chard and lentils") and bisara (skinless fava beans mashed with dried mulukhiya leaves and chilies).[95]

Seafood is a key aspect of Gaza life and a local staple,[96] but in recent years, due to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian fishing zones off Gaza’s coast, the industry has been in decline, and seafood prices have skyrocketed. Some well-known seafood dishes include zibdiyit gambari, literally, "shrimps in a clay pot", and shatta which are crabs stuffed with red hot chili pepper dip, then baked in the oven. Fish is either fried or grilled after being stuffed with cilantro, garlic, chillies and cumin, and marinated with various spices. It is also a key ingredient in sayyadiya, rice cooked with caramelized onions, a generous amount of whole garlic cloves, large chunks of well-marinated fried fish, and spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin.[95]

Many of the 1948-era refugees were fellahin ("peasants") who would rely on eating seasonally, based on what they grew and these refugees highly influenced the basic cuisine of Gaza. Due to its geographic isolation from the rest of Palestine, as a result of decades of occupation, many of its dishes have not been heard of outside of Gaza. One of the most popular dishes is called sumaghiyyeh.[95]

Gaza has several restaurants, most of the well-known located in the Rimal district. Al-Andalus, which specializes in fish and seafood, is particularly popular with tourists, as is al-Sammak. Throughout the Old City there are street stalls that sell cooked beans, hummus, roasted sweet potatoes, falafel, and kebabs. Coffeehouses (qahwa) regularly accommodate locals with hookah (sheesha), Arabic coffee, and tea. Gaza's well-known sweet shops, Saqqala and Arafat, sell common Arab sweet products and are located off Wehda Street. Alcohol is a rarity, found only in the United Nations Beach Club.[97]

Costumes and embroidery

Gauze is reputed to have originated in Gaza. Cloth for the Gaza thob was often woven at nearby Majdal (Ascalon). Black or blue cottons or striped pink and green fabric that had been made in Majdal continued to be woven throughout the Gaza Strip by refugees from the coastal plain villages until the 1960s. Thobs here had narrow, tight, straight sleeves. Embroidery was much less dense than that applied in Hebron. The most popular motifs included: scissors (muqass), combs (mushut) and triangles (hijab) often arranged in clusters of fives, sevens and threes, as the use of odd numbers is considered in Arab folklore to be effective against the evil eye.[98]

In recent decades, Hamas and other Islamic movements sought to increase the use of the hijab ("headscarf") among Gazan women, especially urban and educated women, and the hijab styles since introduced have varied according to class and group identity.[99]

Sports

Palestine Stadium, the Palestinian national stadium, is located in Gaza and has a capacity for 10,000 people. It serves as the home of the Palestine national football team, but after an Israeli air strike that severely damaged the stadium's field, home games have been played in Doha, Qatar.[100] Gaza has several local football teams that participate in the Gaza Strip League. They include Khidmat al-Shatia (al-Shati Camp), Ittihad al-Shuja'iyya (Shuja'iyya neighborhood), Gaza Sports Club, and al-Zeitoun (Zeitoun neighborhood).[101]

Government

Today, Gaza serves as the administrative capital of the Gaza Governorate.[102] It contains the Palestinian Legislative Council building, as well as the headquarters of most of the Palestinian Authority ministries.

The first municipal council of Gaza was formed in 1893 under the chairmanship of Ali Khalil Shawa. Modern mayorship, however, began in 1906 with his son Said al-Shawa, who was appointed mayor by the Ottoman Authorities.[103] Al-Shawa oversaw the construction of Gaza's first hospital, several new mosques and schools, the restoration of the Great Mosque, and the introduction of the modern plow to the city.[104]

On July 24, 1994, the PNA proclaimed Gaza the first city council in the Palestinian territories.[1] The 2005 Palestinian municipal elections were not held in Gaza, nor in Khan Yunis or Rafah. Instead, Fatah party officials selected the smaller cities, towns, and villages to hold elections, assuming they would do better in less urban areas. The rival Hamas party, however, won the majority of seats in seven of the ten municipalities selected for the first round with voter turnout being around 80%.[105] 2007 saw violent clashes between the two parties, ultimately resulting in Hamas taking over the city.[106] Normally, Palestinian municipalities with populations over 20,000 and that serve as administrative centers have municipal councils consisting of fifteen members, including the mayor. The current municipal council of Gaza, however, consists of fourteen members, including the mayor, Rafiq al-Makki.[107]

Mayors

  • Said al-Shawa (1906–1916)
  • Mahmoud Abu Khadra (1918–1924)
  • Omar Sourani (1924–1928)
  • Fahmi al-Husseini (1928–1939)
  • Rushdi al-Shawa (1939–1952)
  • Omar Suwan (1952–1955)
  • Munir al-Rayyes (1955–1965)
  • Ragheb al-Alami (1965)
  • Rashad al-Shawa (1971–1982)
  • Hamza al-Turkmani (1982–1994)
  • Aoun al-Shawa (1994–2001)
  • Nasri Khayal (2001–2005)[103]
  • Majed Abu Ramadan (2005–2008)
  • Rafiq al-Makki (2008–present)[108]

Education

The main conference hall of the Islamic University of Gaza

According to the PCBS, in 1997, approximately over 90% of Gaza's population over the age of 10 was literate. Of the city's population, 140,848 were enrolled in schools (39.8% in elementary school, 33.8% in secondary school, and 26.4% in high school). About 11,134 people received bachelor diplomas or higher diplomas.[109]

In 2006, there were 210 schools in Gaza; 151 were run by the Education Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority, 46 were run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and 13 were private schools. A total of 154,251 students were enrolled and 5,877 teachers were employed.[110] The currently downtrodden economy has affected education in the Gaza Strip severely. In September 2007, a UNRWA survey in the Gaza Strip revealed that there was a nearly 80% failure rate in schools grades four to nine, with up to 90% failure rates in mathematics. In January 2008, the United Nations Children's Fund reported that schools in Gaza had been canceling classes that were high on energy consumption, such as information technology, science labs and extra curricular activities.[87]

Gaza has four universities: al-Azhar University - Gaza, al-Quds Open University, al-Aqsa University and the Islamic University of Gaza. The Islamic University, consisting of ten facilities, was founded by Ahmed Yassin and a group of businessmen in 1978, making it the first institution of higher education in Gaza. In 2006-07, it had an enrollment of 20,021 students.[111] Al-Azhar is generally secular and was founded in 1992. Al-Aqsa University was established in 1991. Al-Quds Open University established its Gaza Educational Region campus in 1992 in a rented building in the center of the city originally with 730 students. Because of the rapid increase of the number of students, it constructed the first university owned building in the Nasser District. In 2006-07, it had an enrollment of 3,778 students.[112]

The Public Library of Gaza is located off al-Wahda Street and has a collection of nearly 10,000 books in Arabic, English and French. A total area of about 1,410 square metres (15,200 sq ft), the building consists of two floors and a basement. The library was opened in 1999 after cooperation dating from 1996 by Gaza under mayor Aoun Shawa, the municipality of Dunkerque, and the World Bank. The library's primary objectives are to provide sources of information that meets the needs of beneficiaries, provide necessary facilities for access to available information sources, and organizing various cultural programs such as, cultural events, seminars, lectures, film presentations, videos, art and book exhibitions.[113]

Local infrastructure

Landmarks

The Great Mosque of Gaza is the oldest mosque in the city

Landmarks in Gaza include the Great Mosque in the Old City. Originally a pagan temple, it was consecrated a Greek Orthodox church by the Byzantines,[114] then a mosque in the 8th century by the Arabs. The Crusaders transformed it into a church, but it was reestablished as a mosque soon after Gaza's reconquest by the Muslims.[59] It is the oldest and largest in the Gaza Strip and was identified as the "only structure of historical importance" in the city by some 19th century Western travelers.[115]

Other mosques in the Old City include the Mamluk-era Sayed Hashem Mosque that believed to house the tomb of Hashem ibn Abd al-Manaf in its dome.[116] There is also the nearby Welayat Mosque that dates back to 1334. In Shuja'iyya, the Ibn Uthman Mosque was built by Nablus native Ahmad ibn Uthman in 1402 and the Ibn Marwan Mosque, housing the tomb of a holy man, was built in 1324.[64]

Gaza War Cemetery

The Soldier's Square, located in Rimal, is a monument dedicated to an unknown Palestinian fighter who died in the 1948 War. In 1967, the monument was torn down by Israeli forces and remained a patch of sand,[117] until a public garden was built there with funding from Norway. Qasr al-Basha, originally a Mamluk-era villa that was used by Napoleon during his brief sojourn in Gaza, is located in the Old City and is today a girl's school. The Commonwealth Gaza War Cemetery, often referred to as the British War Cemetery, that contains the graves of fallen Allied soldiers in World War I is in the Tuffah neighborhood.[59][118]

Utilities

According to the 1997 census by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 98.1% of Gaza's residents were connected to the public water supply while the remainder used a private system.[119] About 87.6% were connected to a public sewage system and 11.8% used a cesspit.[120]

The blockade on Gaza has severely restricted the water supply to the city and its sewage system. The six main wells for drinking water for no longer function, and roughly 50% of the population is without access to water on a regular basis. The municipality claims it is forced to pump water to the citizens though "salty wells" because of the unavailability of electricity in some of the wells fails to meet the needs of the citizens. Most sewage plants struggle to work, and more than 75% of the untended sewage in the city, has periodically led to a rash of waste water to the homes of residents. About 20 million liters of raw sewage and 40 million liters of partially treated water per day leak to the Mediterranean Sea due to the lack of electricity, fuel and spare parts at Gaza's treatment plants. The municipality claims that accumulation of garbage in the streets, roads, wells, and sewage overflow cause the risk of disease outbreaks and insect epidemics, as well as mice and in residential areas.[121]

Health care

One of the first hospitals in Gaza was al-Shifa ("the Cure") founded in the Rimal District by the British Mandate government in the 1940s. Housed in an army barracks, it originally provided quarantine and treatment for febrile diseases. When Egypt administered Gaza, this original department was relocated and al-Shifa became the city's central hospital.[122] When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip after occupying it in the 1956 Suez Crisis, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had al-Shifa hospital expanded and improved. He also ordered the establishment of a second hospital in the Nasser District with the same name. In 1957, the quarantine and febrile disease hospital was rebuilt and named Nasser Hospital.[65] Today, al-Shifa remains Gaza's largest medical complex.[123]

Throughout the late 1950s, a new health administration, Bandar Gaza ("Gaza Region"), was established and headed by Haidar Abdel-Shafi. Bandar Gaza rented several rooms throughout the city to set up government clinics, but they were fairly basic, just providing essential curative care.[65]

The Ahli Arab Hospital, originally founded in 1907 by the Christian Missionary Society, was destroyed in World War I.[124] It was rebuilt as the Southern Baptist Hospital in the 1950s.[125] In 1982, the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem took leadership and the original name was restored.[124] Al-Quds Hospital, located in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood and managed by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, is the second largest hospital in Gaza.[126]

As a result of fuel and electricity restrictions, hospitals currently experience power cuts lasting for 8–12 hours daily. There is currently a 60-70 percent shortage reported in the diesel required for power generators. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the proportion of patients given permits to exit Gaza for medical care decreased from 89.3% in January 2007 to 64.3% in December 2007, an unprecedented low.[87]

Transportation

The Yasser Arafat International Airport, located in the southern corner of the Gaza Strip, is currently inoperable

The Rasheed Coastal Road runs along Gaza's coastline and connects it with the rest of Gaza Strip's coastline north and south. The main road of the Gaza Strip, Salah ad-Din Street (the modern Via Maris) runs through the middle of Gaza City, connecting it with Deir al-Balah, Khan Yunis, and Rafah in the south and Jabalia and Beit Hanoun in the north.[59] The northern crossing of Salah ad-Din Street into Israel is the Erez Crossing and the crossing into Egypt is the Rafah Crossing. The crossings have been closed by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

Omar Mukhtar Street is the main road in the city of Gaza running north-south, branching off Salah ad-Din Street, stretching from the Rimal coastline and the Old City where it ends at the Gold Market.[59] Prior to the Blockade of the Gaza Strip, there existed regular lines of collective taxis to Ramallah and Hebron in the West Bank.[127]

The Yasser Arafat International Airport near Rafah opened in 1998 and is 40 kilometers (25 mi) south of Gaza. Its runways and facilities became significantly damaged during the Second Intifada. The Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel is located roughly 75 kilometers (47 mi) northeast of the city.[127]

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Gaza is twinned with:

See also

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  117. ^ Jacobs, 1998, p.455.
  118. ^ Gaza War Cemetery at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  119. ^ Occupied Housing Units by Locality and Connection to Water Network Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
  120. ^ Occupied Housing Units by Locality and Connection to Sewage System in Housing Unit Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
  121. ^ The outcome of the unjust embargo on the work of the municipal Gaza Municipality.
  122. ^ Husseini and Barnea, 2002, p.135.
  123. ^ "Al-Shifa Hospital and Israel's Gaza Siege". Defence For Children International, Palestine Section. 2006-07-16. http://www.dci-pal.org/english/display.cfm?DocId=526&CategoryId=23. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  124. ^ a b "Al Ahli Arab Hospital". Bible Lands. Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. http://web.archive.org/web/20070202232549/http://www.biblelands.org.uk/project_partners/by_location/isr_pal/al_ahli_hospital/index.htm. 
  125. ^ Husseini and Barnea, 2002, p.34.
  126. ^ "UN headquarters in Gaza hit by Israeli 'white phosphorus' shells". Times Online (London: Times Newspapers Ltd.). 2009-01-15. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5521925.ece. Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  127. ^ a b About Gaza City Gaza Municipality.
  128. ^ "La Communauté Urbaine de Dunkerque a signé des accords de coopération avec:". Hôtel de ville de Dunkerque - Place Charles Valentin - 59140 Dunkerque. http://www.ville-dunkerque.fr/fr/entreprendrea-dunkerque/l-economie/dunkerque-internationale/index.html. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  129. ^ "Tel Aviv decides to retain contract with Gaza City as `twin city`". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/952850.html. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  130. ^ Turin City Hall - International Affairs (Italian) Retrieved on 2008-01-26.
  131. ^ [1]
  132. ^ "Vennskapsbyer". Tromsø kommune, Postmottak, Rådhuset, 9299 Tromsø. http://www.tromso.kommune.no/index.gan?id=478&subid=0. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  133. ^ "Cidades Geminadas". Câmara Municipal de Cascais. http://www.cm-cascais.pt/Cascais/Cascais/Relacoes_internacionais/Cidades_Geminadas/. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  134. ^ "Barcelona internacional - Ciutats agermanades" (in Spanish). © 2006-2009 Ajuntament de Barcelona. http://w3.bcn.es/XMLServeis/XMLHomeLinkPl/0,4022,229724149_257215678_1,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 

