Life in Gaza

Ever wondered what life in the Gazastrip is like? Listen to this podcast episode and learn from Nader and Wasim about growing up in Gaza and about recent experiences during the bombings of the Gazastrip.

Information about Gaza

The Gaza strip is a strip of land of 365 km2 (141 sq miles) on the West coast of Palestine. It is about 41 km long (that is 25 miles) and between 6 – 12 km wide (that is 3.7-7.5 miles)

The population of Gaza is approximately 2 million and that number includes 1.4 million Palestinian refugees who were kicked out of their homes in the coastal area during the 1948 Nakba.

It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

A big chunk of the land of the Gazastrip can not be used by the Palestinians as it serves an extensive Israeli buffer zone within the Strip.

Israel’s disengagement from Gaza

Until 2005 there were Israeli settlers living in the Gazastrip. After the disengagement from Gaza when the settlers and the army left the Gazastrip, the Israeli government does not consider that they still occupy the Gazastrip. But the United Nations, human rights organizations and the majority of governments still consider the territory to be occupied and Israel maintains direct external control over Gaza and over life within Gaza. Israel controls six of the seven land crossings. The seventh is controlled by Egypt.

Israel’s blockade of Gazastrip

Since 2007 when Hamas won the elections and took over the control of Gaza strip Israel imposed a blockade on land, air and sea. Obviously this has had devastating effect the economy and all aspects of life as it is Israel that decides what comes in and out of the Gazastrip.

Gaza is dependent on Israel for a lot of essential utilities including water, electricity and telecommunication.

The average unemployment rate has reached over 80 percent, one of the highest in the world.

The number of Palestinian refugees relying on UNRWA for food aid increased to almost one million which is more than double the number it was in the year 2000

Clean water is unavailable for 95 % of the population. Electricity is available for less than half of the day.

Gaza has eight recognized refugee camps which have one of the highest population densities in the world.

Gazastrip before 1948

Before the State of Israel was created in 1948 the Gaza strip was part of the Ottoman Empire and after the armistice agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1949 the Gaza strip was first officially administered by the All Palestine government that was established by the Arab League in September 1948. The All Palestine government was managed under the military authority of Egypt and functioned as a puppet state until it officially merged into the United Arab Republic and was dissolved in 1959. From that time it was directly administered by an Egyptian military governor until it was occupied by Israel in 1967.

Earliest inhabited areas of Gaza

But if we go back far in time to the earliest inhabited areas then we start in the bronze age time around 3.500 years ago when Ancient Egypt had administrative outposts on the coast.

It was also in this region that the Philistines that are mentioned frequently in the Bible were located in the five main cities, the Pentapolis, of which Gaza city was one. The others were Asdod, Asqalan, Gath and Ekron.

Gaza was an important port and served as the port from where the traders over the incense route that started all the way in Oman, would continue their trade route to cities in the Western part of the Roman Empire.

Archaeological sites in Gazastrip

Gazastrip has several interesting archaeological sites for example Tell Umm el ‘Amr also known as Saint Hilarion monastery. It is an ancient Christian monastery close to Deir al Balah. The oldest building dates from the 4th century and is named after Hilarion, a native of Gaza region, who is one of the founding fathers of Palestinian monasticism. The site was abandoned after an earthquake in the 7th Century and rediscovered by local archaeologists in 1999.

Another archaeological site is Tell el Ajjul, a tell being an artificial mount of superimposed cities, that looks like a hill but is actually a site where people lived and where you can find lots of archaeological remains. Tell el Ajjul was excavated in the 1930s and they found three hoards of Bronze Age gold jewellery, one of the greatest Bronze Age finds in the Levant.

Most of the collection is in the British Museum and the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.

Were the Philistines Sea peoples from Greece?

What they also found was a large amount of pottery that originates from Cyprus and Mycenean pottery. These finds contribute to the hypothesis that the Philistines of the Bible stories were the Sea peoples that the Egyptians mentioned in their writings who may have come from Crete, Cyprus and other Greek islands. A recent finding of a big cemetery in Asqalan with the remains of 130 humans from the iron age time showed that the DNA of the oldest generation of burials had much more of European roots. But within two generations they had intermarried with the locals and this genetic footprint was diluted by a local Levantine gene pool.