For the record, I'm neither an academic nor a scholar, and admittedly, I've never been to many of the places posted here. So if someone should find a mistake, or believe I omitted something, please feel free to email me and I'll correct it.

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Friday, April 3, 2020


tel of ancient Gezer with kibbutz in right background, courtesy,
The ancient town of Gezer today is a kibbutz in central Israel. Located in the Shephelah region between Modi'inRamle and Rehovot, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Gezer Regional Council. In 2018 it had a population of 286.
Gezer, originally a Canaanite town, was conquered by Joshua, but the Canaanite inhabitants were spared. It was designated a Levitical city, allotted to the tribe of Ephraim and located at the very edge of the tribal territory. At the beginning of the 10th century BCE, possibly during the reign of King Solomon, Gezer was conquered by the Egyptians but then the Pharaoh gave it to Solomon as a present (I Kings ix. 15-17). In the 4th century BCE, the town, along with the rest of the country, fell under Hellenist rule under Alexander the Great. It was later populated by Greek immigrants who settled there alongside the indigenous Jewish inhabitants. At the time of the Maccabees, Gezer, still under Hellenist rule, became a fortified city under Bacchides, a Hellenist general, but was conquered by Simon the Maccabee, who drove out the Greek settlers and their Jewish collaborators and settled it with faithful Jews according to the Book of Maccabees iv. 15; vii. 45; ix. 52; xiii. 43, 53; xiv. 7, 34; xv. 28; xvi. 1. Under the Roman general Gabinius, “Gazara” became the chief town of its district.
Gezer remained inhabited by Jews even after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem but abandoned a few centuries afterwards. The town eventually became a heap of ruins in which state in remained for many centuries. By the beginning of the 19th century, the Arab settlement of Abu Shusha had long been established adjacent to the site. In 1869, some of the village lands near the ruined site of Gezer (as yet, not identified as such until 1873) and adjacent to Abu Shusha were purchased by Melville Peter Bergheim, a banker from Germany who had settled in Israel many years previously and had later established a bank. According to rumor, he was born Jewish but had converted to Protestant Christianity as an adult before settling in Israel. Bergheim established a modern agricultural farm on his newly-purchased land using contemporary European methods and equipment. His ownership of the land was hotly contested by the villagers, by legal and illegal means, including the murder of his son Peter. After the Bergheim Bank became insolvent in 1892, his land, through an agreed-upon court arrangement, was managed jointly with a government receiver, Serapion Pasha, a resident of Jaffa. But legal disputes still plagued the area and in 1913, part of the land was sold by Serapion to the villagers and the rest to the Jewish Colonization Association, financially backed by the Baron de Rothschild. Disputes were finally settled when the JCA and Rothschild gave the Arab villagers one third of their purchase on a temporary lease basis until more reasonable accommodations were found. Aside from the legal disputes, Gezer/Abu Shusha was also plagued by constant attacks by roving Bedouin as well as from poor living conditions. In 1922, the land was sold to the Maccabean Land Company, a British Jewish company under Norman Bentwich, barrister. In 1945, the kibbutz was established. The earliest pioneers who settled there were immigrants from Europe, who named the kibbutz after the biblical city, Gezer, near which was the tel of the ancient town.
On June 10, 1948 during the War of Independence, the day after the Yiftah and Harel brigades attempted to take the site of Latrun, an Arab Legion battalion, supported by irregulars and a dozen armored cars, attacked the kibbutz which was defended by only 68 Haganah soldiers. After four hours of battle, the kibbutz fell. 39 defenders and 2 Arab Legionnaires were killed, a dozen kibbutzniks escaped and those who remained, were taken prisoner. It was then occupied by the Arabs but was later taken back by two Palmach squads. Because of its strategic location, it then served as a vantage point in Operation Dani (July 1948), which resulted in the inclusion of the towns of Ramleh and Lydda (Lod) in the State of Israel. After the war it was rebuilt, but came apart in 1964 due to social difficulties. The current kibbutz was founded on 4 July 1974, by a Gar'in group from North America.
The kibbutz has developed since and in the ensuing years, it would run various enterprises including a factory for adhesives and a special educational park, Ginat Shorashim, dedicated to peace and the environment and rooted in Jewish sources. A pumping station of the Yarkon-Negev water pipeline is located nearby. In 1983, Kibbutz Gezer Field, one of the few regulation baseball fields in Israel, was established, funded by American donors as well as by the Jewish National Fund. The first game was played within a few months. A backstop, covered benches for players and a refreshment stand were added at a later date. In 1989, a scoreboard and outfield fence were erected for the Maccabiah Games. In addition, the Gezer Pool, temporarily closed as of this writing, was a very popular local recreation site and is located near the Nahal Azaria.
Since 2014, a red-hair event has been held at the Kibbutz for the local Israeli red hair community. However, the number of attendees has to be restricted due to the risk of rocket attacks (which the Zionist government in Israel refuses to stop), leading to anger in the red-hair community.

Sunday, March 29, 2020


Temple on Mount Gerizim
ruins of the Samaritan Temple, Mount Gerizim, courtesy,
Mount Gerizim is one of the highest points in Samaria at 2890 feet above sea level, and lies between Shechem (Nablus) on the west and the Arab settlement of Balata on the east. It is an important place of pilgrimage for the Samaritan community and has been so for roughly 3000 years.

