The Story of Gaza

Physically, historically, and politically locating the Gaza Strip.

LIFE Photo Collection

Locating Gaza

The Gaza Strip is a 25-mile-long section of land in West Asia. It borders Egypt to the south and Israel to the East. On its western coast rests the Mediterranean Sea. 

Windcatchers at the Cairo Citadel (2017-09-27) by ZienautoThe Barakat Trust

Salem Al Qudwa, Architectural Engineer at Harvard University
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The entire Gaza strip is said to be the 3rd most densely populated polity in the world. Each of Gaza’s villages host several refugee camps, which hold Palestinians that have been displaced after the Israeli occupation.

The return of the spies from Canaan, plate 39 (1860) by Julius Schnorr von CarolsfeldThe Barakat Trust

Jabaliya

In the north is Jabaliya, a historically Christian village. Alexander the Great tried to invade Gaza three times through Jabaliya.

Gaza Port by Ramez HabboubThe Barakat Trust

Gaza City

The strip is named after its densely-populated capital of Gaza City. The Canaanites likely gave Gaza its name, which means “strength” in ancient Semitic languages. The Egyptians called it “Gazzat” (prized city).

The Madaba Map (525-575) by Survey of IsraelThe Barakat Trust

In the Madaba Map, a 6th-century floor mosaic depicting the Holy Land, Gaza City is referred to as the 7th oldest city in the world.

The Old Town, Gaza. (1863) by Francis FrithThe Barakat Trust

Rawan Yaghi, Journalist
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Old Gaza City

Rawan Yaghi discusses the sense of history and destruction of Gaza City. Many ancient Arab cities were protected with stone walls on their perimeter. This ancient fortressed city carries a sense of what was lost; what the stone walls could not prevent.

Environs du Cairo, dattiers (about 1865) by UnknownThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Deir al-Balah

Just south of Gaza city is Deir al-Balah (“monestary of the date palm”). It was an outpost in ancient Egypt and later was contested territory between the Crusaders and Ayyubid empire. Traditionally affiliated with St. George (Al-Khadar locally), some believe he is buried there.

Gaza Marketplace (2011-04-13) by MujaddaraThe Barakat Trust

Khan Yunis

Further south is Khan Yunis (“caravansary of Jonah”). A caravansary is a roadside inn for travelers, traders, and pilgrims. Khan Yunis was a popular resting place for medieval merchants who flocked for a Thursday market. To this day, the city still hosts a weekly market.

LIFE Photo Collection

Rafah

Rafah is the Strip’s southernmost city. In 1982, Rafah was sliced in half: one side for Egypt, the other for the Palestinian territories. Because many refugees try to escape Gaza's poor conditions, they attempt to go Egypt through Rafah. Thus, Rafah is heavily militarized. 

Ancient boundary line at Raffah, between Egypt and Palestine (1898-1946) by Matson Photo ServiceThe Barakat Trust

Salem Al Qudwa, Architectural Engineer at Harvard University
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Waiting for Permits

Hear Salem Al Qudwa describe his experience regarding this border between Rafah and Egypt.

Dr. Suheir Ammar, Assistant Professor at the Islamic University of Gaza
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"To leave Gaza is an ordeal and to return to Gaza is another ordeal. When I finished my masters and was trying to return to Gaza, I had to spend a whole month in Egypt because the border crossing was closed."

Police patting down Arabs (1936-1937) by John D. WhitingThe Barakat Trust

Yousef Aljamal, PhD candidate and Journalist
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Hear Yousef Aljamal talk about the difficulties getting travel permits for his parents between Rafah and Egypt.

Six Day War 1967 by Cohen Fritz, Government Press Office (GPO)The Barakat Trust

Ongoing Violence

The modern political strife of Gaza is inseparable from Israel's role in West Asia. In the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967, control over the Gaza Strip has become exponentially strict, limiting access to food, clean water, physical security, and travel.

Gaza ruins (1898-1946) by American Colony Photo Department or its successor the Matson Photo ServiceThe Barakat Trust

This violence has resulted in the destruction of countless heritage sites. Buildings are destroyed faster than they can be preserved.

Bombed house in Gaza by Marius ArnesenThe Barakat Trust

Heritage workers in Gaza cannot access the funds, education, and physical tools to do their work because of travel limitations.

Aust. [i.e., Australian] Comforts Fund carnival on Gaza Beach (1940-1946) by Matson Photo ServiceThe Barakat Trust

Yousef Aljamal, PhD candidate and Journalist
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Immigration

Immigration to and from Gaza used to be more frequent than it is now. Hear Yousef Aljamal discuss the relationship between early 20th-century immigration compared to the present day. 

Berlin Airlift (1948-07) by Walter SandersLIFE Photo Collection

Rawan Yaghi, Journalist
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“I have always associated traveling with pain.” -Rawan Yaghi

In the past several decades, it has become increasingly difficult for Gazans to leave. Listen to Rawan Yaghi reflect on her experiences in making difficult decisions regarding her travel to and from Gaza.

Moslem [i.e., Muslim] celebrations at Mejdal (Wady Nemill and Sey'd Hussein Shrine at Ascalon) and at Gaza (el Muntar) April 20th, 21st and 22nd 1943. Camels being bathed & 'cured' at wady el Nemill (1943-04-20) by Matson Photo ServiceThe Barakat Trust

Avedis Djeghalian, Dentist and son of Gazan photographer Kegham
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Prior to the war in 1967, Gaza was economically and socially thriving. Hear Avedis Djeghalian describe his memories of the rich immigrant population in Gaza between 1956 and 1966.

Credits: Story

Compiled by Leena Ghannam. The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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