Bibliography

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

For other places with the same name, see Gaza (disambiguation).
Travel Warning

WARNING: Most Western governments have issued a severe and strict travel warning against entering the Gaza strip. It is effectively a war zone. The Palestinian factions, and the Israeli military, are well armed and quite willing to shoot when they think it necessary. Some foreigners have been kidnapped. Anyone who carries anything identifying them as Jewish, such as a Star of David necklace, is very much at risk.

The inimitable PLO Flag Shop
Flag
Image:palestine-flag.png
Quick Facts
Capital NA
Government Palestinian Authority and Israel
Currency new Israeli shekel (ILS)
Area 360 sq km
Population 1,225,911 (July 2002 est.)
Language Arabic, Hebrew (spoken by many Gazan Arabs), English (widely understood)
Religion Muslim (predominantly Sunni) 99.3%, Christian 0.7%, Jewish N/A
Electricity 230V/50Hz (Israeli plug)
Calling Code +970
Internet TLD .ps
Time Zone UTC+3

The Gaza Strip (Arabic ca;زة, Ghazzah, Hebrew e2;d6;d4; 'Azza) is a Palestinian territory in the Middle East. The largest city is Gaza.

Understand

Essentially an enormous refugee camp positioned between Israel and Egypt, Gaza isn't quite the pure hellhole you might expect given TV coverage, although needless to say the birthplace of the Intifada and one of the most overpopulated bits on the entire planet isn't exactly paradise on earth either. A UN report in 1952 stated that the Strip was too small to support its population of 300,000; there are now well over one million inhabitants and the latest figures from the Palestinian Authority put unemployment at a whopping 79%. Most inhabitants are descendants of Palestinian refugees who fled the 1948 war but were denied entry into Egypt proper.

History

Gaza has been around for a while: the earliest known reference is an inscription in the Temple of Amun at Karnak, Egypt, dated 1500 BC, which states that the town of Gaza is 'flourishing'. And for a long time it did: a staging post on trade routes connecting Asia and Persia with Arabia, Egypt and Africa, even the name means "treasure" in Arabic. Alexander the Great laid siege to the town in 332 BC, executing 10,000 defenders after being held off for two months. Later, the town was held by the Romans, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Ottomans and briefly even by the French in 1799, when Napoleon Bonaparte set up camp on his way to defeat in Egypt. The Turks took it back, then lost it to the British in World War I. The Egyptian army grabbed it during the 1948 war that led to Israel's independence, opening camps for Palestinian refugees - and the current situation began when Israel occupied the Strip in 1967.

Spurred by the violence of the 1987-1993 Intifadah ("Uprising"), Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed a "Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements" in 1993, under which the Palestinian Authority (PA) was created to govern the Gaza Strip and the West Bank for a transitional period "not exceeding five years" as a step towards full independence. Parts of the territories were indeed handed over the PA between 1994 and 1999, but the peace plans were derailed by the second Intifadah that broke out in September 2000, unleashing yet another spiral of violence.

Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in 2005, evacuating three Jewish settlements and withdrawing its troops from the territory. It did however retain control of the airspace and the coastline in addition to the fact the entire region is circled by a large armed security fence. The Islamist Hamas won elections in 2006 and violently kicked out the remnants of the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Under Hamas rule, the rain of Qassam rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel increased, and Israel responded by locking down the borders down tighter than ever and conducting raids against suspected militants. In late 2008, Israel launched a massive coordinated air and land offensive. As of January 2009, the Israelis have disengaged and Hamas remains in tenuous control, but the future remains unclear — and dim.

Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is a narrow, 40-km long slice of land between the Mediterranean to the west and the Negev desert to the east. Egypt lies to the south, the north and east border Israel. The urban sprawl of Gaza City, mostly stretching along and around the 3-km long Omar al-Mukhtar Street, covers much of the north. The other main towns of Khan Yunis and Rafah are near the southern border, with most of the rest covered with agricultural land.

A bit of terminology disentanglement: Gaza Strip refers to the entire 40-by-6 kilometer patch of territory. Gaza City refers to the town itself, in the northern part of the strip, but due to huge population growth the City now sprawls into many of the surrounding villages and it's a tough task to say what is a part of the City and what isn't. Both city and strip are pretty much interchangeably referred to as Gaza and this guide will follow suit.

Climate

Temperate, mild winters, dry and warm to hot summers.

Terrain

Flat to rolling, sand and dune covered coastal plain

Highest point: Abu 'Awdah (Joz Abu 'Auda) 105 m

Get in

Getting into Gaza is both difficult and unwise. In fact, as of around 2003, all would-be visitors were required to apply in advance for Israeli permission to enter the Strip. The application is usually submitted through your embassy in Israel and, in theory takes between 5-10 days. In practice, it can take months, and if you're not either a fully accredited journalist or an aid/human rights worker, you're unlikely to get permission to enter Gaza from Israel.

On occasion and usually for humanitarian reasons it is sometimes possible to enter Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing. The last time it was open was 20 March 2009 but has been closed since for an indeterminate period. On the rare occasion when Rafah crossing is open, prior permission from the Egyptian and Palestinian authorities is required. If successful, permission can take several days or even weeks to obtain. Your Embassy will not normally help you obtain this as entry is contrary to their travel advice and consular assistance there is severely limited or non existent.

By plane

Gaza has no functioning airport, as Yasser Arafat International Airport (IATA: GZA) has been shut down since 2000. It has badly damaged by multiple bombings and is unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future, so for time being, the closest airports is El Arish International Airport and Tel Aviv.

By land

The only way in is through the Erez crossing in the north, and then you need a permit from the Israeli Army. If you have a permit, you need coordination with the Israeli Army, specifying when you are planning to enter and leave Gaza. Journalists with a Government Press Office (GPO) card can come and go as they please. Only vehicles with prior coordination (such as a handful of UN cars) are allowed to drive in and only after a thorough search.

At Erez, you have to approach the Israeli soldier in a pillbox who will ask you to open your bags on the table and check you're allowed entry. They may or may not ask a few questions. You then wait outside an electronic gate for your turn to be called through. You then enter the terminal, hand your passport and coordination over to another soldier who may or may not ask you more questions. If everything is satisfactory, take back your documents and follow the signs directing you to Gaza. After exiting the terminal, you end up in a long barren concrete tunnel. Don't bring anything too bulky as you'll have to go through a turnstile gate. Coming through the tunnel, you cross a no-mans-land. This can be a bit nervous, depending on the general situation in the area at the moment, and this is the most likely place for you to be shot at. After some hundred meters, you come to "Shamsa Shamsa" (five five in Arabic), which marks the spot where Palestinian Arabs stop if they do not have coordination with the Israeli Army. Here you will find a bunch of taxi drivers, desperately waiting for business. On the way through the tunnel and no-mans-land you might be approached by Palestinian porters that want to help you with your luggage, for a fee.

Another hundred meter or so beyond Shamsa shamsa, there is a Hamas checkpoint.

Entry, though difficult, pales in comparison to exit. After being deposited at Shamsa Shamsa, go to the white caravan to your right. A man will take your passport and call ahead to tell the Israelis you're coming. Ignore this at your own peril. Cross no-mans-land, enter the concrete tunnel (note the CCTV and speakers playing helicopter noises) and wait at the row of doors. There will usually be a porter with a flask of tea there. Once a handful of people have gathered, one of the doors will open (indicated by a green light on top of the door). Under no circumstances attempt to enter the open doorways on the far left or far right -- these are for foot passengers entering Gaza. You will then enter a hall with a table at the centre. Open your bags at the table. A disembodied voice is likely to bark something at you in Hebrew. When they're happy with what they see in your bags, go through the turnstile when the light flashes green. You will see toilet facilities to your right. Use them. Follow the arrows to Israel. You will then encounter another hall with eight doorways. Wait until one of the lights go green then enter that doorway. Leave your bags with the porter at a large security scanner. Keep your passport and ID on you. Enter a series of gates as the lights flash green. When you come to the body scanner, put your feet on the markers and place your hands on your head. If you're lucky, you will be allowed out to a hall where it appears as if your bags will emerge on a conveyor belt...they won't. Walk straight through to the departures hall. And await your bags there. If you're unlucky, you'll be detained in the maze of body scanners. There is a separate section that will reveal itself to you if the guards in the gallery above feel they need to strip search you. Exit from Gaza could take an hour or several hours. The soldier at the final exit gate will ask you such pressing questions as "Where have you been?" and "Did you speak to any Arabs?". Answer politely. Otherwise you'll be really thankful you used the toilet early in your journey.