After the Israelite conquest of the Land of Canaan, Mount Gerizim along with Shechem, became part of the tribal territory of Menasheh. Later, Joshua gathered the Israelite tribes at Shechem and designated to all assembled that Mount Gerizim was to be the mountain of Blessing while Mount Ebal, on the opposite end of the valley, was to be the mountain of Curses.

There is no concrete evidence when Mount Gerizim became a Samaritan center but what is certain is that some time during or after the Babylonian Captivity, it was indeed their holy place with a Samaritan Temple (now in ruins) containing what is thought to be the oldest Torah scroll in the world which is still used today. Pilgrimages to the mountain would take place every year by Samaritans throughout Judea and the surrounding territories, especially during Passover. It became a major event that has continued to this day. During the following centuries, the fortunes of the Samaritans in regards to Mount Gerizim often fluctuated between good and bad under the different ruling authorities of Judea at the time – Jews, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines. In the 6th century, the Byzantine emperor Justinian built a castle on top of Mount Gerizim. An initial archaeological study postulated that this castle had utilized stones from an earlier structure on the site (probably the Samaritan temple).

Under early Arab rule beginning in the 7th century, there was often persecution of Samaritans by the Arab Muslims and many times, the Arab authorities imposed prohibitions on religious practices, especially pilgrimages to Mt. Gerizim. But when the Fatimids took over the caliphate in 969, the situation improved as this dynasty tended to be more favorably disposed toward Jews and Samaritans.
Under Crusader rule, the Christian authorities actually treated the Samaritans well since they were portrayed positively in the New Testament. The Crusader period ended in 1291 and in the 14th century, a Samaritan renaissance of sorts took place. The annual pilgrimages to Mount Gerizim attracted large gatherings and especially from the Samaritan centers of Gaza, Cairo, and Damascus. The religious rites on Gerizim became well known for containing the least amount of changes in the Samaritan liturgy. But with the mass aliyah to Shechem of the Damascus Samaritans in 1538 under their High Priest Pinhas VIII (?), his assistant Abdallah bin Ibrahim, also an accomplished writer, would compose many hymns in honor of these annual pilgrimages.

After the death of the high priest Shalmiah in 1624, the persecutions by local Arab Muslims against the Samaritans increased: houses and fields were plundered and many families were forced to convert to Islam for fear of their lives. In addition, access to Mt. Gerizim was forbidden. Consequently, the Samaritans were forced to hold the Passover sacrifice on the eastern slope of the mountain. Although the ban was eventually lifted, these prohibitions occurred from time to time – notably in 1780, and again at the beginning of the 19th century. The latter ban lasted until 1820 due to the intervention of British diplomats with the Turks. Probably because of these constant prohibitions, the Samaritans became ever more jealous of their hold on the site. In 1838, the German Jewish traveler Louis Loewe, who served as secretary to Sir Moses Montefiore, had visited Shechem where he met the High Priest Shalma ben Tobia who told him, "We alone possess Mount Gerizim, and we alone offer sacrifices there".

Early in 1842, the Arabs, once again, banned the Samaritans from ascending Mount Gerizim on the grounds that they were considered to be atheists, illegal under Muslim law. Because of the activities of the British consulate in Jerusalem this newest ban was lifted – but only seven years later. By 1874, the surviving community was led by the high priest Yakub ben Aharon who reinforced the religious framework of Samaritan life in the hope of reviving the community. All their lands, riches, and property were taken from it, and the Samaritans remained in a dark ghetto, as it were, on the northern slope of Mt. Gerizim.

But pilgrimages to the mountain have continued uninterruptedly since then, during the British Mandate period after World War I, the succeeding Arab occupation after the War of Independence, and finally after Israel’s liberation of the area in 1967. In the 1980s, Jews returned to the area, adding to the Samaritan community, and established the town of Har Bracha located on the hilly area around Mount Gerizim. Previously, the town was established as a pioneer Nahal military outpost but was demilitarized when turned over for residential use on Israel’s Independence Day in 1983. The rapid expansion of Har Bracha is universally attributed to the Yeshivat Har Brakha, which was built in 1991, as well as its rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, who is also the chief rabbi of Har Bracha. During the first and second intifadas, the Arab settlers of Shechem ethnically cleansed the city of its Samaritan inhabitants. As a result, the Israeli government built for them, the town of Kiryat Luza, adjacent to Mount Gerizim and across the way from Har Bracha. Today, the two towns are connected by a road. Har Bracha, has become a thriving town of almost 2700 and Mount Gerizim has remained the main Samaritan pilgrimage center of Israel, the annual Passover sacrifices having become a source of curiosity and spectating for people from all over Israel as well as for foreign tourists alike.

