Palestinian Gaza is one of the most ancient cities in the world. Its history goes back more than 4 thousand years. It may be a little smaller than Jerusalem, but the history of this city is much more dramatic and tragic.
Over the course of four thousand years, the city constantly changed hands, the conquerors changed power, religion, completely destroyed the city and rebuilt it again. It experienced periods of economic and cultural decline and prosperity.
Nineteenth-century explorers described Gaza as the greenest city in Palestine, surrounded by orchards and olive groves. Over the past 15-20 years, not a trace has remained of the lush vegetation of Gaza as an intensive construction of residential areas is underway. It was impossible to see the sea from the ancient city: it was obscured by a series of high sand dunes. Where the city’s port, Mayum, used to be located, is today a fishing pier. Fertile soils, abundance of water and a seaport are the main reasons that made Gaza so tempting to neighboring ancient powers.
Despite the low rainfall, there was a fairly powerful aquifer on the Gaza coast, that is, wells and wells provided residents with fresh water.
Gaza has long been a powerful stronghold in Egypt. In fact, this is the land gateway to a country protected on three sides by deserts and the fourth by sea, and it was this narrow isthmus that opened the route through the Middle East.
Samson and Delilah
It was in Gaza that the events described in the Bible as the exploits of Samson took place. Let us remember that this is an Old Testament hero who rebelled against the Philistines inhabiting Gaza. For some time, the Jews were under the rule of these people, the origin of which gives rise to a lot of hypotheses, but most of all scientists are inclined to the version about immigrants from Crete and the Aegean coast.
Samson possessed remarkable strength, which lay in his miraculous hair, long hair braided into braids. The hero decided to marry a Philistine woman, despite the objections of his parents and fellow tribesmen, but during the wedding his father-in-law deceived him, giving his wife to Samson’s young friend. And the hero began to take revenge on the treacherous Philistines. For example, he caught foxes, set their tails on fire and released them near the fields where the harvest was ripening.
Samson was caught in Gaza and the beautiful Delilah, whom he trusted, helped him find out the source of the miraculous power. She learned that by cutting his hair the Philistines would be able to defeat the hero.
But even captured and blinded, he was able to get out of prison and destroy the city, under the rubble of which he died at the end.
It is interesting that as a result of the events of October 6-7, this legend is often remembered in Israel, drawing parallels with the taking and holding of hostages.
It is a pity that despite the rich history of the city, the antiquities of Gaza are practically not preserved or explored. But in a different scenario, this territory could attract tourists, there is a sea coast nearby combined with the charm and antiquity of the Middle East. But it didn’t work out.
Otherwise, it would be interesting to look at the legendary temple and sanctuary of the Marnas, the patron saint of Gaza. It was destroyed at the instigation of the Christian bishop Porphyrios in 401. But Marnas was the god of rain, providing this territory with fresh water. Rituals were addressed to him during the period of drought. He was the chief of the pantheon of gods and ensured the prosperity and wealth of Gaza during the Hellenistic period and later under the rule of Rome. Moreover, Marnas is a deity of ancient origin, the name is Semitic and means “our lord”
As a passerby walked along the embankments or shores under the scorching sun, all the various goods from the bustling seaport were waiting to be loaded. The caravans that came overland, through Beer Sheba from the East, brought spices, carpets, silk and cotton, precious stones and a variety of metal products. Furs and skins, embroideries, perfumes and incense were brought from Iran, India and East Africa.
The products of Palestine itself, which passed through the seaport, were famous and in demand throughout the Greco-Roman world. Exports included wine and dried figs. Fruit and date plantations were very profitable and their products were in demand. The syrup made in Jericho was also quite popular; the wine produced in Galilee was known far beyond the borders of the province. Various types of local fruit wines were also sent overseas. Entire villages were busy producing pottery and amphorae in which wine could be transported by sea. Flax, hemp and cotton grew in Palestine. High quality flax was in great demand in the empire. Henna and saffron were also exported.
It was a charming environment, prosperous and comfortable. Businessmen, scholars, government officials, and important citizens everywhere moved in the streets, went to baths and public squares, were well-fed and prosperous, and their servants and slaves lived in relative comfort. Glanville Downey, Gaza at the beginning of the 6th century.
In 1870, an ancient statue was discovered near Gaza, believed to be of Zeus. It was in his image that the ancient Ghazi god Marnas was often represented. Apparently, the residents, on the eve of the destruction of the temple, were able to take it out and bury it.
Despite the destruction of the Marnas Temple by Christians, this city was Christian for a fairly short time, which was replaced by the rule of the Rashidun Caliphate. Surprisingly, the townspeople quickly converted to Islam. Arab traders had long lived in this cosmopolitan city and were not perceived with hostility.
And despite the fact that during the Arab period the city maintained its strategic position at the crossroads of trade routes, nevertheless, by the beginning of the Crusades, the knights found it desolate. The Templars built a castle there but again it was destroyed with the arrival of the Mongol conquerors.
Gaza was the southern point on the Mediterranean territory of the Mongol Empire and In the 14th century, two disasters befell the city: first, the population was wiped out by the bubonic plague, and then an unprecedented flood came. Next came the short-lived rule of the Egyptians, then the Ottoman Empire, which was replaced by the British Mandate. This was a time when the British were actively interested in the rich history of Gaza, but unfortunately, since the second half of the 20th century, this city has been going through hard times.
Old Testament prophets
In 1965, in one of the urban areas of Gaza, Egyptian archaeologists discovered the remains of a synagogue with a mosaic image of King David. It is obvious that large communities of Jews lived in Gaza at the time they were expelled from Judea. In general, this metropolis is often mentioned in the Old Testament, because at that time it was a large and influential city in the Middle East, but for the most part it caused tension for the Jews. Even during the period of the most powerful state of Solomon, who controlled a vast territory west of the Euphrates, Gaza nevertheless remained independent.
Among the Old Testament prophets there are also predictions that Gaza will be destroyed and become empty.
Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they took captive the whole captivity To deliver them up to Edom. But I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, Which shall devour its palaces. Amos 1:6-8
250 years after Amos, Zechariah claimed that Gaza would tremble with fear and lose the power of its rulers. This was said in the 7-5 centuries BC. During this time, Gaza was destroyed, emptied, and again rose from the ashes. As we see, even after two thousand years nothing has changed.
People living in the 21st century believe that they are progressive, following humanistic goals and democratic values. But reality shows that in fact they have not changed at all compared to Old Testament times. And words about humanism are real demagogy to veil real and often bloodthirsty goals.