By boat

The port of Gaza is non-operational.

Get around

There is no public transport in Gaza, but most any vehicle will gladly turn into a taxi if you point at the roadside with an index finger. Travel up and down Omar al-Mukhtar St. will set you back one shekel; trips elsewhere are negotiable. It is advisable to watch your step if walking, since traffic is chaotic and sidewalks are largely non-existent.

Talk

The standard language is Arabic. Hebrew is also understood to some extent, but English is a safer option.

See

Gaza is not exactly a top tourist destination and most of its attractions have taken quite a beating during the past 50 years. The following are all in Gaza City.

  • The Great Mosque (Jamaa al-Akbar) makes up for its lacklustre appearance with an interesting history: it's a converted Crusader church built on the site of a Hellenic temple with pillars from a 3rd-century Jewish synagogue.
  • More educational might be a UNRWA-arranged visit to one of the refugee camps that dot the strip. The UNRWA office is on al-Azhar St, near the Islamic University, call ahead to see if they can arrange a little tour. Your most probable destination is the optimistically named Beach Camp, a warren of concrete huts and open sewers housing 63,000 people, built next to a sandy beach - and you can walk there on your own, 15 minutes to the north from the intersection of Omar al-Mukhtar St. with the seafront road. UNRWA wisely recommends avoiding military clothing. The Jabaliya refugee camp is also a nearby option.
  • Hamam al-Sumara. The last of the 'turkish baths' in Gaza. Different hours for men and women, excellent service and a proper scrub down. Between Palestine Square and the Saladin Road.

Buy

The local currency is the Israeli shekel. But bring some boxes of cigarettes and a few bottles of whiskey into the Strip and everyone will be your friend. *However, please note the policemen at the Hamas checkpoint into Gaza are now opening all bags and disposing of any alcohol (since early 2009). Do not bring alcohol into Gaza, it could land you into serious trouble.

  • Undoubtedly the most fun thing to do in Gaza is to visit the PLO Flag Shop, a bit tough to find (ask around) but unmistakable once you spot it. It's the place to buy Palestinian flags, stickers, badges, and pennants. It was also famous for the legendary inflatable Yasser Arafat - a truly bizarre blow-up tennis racket thingy emblazoned with a map of Palestine on one side and a familiar fuzzy visage on the other - but as of January 2005, they only had one left, and weren't selling at any price.
  • Interesting sculptures / lampshades fashioned from old cigarette cartons.
  • Foustouk and simsimiya. The former is a sticky peanuty snack. The latter is its sesame cousin. An elderly man in Gaza City with a grey tweed jacket crops up on a different street corner when he has a fresh batch.

Eat

Usual Arabic cheap eats are available anywhere. Head to the posh suburb of Rimal for fancier food; the restaurant in the Windmill Hotel is nice.

The seaside terrace restaurant of Al Diera hotel serves lovely mezes (small mediterranean-style dishes), including the Gazan speciality Daqqa (a sometimes very spicy chili salad, very nice). They also have some tasty main courses, try the shrimps in tomato sauce, baked in the oven and served in a clay pot. And don't miss out on the fresh strawberry juice! Enhanced with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, it is higly enjoyable. Remember that the sale of alcohol in Gaza is restricted...but you can bring it in when you arrive.

Next to the hotel (north of it) there is a very good seafood & fish restaurant.

Matouk, behind the legislative council building serves an excellent chicken tawwouk.

Another famous restaurant in Gaza City well worth a visit is "Roots".

Drink

Due to increasingly strong Hamas influences alcohol is no longer available. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, and Hamas, as a conservative Islamic group will prohibit it. The last place for a visitor to drink was the UN Club. However, the Club was bombed by unknown attackers on New Years' Eve 2006. If you do manage to find some booze, however, you should not attempt to go out under the influence; you may land in a very bad situation indeed.

  • Al Deira Hotel', [1]. The height of Gazan luxury. Featuring massive rooms with a view of the sea, a pleasant (though by Gaza's standards not superb) restaurant (with Shisha pipes, not allowed in the fine Oriental bedrooms) this is as good it gets. The minibar is non-alcoholic. The Bank of Palestine opens at 0800 so if you plan to check out before this, it's advisable to bring cash. The al Deira costs $110USD/night. And bring a toothbrush...though if you forget, the staff will buy one for you. They supply a hairdryer, towels, soap, shampoo and conditioner, and a little plate of cookies. Don't be alarmed that the water tastes salty. The Deira has a back-up generator in the event of power outages, a business center and WiFi. Breakfast is complimentary. Most international journalists and NGOs stay at the Deira.
  • Marna House. Gaza's oldest hotel, run by a friendly family.