On the Jewish side, Har Bracha contains the following: Yeshivat Har Bracha, the Central Synagogue, the Lotus Pool, a book store, cosmetics store, and winery. On the Samaritan side, Mount Gerizim contains the following: the ruins of the Samaritan Temple, the Samaritan Museum, a visitors’ center, the Passover Sacrifice site, and a milling plant.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020


הרברט סמואל 2.jpg
Hadera, courtesy, Wikipedia
Hadera is a city located in the Haifa District of Israel, situated midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa with a population of over 95,000. Since the 1990s, the city's population has also included a high proportion of immigrants arriving notably from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. Hadera lies along Israel's two main north-south highways – 2 and 4 – linking Tel Aviv to Haifa. It also lies along two main Israel Railways lines: the Coastal Line and the nowadays freight-only Eastern Line. Hadera’s railway station is located in the west of the city and is on the Tel Aviv suburban line which runs between Binyamina and Ashkelon. All this made the city an important junction for all coastal bus transportation after 1948 and into the 1950s.
In the Biblical period, the site of present day Hadera was part of the territory of the Israelite tribe of western Menasheh. Since the Arab occupation in the 7th century, the area slowly gave way to swampland, in which state in remained until the Jews returned at the end of the 19th century. In 1883, Yehoshua Hankin, acting on behalf of various Russian Jewish national societies from Latvia and Lithuania, purchased 6,500 acres of land from the owner, Selim Khuri, a Christian effendi. The site was near the Arab settlement of El-Chuderah, south of the ancient town Cæsarea, above the mouth of the Nahr el-Mefdshir, which flows into the Wâdi el-Chuderah (Hadera Stream). This was the largest purchase of land in Israel up to that time. The first settlers – ten families and four guards – came to the site on the holiday of Tu Bishvat, 1891, and lived in a building known as the Khan near what is today Hadera's main synagogue. Baron Rothschild's surveyor, Yitzhak Goldhar, claimed that Hadera was founded on the site of the former town called Gedera of Caesarea, the ancient Gador as mentioned in the Mishnah supplementary writing of the Tosefta Shevi'it, ch. 7. Archaeologist Benjamin Mazar preferred to locate Gador at Tel Gador on the coast south of Hadera’s Giv'at Olga neighborhood.
The first settlers drained the vast malarial swamps and planted groves of citrus fruit and fields of grain. Old tombstones in the local cemetery reveal that out of a population of 540, 210 died of malaria. But the people persevered and by the early twentieth century, Hadera had become the regional economic center. Beginning in 1909, Hashomer guards kept watch over the fields to prevent incursions by the neighboring Bedouin. In 1913, the settlement included forty households, as well as fields and vineyards, stretching over 30,000 dunams. The village of Kfar Brandeis, named after the chief justice of the US Supreme Court was established south of Hadera in 1927 but became part of the city in the 50s.
Land disputes in the area were resolved by the 1930s, and the population had grown to 2,002 in 1931. The Hapoel Hadera Football Club was founded during this time. This followed the founding of the Maccabi Hadera Footbal Club established in 1914. Free schooling was introduced in the city in 1937 in all schools apart from those operated by the Histadrut labor union. Hadera's population increased dramatically in 1948 as immigrants flocked to the country. Most of the newcomers were from Europe, but 40 Yemenite families also settled there.
In 1952, Hadera was declared a city, with jurisdiction over an area of 53,000 dunams. The next year, Israel's first paper mill opened. Financed by investors from Israel, United StatesBrazil and Australia, the mill was designed to meet all of Israel's paper needs.
Also during the 50s, new neighborhoods were built, among them Givat Olga on the coast, and Beit Eliezer in the east. The Hillel Yaffe Medical Center had its beginnings in 1957. It was named after a medical pioneer in Israel, who made Aliyah from Ukraine in 1891. Hadera is also the location of the Orot Rabin Power Plant, Israel's largest power station. In 1987, the Democratic School and the Technoda Technological Education and Science Center were established.
In the 1990s, large numbers of Russian and Ethiopian immigrants settled in Hadera. Long considered a safe place by its residents, the city was jolted by several acts of terrorism, including the killing of 4 civilians when a terrorist opened fire on pedestrians at a bus stop on October 28, 2001. Soon thereafter, 6 people were massacred at a Bat Mitzvah. In 2005, just 1 month after the Zionist expulsion of Jews from Gaza, and with Zionist approval, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a falafel stand killing seven civilians and injuring 55, 5 in severe condition. However, since the construction of the nearby Security Barrier, the frequency of such incidents has dropped drastically. On August 4, 2006 during the Second Lebanon War, three rockets fired from Lebanon by Hezbollah hit Hadera. Hadera is 50 miles south of the Lebanese border and this marked the farthest point inside Israel hit by Hezbollah’s rocket barrage.
In the 2000s, the city center was rejuvenated with the construction of a high-tech business park and the world's largest desalination plant. Nahal Hadera Park and Hasharon Park are located on the city’s outskirts. Hot water gushing from the Hadera power plant draws schools of hundreds of sandbar and dusky sharks every winter. Scientists are researching the rare phenomenon, which is unknown in the vicinity. It is speculated that the water, which is ten degrees warmer than the rest of the Mediterranean may be the attraction. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020


