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Jewish Life in Gaza During the Middle Ages

[My second post on this topic can be found here.]

Interior Minister Eli Yishai is quoted as saying that:

“The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”

I am not sure if Yishai is aware of the Jewish community that was found in Gaza during the Middle Ages. The following quotes are from Jewish Travellers in the Middle Ages, edited by Elkan Nathan Adler.

This is from Meshullam ben Menaḥem’s travel diary:

Mesh1

The following is from Ovadiah of Bertinoro’s travel diary:

Ovbar1
Ovbart2

This is from David Reubeni’s diary:

Reubeni1
Reubeni2
Reubeni3

The Cairo Geniza also offers us some information about Jewish life in Gaza. The following are from S.D. Goiten’s classic work, A Mediterranean Society, vol. II (pp. 59 and 62).

Goiten59

Goiten62

While not from the Middle Ages, who can forget the 17th c. Nathan of Gaza, who was possibly Shabbetai Zevi and Sabbateanism’s greatest PR man.

If I’m extending a little past the Middle Ages, let’s not forget the 6th c. synagogue that was found in Gaza. This picture is from the Israel Museum.

Gazasynagogue

I think that regardless of politics, it is difficult to deny that Jews, and also Arabs, have been part of the landscape for quite a long time.

7 Responses to “Jewish Life in Gaza During the Middle Ages”

  1. 1
    Abul Bannat:

    and more recently – Israel Najara and Nathan of Gaza

  2. 2
    Mar Gavriel:

    “Natan of Ghazza” was actually some Ashkenazi kid, Noson, from Jerusalem. At age 20, he moved to Gaza, put on some silly eastern headdress, and set himself up as a holy man there; a few months later, at age 21, he met Sabbathai Zevi, and the rest is history.

  3. 3
    Joey Davidi:

    Gaza has a long Jewish history. This is a really fascinating article (it’s in Hebrew. There are some great photos of Jewish archaeological artifacts found in Gaza) http://www.mkatif.org/Web/He/Katif/History/Hahashminaeim/Default.aspx

    I especially found this very interesting:

    עדות על חשיבותה של עזה בימי הכיבוש הביזאנטי כמעין תחליף לירושלים, יש לנו ממקור קראי, ממנו לומדים שבאותם ימים היו היהודים עולים לרגל לעזה בגלל האיסור שנשאר מימי הרומאים לעלות לירושלים. (אברהם יערי, ‘זכרונות ארץ ישראל’, עמ’ 62).

  4. 4
    Menachem Mendel:

    Joey,

    See my next post where I bring a discussion by Moshe Gil that includes some sources about Karaites and Gaza as a pilgrimage stop off.

  5. 5
    Joey Davidi:

    ‘bartenura’ et tu?!

  6. 6
    Joel Davidi:

    Very interesting read, otherwise. Yasher Koach.

  7. 7
    DF:

    good stuff.

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