Work

Realistically, if you are not either an aid worker, journalist or diplomat, there is no work for you in Gaza. There are a number of NGOs offering internships, however, such as the Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights in Gaza, the Palestinian Center For Human Rights and others.

Travel Warning

WARNING: Be careful in Gaza: stay away from demonstrations, and stay off the streets at night when most of the clashes happen. Especially avoid areas near the border where militants may be firing rockets at Israel. Journalists and other foreign nationals have been kidnapped by various local groups.

The Gaza Strip is occasionally subject to Israeli military operations (which include aerial bombardment as well as ground incursions) as well as violent confrontations between the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions. While Hamas has managed to curb crime levels in Gaza, some members have been known to beat journalists attempting to cover demonstrations against Hamas. In general, use common sense and avoid these kinds of situations. Consult your embassy for advice and current conditions before setting out. Unlike the West Bank travel documentation does not need to be kept at hand at all times.

See also War zone safety.

Stay healthy

Tap water in Gaza is not potable and is often dangerously dirty. Some hotels may use filters but if in doubt, just buy bottles.

At present, Israel is blockading the area following the 2008 "war" and only limited medical supplies are allowed in.

Respect

Women should dress conservatively, especially if entering refugee camps. Conservatively here means, within Gaza City a top with long sleeves and absolutely nothing low cut in the front. Ideally, tops should also be long. Trousers are suitable as long as they are loose and full length, not capri pants.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GAZA (or `AllAH, mod. Ghuzzeh), the most southerly of the five princely Philistine cities, situated near the sea, at the point where the old trade routes from Egypt, Arabia and Petra to Syria met. It was always a strong border fortress and a place of commercial importance, in many respects the southern counterpart of Damascus. The earliest notice of it is in the Tell el-Amarna tablets, in a letter from the local governor, who then held it for Egypt, with which country it always stood in close connexion. It never passed for long into Israelite hands, though subject for a while to Hezekiah of Judah; from him it passed to Assyria. In Amos i. 6 the city is denounced for giving up Hebrew slaves to Edom. To Herodotus (iii. 5) the place seemed as important as Sardis. The city withstood Alexander the Great for five months (332 B.C.), and in 96 B.C. was razed to the ground by Alexander Jannaeus. It was rebuilt by Aulus Gabinius, 57 B.C., but on a new site; the old site was remembered and spoken of as "Old" or "Desert Gaza": compare Acts viii. 26. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries Gaza was a thriving Greek city, with good schools and famous temples, especially one to the local god Marna (i.e. "Lord" or "Our Lord"). A statue of this god has been found near Gaza; it much resembles the Greek representation of Zeus. The struggle with Christianity here was long and intense. Egyptian monks gradually won over the country folk, and in 402, under the influence of Theodosius and Porphyry the local bishop, the Marneion was destroyed and the cross made politically supreme. In the 5th and 6th centuries Gaza was held in high repute as a place of learning. But after it passed into Moslem hands (635) it gradually lost all save commercial importance, and even the Crusaders did little to revive its old military glory. It finally was captured by the Moslems in 1244. Napoleon captured it in 1799.

The modern town (pop. 16,000) is divided into four quarters, one of which is built on a low hill. A magnificent grove of very ancient olives forms an avenue 4 m. long to the north. There are many lofty minarets in various parts of the town, and a fine mosque built of ancient materials. A 12th century church towards the south side of the hill has also been converted into a mosque. On the east is shown the tomb of Samson (an erroneous tradition dating back to the middle ages). The ancient walls are now covered up beneath green mounds of rubbish. The water-supply is from wells sunk through the sandy soil to the rock; of these there are more than twenty - an unusual number for a Syrian town. The land for the 3 m. between Gaza and the sea consists principally of sand dunes. There is no natural harbour, but traces of ruins near the shore mark the site of the old Maiuma Gazae or Port of Gaza, now called el Minch, which in the 5th century was a separate town and episcopal see, under the title Constantia or Limena Gaza. Hashem, an ancestor of Mahomet, lies buried in the town. On the east are remains of a race-course, the corners marked by granite shafts with Greek inscriptions on them. To the south is a remarkable hill, quite isolated and bare, with a small mosque and a graveyard. It is called el Muntar, "the watch tower," and is supposed to be the mountain "before (or facing) Hebron," to which Samson carried the gates of Gaza (Judg. xvi. 3). The bazaars of Gaza are considered good. An extensive pottery exists in the town, and black earthenware peculiar to the place is manufactured there. The climate is dry and comparatively healthy, but the summer temperature often exceeds Fahr. The surrounding country is partly cornland, partly waste, and is inhabited by wandering Arabs. The prosperity of Ghuzzeh has partially revived through the growing trade in barley, of which the average annual export to Great Britain for 1897-1899 was over 30,000 tons. The dress of the people is Egyptian rather than Syrian. Gaza is an episcopal see both of the Greek and the Armenian church. The Church Missionary Society maintains a mission, with schools for both sexes, and a hospital.