Image result for gedera
Gedera, courtesy, Wikipedia
Gedera is a small city in Israel located on the road between Tel Aviv and Gaza. Although it began as an Ashkenazi settlement, with a population of over 28,000 today, it has been estimated that approximately 50% belonged to the Yemenite community while a small number were Ethiopians.
Gedera is mentioned in the Book of Chronicles I 4:23 and the Book of Joshua 15:36 as a town in the territory of the tribe of Judah. It also figured prominently in the Maccabbee war for the independence of Judea against the Syrians under the Seleucid dynasty. Tel Qatra, which lies at the northern edge of Gedera, was a place fortified by the Seleucids against the Hasmonaeans (1 Macc. 15:39-41, 16:9) but was soon overrun by Judah Maccabbee. Modern Gedera was founded to the south of the now Arab settlement of Qatra by members of the Bilu group from Russia. This tract of land was then owned by the French consul in Jaffa, Poliovierre. In 1884, it was purchased for the Biluim by Yechiel Michael Pines, head of the Montefiore Testimonial Fund. At the time, it was the only settlement that was founded independently of the Baron de Rothschild. The first pioneers arrived at the site during the festival of Chanukah and established Gedera as a farming community covering a total of 815 acres, one quarter of which, was dedicated to wheat growing. On the rest of the land grew about 200,000 grape vines and different kinds of fruit trees. In 1888, Benjamin and Mina Fuchs built Gedera's first stone house, later used as a Bnai Brith meeting house. Dr. Moshe Mintz also built a residence soon thereafter (which also doubled as a communal hall). In 1986, his house became the Museum of the History of Gedera and the Biluim. The Sverdlov Hut is the one remaining hut built by the Biluim. It belonged to Chana and Yigal Sverdlov, who later left it to the city. A bell used to call residents for public meetings is located in the front yard. In 1885, the pioneers dug a hole and covered it with a roof to use as a stable. Today, it has been restored, and is known as "Bor HaBilu'im". The first designated school building was built in 1896. Later, the building became "Beit HaIkar", a meeting place for the local farmers. Before the end of the century, the village also contained a pharmacy and a synagogue (which later became the Yeshurun Central Synagogue established in 1912). During this time, Gedera was supported by the Russian Chovevei Zion Society, but was later taken under the protection of the Jewish Colonization Association of London.
In 1912, a group of Yemenite immigrants settled in Gedera. In the 1930s, several industries were established, and the town, due to its mild climate and fresh air, became a vacation resort with convalescence and rest homes. The water tower behind Yeshurun Central Synagogue was built in 1935. The bottom floor was used as a classroom. The top floor held a water tank, and served as a watchtower.
In the period 1949-1953, thousands of immigrants from Yemen, Romania, Iraq, Poland, Egypt, Morocco, Tunis, India, Iran, Libya, and other countries were housed in tent camps in the area.
In the 1950s, a neighborhood called Oriel ("light of God") was established for new immigrants with visual impairments. The immigrants worked in a sheltered workshop, and the neighborhood was specially planned to promote their independence. The growth of Gedera remained steady ever since and recently, New Gedera was built as an upscale neighborhood by the Azorim company. A major shopping venue built by Azorim is the Gedera Mall, located in the southeast of the town. First opened in September 2007, Gedera Mall has small businesses along with anchor tenants from semi-major department stores from Israel and Europe.
On February 9, 2009, a Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit Gedera, marking the northernmost point in a round of 200 rockets targeting southern Israel.

Monday, March 9, 2020


The Shimshon School in Gaza (1919), courtesy,
The earliest mention of Gaza in the Bible occurs in Gen. 10:19 where it is described as the southern terminus of the land of Canaan. The Philistines, a sea-faring people from Crete, had begun to settle in the area during the time of Abraham and, in later centuries, developed a powerful confederacy which was dominated by their five principal cites that included not only Gaza, but also Ashkelon, Gat, Ekron, and Ashdod. These kingdoms lasted until the reign of David and Solomon.

According to Josh. 15:47, “Gaza, with her towns and villages unto the River of Egypt (today Wadi el Arish in the Sinai) and the Great Sea” was allotted to the tribe of Judah. It was later the scene of Samson slaying the Philistines in the Temple of Dagon.

Solomon conquered Gaza, which by then contained a mixed gentile population, making it part of the southern limits of the Kingdom of Israel. Centuries later, it would trade in slaves with Edom, a practice which the Prophet Amos fiercely condemned. In the Talmudic period, it was a pagan city, but the local Jews made it into a center Talmud. In 508, a synagogue was built in Gaza attracting pilgrims from all over Israel and the Diaspora. According to the 10th century Karaite scholar Sahl ben Matzliah, Gaza was one of the three cities in the Land of Israel that served as a place of pilgrimage (the others being Tiberias and Zoar).

Byzantine rule, which commenced shortly after the beginning of the Talmudic period, was very harsh toward the Jews but in spite of the situation, Gaza flourished. With the Arab invasion in the 7th century, the Jews of Gaza actually fought alongside the Byzantines. However, the Arabs took it in 634 and, as the first Arab settlers began to migrate to Palestine as a whole, so too did they settle in Gaza. Gaza continued to thrive under Arab rule although the surrounding communities began to decline. It became a center of Masorah under a certain Rav Moshe. The Spanish linguist Dunash ben Labrat lived there for a time and during the 11th century, Rabbi Ephraim went from Gaza to the important rabbinical community of Fostat in Egypt.

The Crusader invasion in 1099, under King Baldwin III, destroyed the community in Gaza (although visitors still described one there) and most of the surrounding area. The mixed gentile populations were also driven out with the exception of the Christians. After the Mameluke conquest in 1291, the Jewish community of Gaza revived. Arabs also came to settle in the town which soon contained an Arab majority. This was a comparatively peaceful period. Gaza grew and achieved some level of prosperity. The cultivation of wine and the raising of cereals were occupations that the local Jews engaged in. The city also became one of the important enters of the Samaritan community along with Jaffa, Tulkarm, and certainly Shechem. Over the years, the Samaritans migrated to other parts of Israel and the Levant, dwindling the community.

