Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gaza History 1: From the Romans through Israeli Independence

On the fringes of the tribes of Shimon (Simeon) and Yehudah (Judah,) it seems that the position of Gaza's Jewish community has always been tenuous.
While the Torah and Tanach provide the imperative to settle this area, the hostile forces living there often made settlement impossible. Jewish communities were often destroyed and exiled. The first recorded exile was conducted by the Romans in 61 CE as part of their greater program of killing all Jews living in the Land of Israel and enslaving any survivors. Later, the Byzantines, Crusaders, Ottoman Turks, British, and the modern Egyptians also took a hand in exiling the Jewish community of Gaza, a community which, like a desert weed, always seemed to rise anew after the passing storm. After the anti-Jewish riots of 1936, the indigenous Jewish population if Gaza City fled, never to return. In 1946, during a rush of settlement building prior to the Israeli declaration of Independence, the religious agricultural settlement of Kfar Darom (village of the south,) named after a Talmudic-era Jewish village of the same name, was founded in the dune fields outside of Gaza City. Foreseeing the coming Arab-Israeli conflict, the United Nations decided to partition the tiny sliver of land into two equal parts, one part for the Jews, and the other for an Arab state.

Upon Israel's declaration of Independence in 1948, the armies of the surrounding Arab states, armed, equipped and led by the British Empire, crossed over the nascent state's borders in an attempt to smash Israel in the cradle.

Israel declared independence.

Areas which Israel actually controlled at independence.

From the south, Egyptian forces moved from one Jewish settlement to the next, thoroughly destroying each one on their march up the coast to Tel Aviv.

A cool painting of Israeli and British Spitfires in a dogfight.

On May 15, 1948, the Egyptian Army surrounded Kfar Darom, the tiny Jewish settlement in Gaza. In what would later become part of Israeli military legend akin to America's experience in Wake Island, the settlement of Kfar Darom, with its fed dozen wounded, exhausted farmers, held off the entire Egyptian army for several months.

A relief convoy tries to get to Kfar Darom. Only one convoy actually got through, but it exacerbated the problem, as so many were wounded on the way that they stretched the settlement's resources even further.

Israel at its worst, during the Arab invasion.

To be continued...

No comments: