MOST CHRISTIANS KNOW about Gaza from its mention in the Hebrew scriptures in the sensuous and heroic stories of Samson, corrupted by Delilah, who lured him into showing the secret of his strength (Judges 16:5). Historically a Canaanite city and then Philistine, Gaza was conquered by Joshua as a part of his conquest of the Promised Land (Joshua 10:41). For thousands of years Gaza has had a history of being destroyed and rebuilt, from the time of Alexander the Great until today.
The Gaza Strip is now a small territory to the southwest of Israel, bordered on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, with 1.8 million people living in only 140 square miles. During my visit there earlier this year, I was overwhelmed by the place’s incredible beauty; at the same time, the lack of functional sewage treatment plants, limited electricity, and other broken infrastructure result in Gazans experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis. Beautiful and tragic.
In 1967, the Israeli military seized Gaza and remained there until 2005, when Israel unilaterally pulled out under Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” plan. Between August and September 2005, roughly 9,000 Israeli settlers were evacuated and 21 settlements destroyed (rather than turned over to Gazans). In 2007, after Hamas took control of Gaza, Israel intensified the restriction of movement and imposed land, sea, and air blockades on the territory. The blockades have led to severe living conditions for the people there and a growing humanitarian crisis.