By the 15th century, Gaza became the largest city in Palestine and the first city that was encountered by travelers coming from Egypt. As the Mamelukes, sometimes aided by the Arabs, began to oppress the Jews with a heavy burden of taxes as well as other types of social restrictions. Gaza, along with Hebron, served as a place of refuge for Jews, especially those from Jerusalem, fleeing from the oppression of the authorities. By the 1480s, Gaza prospered under its Chief Rabbi Moses of Prague.

The Ottoman conquest in 1516 benefitted the Jews of Gaza. Gaza, and later Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre, was deemed by the rabbinic authorities in Jerusalem to be an integral part of the Land of Israel according to halacha and therefore, the local farm owners were obligated to observe the Biblical laws of agriculture – laws which could only be applied within the borders of Israel.

Among the many individuals who have visited, or lived in, Gaza since the Ottoman conquest:
·         David Reubeni, false messiah who claimed to be a representative of a Jewish kingdom in Arabia. In 1523, he preached the coming redemption to the Gazan Jews.
·         Najara, prominent rabbinic family from Damascus, settled in Gaza in the 16th century and contributed to the local rabbinate. Yisrael ben Moshe Najara, author of “Zmirot Yisrael”, was Gaza’s chief rabbi and president of the tribunal in the middle of the 17th century. He was buried in Gaza and was succeeded by the son Moshe Najara II.
·         Rabbi Abraham Eliakim, respected Gazan rabbi, lived around 1601.
·         Eliezer Arhi, a Hebron refugees who fled a plague that broke out in that city in 1619, was so revered by the community that he became Gaza’s chief rabbi.
·         Rabbi Abraham Azulai of Fez, also from Hebron, cabalistic author and commentator, wrote “Hesed l’Avraham” in Gaza.
·         Samuel ben David, Karaite scholar who, during his pilgrimage to Palestine in 1641, visited Gaza and described the community in detail.
·         Nathan of Gaza, mystic. He was a native of Jerusalem and son-in-law of a rich and pious German Jew, Elisha Halevy haAshkenazi. A fanatical cabalist, he convinced the mystic Shavtai Zvi that he, Zvi, was the messiah, thus starting a movement later to become known as Shabbateanism. Gaza became the center of this movement which Nathan proclaimed to be the new capital of Israel.
·         Rav Tzedakah, 17th century rabbinic scholar.
·         Castel, prominent rabbinic family who settled in Palestine, and eventually Gaza, shortly after the expulsion from Spain in 1492. The Castels became the ruling rabbinical family in Gaza throughout the 18th century, much like the Najaras in the 17th.  They were also skilled craftsmen. Abraham Castel was Gaza’s chief rabbi during Napoleon’s invasion of the country in 1799. In contemporary history, Moshe Castel was a prominent artist.

With Napoleon’s invasion, Gaza was the first to fall. Even though Napoleon himself was known to be a friend of the Jews, reports from Gaza noted the terrible abuse the local Jews were suffering at the hands of the French soldiers, at times joined by the local Arabs who had long ago, became more fanatical. They, therefore, fled in numbers mostly to Hebron. Some Jews remained in Gaza for several more years afterwards however, but owing to continued Arab persecutions, even they fled. By the first decade of the 19th century, the old Jewish community had vanished. Several years later, the Arabs expelled the small Samaritan community. During the war between the Ottoman Empire and the rebellious province of Egypt, stones from the old Gaza synagogue were removed by the Egyptian Muslim army and were used to build a fort in Ashkelon.

At the close of the 1870s, a group of Jews managed to settle in Gaza. The community grew in the 1880s under the leadership of Nissim Elkayam, scholar and businessman. The Jews were, in the main, barley merchants who traded with the Bedouin for barley which they then sold to the breweries in Europe. But the presence of a reestablished Jewish community bothered the Arabs and in 1890, the Jews of Gaza became victims of a blood libel. In that year, a couple of local Jews had employed an Arab boy as a servant. One day, the boy was playing with another boy who owned a camel. Unfortunately, they both had guns, a custom in Arab society, and tragically, the servant accidentally killed his friend. Almost immediately, the victim’s next-of-kin killed the servant in revenge. Shortly afterwards, the Jews informed a Turkish judicial tribunal in Jerusalem of the incident. But due to intense propaganda from the local Arabs, the authorities became convinced of the age-old-belief that Jews tended to use gentile blood for Passover and that they, instead, had killed the boy. The Jews were arrested and thrown in jail. This caused an international incident as these people were under foreign protection, as so many other Palestinian Jews were at that time. To ease the situation, the authorities promptly set them free prompting the Arabs to force the Turks to restrict Jewish immigration to any part of Israel. Arab immigration continued unhindered.

