About a month ago, on June 22, I got in my trusty little rental car parked at trendy Dizengoff Center in the bustling city of Tel Aviv, drove a few blocks west, and then soon after seeing the Mediterranean Sea straight ahead turned left and pretty much drove due south for about an hour all the way to the Erez Crossing on the north border of the Gaza Strip.
On the way to Gaza, I buzzed through the outskirts of Ashdod and Ashkelon, two of the five main Philistine cities mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Gaza was also one of those five cities that were constantly warring with the Israelites and the Kingdom of Judah.
Gaza is mentioned 22 times in the Bible. It was the city where Samson was imprisoned after he was tricked by Delilah and captured by the Philistines and where he died when he caused the pagan temple to crumble. According to biblical accounts, Gaza came under Israelite rule during the reign of King David in the early 11th century BC.
When I arrived at Erez Crossing, I parked, went through a couple of security gates to the passport control window, and boldly asked for permission to enter Gaza. But as it turned out, it takes a permit requested by the U.S. Consulate for U.S. citizens to enter Gaza. Thus I didn’t get to go in as I wanted to.
So, soon after heading back north, I took the first road to the west and drove toward the Mediterranean Sea again, hoping to get a good view of Gaza. At the crest of a small hill I was able to see tall buildings on the horizon.
As you see in the picture, not very far from the green area in front of me as I looked south, there was a brown area with tall, grey buildings at the top of the hill in the distance. I was clearly gazing at Gaza.
Less than a year before, on July 8, 2014, Israel began a major offensive against Hamas in Gaza. The air raids and ground force of the Israeli army against the Gaza militants who were launching bombs into Israeli lasted for 50 days.
Both sides suffered damage and casualties—but certainly not equally. According to a U.N. report, there were 2,205 Gazans killed, including 1,483 civilians. By stark contrast, there were 71 Israeli deaths, including only five civilians.
Driving through various parts of Tel Aviv, I saw no evidence whatsoever of damage done by rockets launched toward Israel from Gaza. But this 7/7/15 picture from Gaza shows clearly the sad lingering effects from the conflict there.
Mark LeVine, a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, recently referred to the Gaza Strip as “the world’s largest open air prison.” And he writes in opposition to the war cycle, which legitimizes violence against the Palestinians in Gaza.
“The Children of Gaza” by Jen Marlowe, a noted journalist, is a poignant article in the July 20/27 issue of The Nation. She refers to the Israeli attacks in February and December 2008 and in March and November 2012 along with last year’s “Operation Protective Edge” as being “permanent war” in Gaza.
When Marlowe asked a Gazan family what could bring them hope, here is part of what they said: “Open the gates. End the siege. . . . Be permitted to visit Al Aqsa [the holy Muslim mosque in Jerusalem]. Have rights like other people.”
Should that be too much for them to ask—or for us to pray for?