<< Theodorus Gaza

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also gaza, and gáza

Contents

English

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Wikipedia

Etymology

From Ancient Greek Γάζα (Gaza) from the Hebrew עזה (`aza).

Proper noun

Singular
Gaza

Plural
-

Gaza

  1. A city on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, formerly in Egypt.
  2. A coastal area between Israel and Egypt currently under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Synonyms

  • Ghazza
  • Ghazzah
  • Ghazze

Translations

Derived terms


Wikispecies

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Taxonavigation

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Spiralia
Cladus: Lophotrochozoa
Phylum: Mollusca
Classis: Gastropoda
Subclassis: Orthogastropoda
Superordo: Vetigastropoda
Superfamilia: Trochoidea
Familia: Trochidae
Subfamilia: Margaritinae
Tribus: Gazini
Genus: Gaza
Species: G. compta - G. cubana - G. daedala - G. fischeri - G. olivacea - G. rathbuni - G. superba

Name

Gaza Watson, 1879: 601

Type species: Gaza daedala Watson, 1879 by original designation

References

  • Simone, L.R.L. & C.M. Cunha. 2006. Revision of genera Gaza and Callogaza (Vetigastropoda, Trochidae), with description of a new Brazilian species. Zootaxa 1318': 1–40.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

called also Azzah, which is its Hebrew name (Deut 2:23; 1 Kg 4:24; Jer 25:20), strong, a city on the Mediterranean shore, remarkable for its early importance as the chief centre of a great commercial traffic with Egypt. It is one of the oldest cities of the world (Gen 10:19; Josh 15:47). Its earliest inhabitants were the Avims, who were conquered and displaced by the Caphtorims (Deut 2:23; Josh 13:2, 3), a Philistine tribe. In the division of the land it fell to the lot of Judah (Josh 15:47; Jdg 1:18). It was the southernmost of the five great Philistine cities which gave each a golden emerod as a trespass-offering unto the Lord (1Sam 6:17). Its gates were carried away by Samson (Jdg 16:1-3). Here he was afterwards a prisoner, and "did grind in the prison house." Here he also pulled down the temple of Dagon, and slew "all the lords of the Philistines," himself also perishing in the ruin (Jdg 16:21-30). The prophets denounce the judgments of God against it (Jer 25:20; 47:5; Amos 1:6, 7; Zeph 2:4). It is referred to in Acts 8:26. Philip is here told to take the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (about 6 miles south-west of Jerusalem), "which is desert", i.e., the "desert road," probably by Hebron, through the desert hills of Southern Judea.

It is noticed on monuments as early as B.C. 1600. Its small port is now called el-Mineh.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)


Simple English

Another city with a very similar name is Giza, in Egypt

Gaza
File:Gaza
Skyline of Gaza, 2007
File:Gaza
Coat of arms of Gaza
[[image:Template:Location map Palestinian territories|250px|Gaza is located in Template:Location map Palestinian territories]]
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Gaza

Arabic غزة
Governorate Gaza
Government City (from 1994[1])
Also spelled Ghazzah (officially)

Gaza City (unofficially)

Coordinates 31°31′N 34°27′E / 31.517°N 34.45°E / 31.517; 34.45Coordinates: 31°31′N 34°27′E / 31.517°N 34.45°E / 31.517; 34.45
Population 409,680 (2006)
Jurisdiction

45,000  dunams (45[2] km²)

Founded in 15th Century BCE
Head of Municipality Rafiq Tawfiq al-Makki

Gaza (Arabic:غزة. transliterated Ġazzah; Hebrew: עזה, transliterated: Azzah) is the largest city inside the Gaza Strip and in the Palestinian territories. The city has a population of approximately 400,000. It is often named "Gaza City" to distinguish it from the larger Gaza Strip.

References

  1. "Palestine Facts Timeline". Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA). http://www.passia.org/palestine_facts/chronology/19941995.htm. 
  2. "Gaza City". Gaza Municipality. http://www.mogaza.org/gazacity.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 



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