Jews, along with the other segments of the local population were expelled from Gaza by the Turks during World War I. By the end of 1917, Palestine came under British rule. Jews returned to Gaza soon after and in 1919, on the ruins of the old pre-war Talmud Torah School, they established the Shimshon School, one of the most important schools in the entire area. In 1920 and 1921 during the first of many post-war Arab riots, the Gaza Arabs engaged in ethnic cleansing of the local Jews. In the 1929 riots, the rest were driven from their homes and the Arabs, thereafter, banned Jews from living there. All evidence of a Jewish presence in Gaza, including the cemetery, were summarily desecrated, with the full approval of the Zionist authorities. This is the situation to this day. The community was now dispersed throughout Palestine but they made their contributions to Israeli society. Marcel Liebowitz for example, a native of Gaza, became a successful film distributor in the 30s, working with local and international film companies. In the meantime, due to the British military presence and the accompanying opportunities of employment, Arab immigrants poured into the area as they did the rest of Palestine, without any hindrance from the British. Such immigration continued until the War of Independence.

In 1930, a certain Tuvia Miller of Rehovot, purchased a plot of swampland near Gaza City and built an orchard. This plot was the site of the ancient Jewish town of Darom which flourished in the Talmudic era. Although the orchard was later destroyed by Arabs, the site continued to remain under Jewish ownership and in 1946, it was acquired by a Jewish group and the Kibbutz Kfar Darom was built. During the War of Independence, the Jews of Kfar Darom were expelled by the invading Arab army of Egypt which was also closing in on Gaza City. A story was told of one Abu Ish, Mukhtar of a neighboring Arab village who had gone to Gaza City on business. An Arab Muslim, he was a descendant of 7th century Jewish refugees from Arabia. Because of his ancestry, and because of his village’s good relations with the Jews, he was accused of being a Zionist spy and without any trial or investigation, was promptly hanged in the public square.

Toward the end of the war, the entire area was conquered by Egypt and it soon became known as the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Arab refugees swelled its population as did Palestinian Jewish refugees did in what became the State of Israel. Between the end of the war and the beginning of the Six Day War, Jews were banned from entering the Gaza Strip. Instead, the Strip was used as a springboard for raids, once again with Zionist approval, by the Fedayeen terrorists. The Suez Campaign of 1956, in spite of its international condemnation, stopped all that with Israel’s recapture of the Strip. Between then and 1967, the status of the Gaza Strip was in limbo, but it came officially under Israeli control after the Six Day War. Three years later, Kfar Darom was reestablished. This time, the Jews were determined to keep their long and historic presence in the area and by the end of the 70s, 3 more communities were established – Netzer Hazani, Atzmona, and Ganei Tal.

Before the expulsion of 2005, the Jewish presence in the Gaza area had grown to 25 communities centered around the block of communities known as Gush Katif (without harming the local Arabs, god forbid). Before the intifada in 1987, Jews and Arabs in the area mixed more or less freely, security permitting. Jews often visited Gaza City and Arabs were often employed by the local Jewish communities. When the intifada broke out, all that changed, although many Arabs were still employed by Jews. After the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Gazan Jews were threatened, once again, with expulsion, this time, by the Zionists. When the second intifada broke out in 2000, all contact between Arabs and Jews was cut off completely. Arabs and Zionists banned Jews from visiting Gaza City and the inhabitants of Gush Katif had to put up with gunfire and bombs directed at them as well as 4000+ Kassam rocket attacks on their communities, again with Zionist approval.

In spite of everything, the Gazan communities had the will and motivation, not to mention thousands of years of local Jewish history, to continue to grow and flourish. In spite of the Oslo War, the community grew to over 8000, and the largest of the communities, Gan Or and Neve Dekalim, expanded. So much so that the Gazan communities considered themselves to be the breadbasket of Israel, contributing around $40 million to the Israeli economy.

Beginning in 2004, the threat of expulsion was renewed by the Zionist Sharon government which, as it turned out, was more concerned with expelling Jews than protecting Israeli citizens. The term the government used was “disengagement” of Jews from Arabs in Gaza. From that time until the day of the expulsion, Sharon made sure that the coming expulsion would go smoothly. As is typical of Zionists vis a vis Jews, the Zionist army and police became like the SS and the Gestapo respectively and any activist who organized demonstrations against the expulsion would be arbitrarily arrested. Just as during the months leading to the expulsion from Sinai, Israel ceased being a democracy in which state it remains to this day. In August of 2005, the residents of Gush Katif were thrown out of their homes by the Zionists. Their only crime was being Jewish.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


panorama view of the Galilee, courtesy, Wikipedia
The Galilee is a region in what is today, northern Israel and southern Lebanon. In Biblical times, it covered the Israelite tribal territories of Asher, Naphtali, Zvulun, Yissasschar, and the northern branch of Dan. After the destruction of Jerusalem, it was also home to two of the four holy cities of Judaism – Safed and Tiberias – as well as the ports of Haifa and Acre. It extends north to south, from the Litani River in southern Lebanon in the north to the Mount Carmel-Mount Gilboa ridge in the south. From east to west, it stretches from the Acre coastal plain north of Haifa in the west to the northern Jordan Valley in the east. It also consists of a sliver of land between Dan and the Golan Heights including the foothills of Mount Hermon. In addition, the Galilee is often divided into several sub-regions: Lower Galilee; Upper Galilee; the Jezreel Valley; the "Galilee Panhandle"; the northern Jordan Valley; the Hula Valley; the Korazim Plateau; the Sea of Galilee and its valley; the Beit She'an Valley; Mount Gilboa; and Western Galilee. Demographically, the region is almost half Arab, almost half Jewish, and the rest, Druze and others. The largest cities in the region are Acre, Bet She’an, Nahariya, Nazareth, Cana, Metulla, Qiryat Shmona, Safed, KarmielShaghurShefa-'AmrAfula, and Tiberias. The port city of Haifa serves as a commercial center for the whole region.
The area’s Israelite name is from the Hebrew word “Galil”, “district”. The Hebrew form used in Isaiah 8:23 (or 9:1 in different Biblical versions) is “Galil haGoyim”, 'district of the nations', i.e. the part of Galilee inhabited by Gentiles at the time that the book was written. Chapter 9 of 1 Kings states that Solomon rewarded his Phoenician ally, King Hiram I of Sidon, with twenty cities in the land of Galilee, which would then have been either settled by foreigners during and after the reign of Hiram, or by those who had been forcibly deported there by later conquerors such as the Assyrians. Hiram, to reciprocate previous gifts given to David, accepted the upland plain among the mountains of Naphtali and renamed it for a time, "the land of Cabul". During the expansion under the Hasmonean dynasty much of the region was conquered and annexed by the first Hasmonean King of Judaea Aristobulus I (104 - 103 BCE).
The archaeological discoveries of synagogues from the Hellenistic and Roman period in the Galilee show strong Phoenician influences, and a high level of tolerance for other cultures relative to other Jewish religious centers. By the first century, Galilee was dotted with small towns and villages numbering approximately 204 according to the Jewish historian Josephus. Many of these were located around the Sea of Galilee where the land was most fertile and in which contained an abundance of fish. Salted, dried, and pickled fish were an important export item
In 4 BCE, the rebel Judah plundered Galilee's largest city, Sepphoris. Later, the Syrian governor Publius Quinctilius Varus sacked Sepphoris and sold the population into slavery. After the death of Herod the Great that same year, the Roman emperor Augustus appointed Herod’s son Herod Antipas as tetrarch of Galilee, which remained a Roman client state. Antipas paid tribute to the Roman Empire in exchange for protection. The Romans did not station troops in Galilee, but threatened to retaliate against anyone who attacked it. As long as he continued to pay tribute, Antipas was permitted to govern however he wished and was permitted to mint his own coinage. He was also relatively observant of Jewish laws and customs. Although his palace was decorated with animal carvings, which many Jews regarded as a transgression against the law prohibiting idols, his coins bore only agricultural designs, which his subjects deemed acceptable.
In general, Antipas was a capable ruler. Josephus does not record any instance of him using force to put down an uprising and he had a long, prosperous reign. However, many Jews probably resented him as not sufficiently devout. Antipas rebuilt the city of Sepphoris and, in either 18 CE or 19 CE, he founded the new city of Tiberias. These two cities became Galilee's largest cultural centers. They were the main centers of Greco-Roman influence, but were still predominantly Jewish. A massive gap existed between the rich and poor, but lack of uprisings suggest that taxes were not exorbitantly high and that most Galileans did not feel their livelihoods were being threatened. This was also the period of Jesus of Nazareth.
Late in his reign, Antipas married his half-niece Herodias, who was already married to one of her other uncles. His wife, whom he divorced, fled to her father Aretas, an Arab king, who invaded Galilee and defeated Antipas's troops before withdrawing. Both Josephus and the Gospel of Mark 6:17–29 record that the itinerate preacher John the Baptist criticized Antipas over his marriage and Antipas consequently had him imprisoned and then beheaded. In around 39 CE, at the urging of Herodias, Antipas went to Rome to request that he be elevated from the status of tetrarch to the status of king. But the Romans found him guilty of storing arms, so he was removed from power and exiled, ending his forty-three-year reign. During the Great Revolt (66–73 CE), a Jewish mob destroyed his palace. 
According to medieval Hebrew legend, Simeon bar Yochai, one of the most famed of all the Tannaim, wrote the Zohar while living in Galilee. After the fall of the Jewish state a new period of local prosperity set in and Galilee gradually became the center of Jewish life in Palestine and was enumerated, mainly for religio-legal purposes, in the Talmud. Eastern Galilee retained a Jewish majority until at least the seventh century.
The region then fell to the Muslim Arabs in 635/6 and became part of the province of al-Urdun (Jordan) with its capital in Tiberias. The Jewish villages continued diminishing but some existed until the time of the Crusades. Following the expulsion from Spain in 1492, the Sephardic refugees were welcomed by the Ottoman Empire and the Jewish population of Galilee increased significantly. The community for a time made Safed an international center of cloth weaving and manufacturing, as well as a key site for Jewish learning. As a result, it was deemed one of Judaism's four holy cities and a center for kabbalah. In 1563, the resettlement of Tiberias was engineered by Don Joseph Nasi, a banker and diplomat in Turkey, who had intended the town and the surrounding area as the center of a proposed Jewish province.
In the process of the 1834 Arab revolt, the Jewish community of Safed was greatly reduced when it was plundered by the local Arabs. But the situation improved by the second half of the 19th century when Galilee's population increased and, on the whole, progressed, thanks to an extended period of peace. The Jewish community, concentrated mainly in Safed, somewhat improved its standard of living, although it continued to be dependent on ḥalukkah (donations from the Diaspora). In 1856, Ludwig August Frankl found 2,100 Jews in Safed, and 50 in Peki'in which was a community of mustarabi Jews, those who had never left Israel and had remained on the land since time immemorial. Until 1895, the number of Jews in Safed increased to 6,620, and in Peki'in to 96. Even before the arrival of settlers of the Ḥovevei Zion and Bilu movements, there were stirrings within the Safed community for a more productive way of life, and in 1878 a group formed, and settled at Gei Oni, the forerunner of Rosh Pinnah; later a second group which formed to settle in the Golan eventually established Benei Yehudah. Rosh Pinnah became the cornerstone of a Jewish settlement network in eastern Upper Galilee and on the rim of the Ḥuleh Valley. In 1891, Russian Jews founded Ein Zeitim north of Safed. A second phase began in 1900 when the Jewish Colonization Association bought rather flat land with basalt soil in eastern Lower Galilee with the object of establishing "true" farming villages, i.e., based on grain crops, and IlaniyyahKefar TavorJabneel, and other settlements were founded. More moshavot were added through private initiative, and a training farm was set up on Jewish National Fund land at Kefar Ḥittim. The Galilean moshavot set the stage for the beginnings of the cooperative movement of Jewish laborers and of the Ha-Shomer guardsmen. In the following decade, however, the Galilean moshavot and the Tiberias community stagnated, and those of Safed and Peki'in even decreased. As a result of World War I, Safed's Jewish community was decimated.
During the Third, Fourth, and Fifth aliyot, which gave a powerful impulse to Jewish settlement, new Jewish areas were created, mainly in the Jezreel Valley to the south in the 1920s, and in the Zebulun Valley to the southwest in the 1930s. There was also the expansion of the Stockade and Watchtower network during the 1936–39 Arab riots, especially in the Acre Coastal Plain to the northwest, in the Bet Shean Valley to the southeast, and in the Ḥuleh Valley to the northeast. The Jewish Colonization Association and the Jewish National Fund, reacting to the British White Paper of 1939, strengthened the "settlement bridge" in southeastern Lower Galilee connecting the Jezreel and the Kinneret valleys (e.g., SharonahHa-Zore'im, etc.). In the 1940s, several more outpost settlements were set up, some of them at particularly difficult and isolated sites (e.g., ManaraYeḥi'amMisgav Am).
The largest part of Galilee, however, continued to be exclusively non-Jewish, causing the UN partition plan of 1947 to allocate to the proposed Arab state the bulk of the area, from the Lebanese border south to, and including, Nazareth and from the shore of the Acre Plain east to the vicinity of Safed; only a strip of eastern and southeastern Galilee was left to the Jewish state.
After the 1948 Arab–Israeli war, nearly the whole of Galilee came under Israel's control. A large portion of the population fled or was forced to leave, leaving dozens of entire villages empty; however, a large Israeli Arab community remained based in and near the cities of Nazareth, AcreTamraSakhnin, and Shefa-'Amr. The Druze population decided to side with the Jews and so their population remained stable and later greatly increased. In the meantime, the kibbutzim around the Sea of Galilee were sometimes shelled by the Arab army of Syria until Israel seized the western Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War.
During the 1970s and the early 1980s, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) launched multiple attacks on towns and villages of the Upper and Western Galilee from Lebanon. This came in parallel to the general destabilization of Southern Lebanon, which became a scene of fierce sectarian fighting which deteriorated into the Lebanese Civil War. In the course of the war, Israel initiated Operation Litani (1979) and Operation Peace For Galilee (1982) with the stated objectives of destroying the PLO infrastructure in Lebanon, protecting the citizens of the Galilee and supporting allied Maronite/Phoenician Lebanese militias, later, the South Lebanon army. Israel took over much of southern Lebanon in support of Maronite Lebanese fighters until 1985, when it withdrew to a narrow security buffer zone.
From 1985 to 2000, Hezbollah, and earlier Amalengaged the South Lebanon Army, sometimes shelling Upper Galilee communities with Katyusha rockets. In May 2000, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak unilaterally withdrew IDF troops from southern Lebanon, maintaining a security force on the Israeli side of the international border recognized by the United Nations. The move brought a collapse to the South Lebanon Army and takeover of Southern Lebanon by Hezbollah. However, despite Israeli withdrawal, clashes between Hezbollah and Israel continued along the border, and UN observers condemned both for their attacks.
The 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict was characterized by round-the-clock Katyusha rocket attacks (with a greatly extended range) by Hezbollah on the whole of Galilee, with long-range, ground-launched missiles hitting as far south as the Sharon PlainJezreel Valley, and Jordan Valley below the Sea of Galilee.
Nowadays, Galilee is a popular destination for domestic and foreign tourists who enjoy its scenic, recreational, and gastronomic offerings. The Galilee attracts many Christian pilgrims, as many of the miracles of Jesus occurred, according to the New Testament, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee—including his walking on watercalming the storm, and feeding five thousand people in Tabgha. In addition, numerous sites of biblical importance are located in the Galilee, such as Megiddo, the Jezreel Valley, Mount Tabor, HazorHorns of Hattin, and more.
Numerous festivals are also held throughout the year, especially in the autumn and spring holiday seasons. These include the Acre (Acco) Festival of Alternative Theater, the olive harvest festival, music festivals featuring Anglo-American folk, klezmer, Renaissance, and chamber music, and the Karmiel Dance Festival.