People’s History of Gaza Discussed by Youths

Dr. Abushmees lecturing about the history of Gaza. (Photo: Yousef Aljamal, The Palestine Chronicle)

Yousef M. Aljamal – Gaza

A group of Palestinian youths gathered on Tuesday to discuss a people’s history of the Gaza Strip. The lecture, delivered by Dr. Ismail Abushmees, was attended by dozens of Palestinian youths who came to listen about the history of their city – one of the oldest cities in the world.

“Gaza had played a major role in the First World War and defended the Ottoman force. The Ottomans decided to make Gaza a frontline of defense by building trenches and tunnels along its eastern and southern borders. They decided to evacuate Gaza in 1915. No one talked about this important event in the history of Gaza except Sheikh Altabaa’, a local historian,” said Abushmees.

Jamal Basha, the Ottoman leader, decided to build a new road in Gaza for military purposes, which was later named after Omar Almokhtar, stated to Abushmees.

In 1915, The Ottoman soldiers asked people to leave, resulting in the eviction of 43,000 people.

“All of them evacuated Gaza except two people who stayed behind. No historian talked about this except Palestinian historian, Sheikh Altabaa, who ended up in Ramleh and other towns.”

Sheikh Altabaa (1882, 1950) returned to Gaza “to save his manuscripts at the main library at Alomari Mosque to the east of Gaza. He was allowed in because of his religious status.”

Until 1932, the population of Gaza was around 32,000 only, according to Abushmees. “When we talk about the history of Gaza, we mean Tal Eloujoul, which is to the south of the current Gaza city.”

Abushmees traveled back and forth in history, citing the invasion of Alexander of Gaza in 323 BC. “In 323 BC, the Invasion of Alexander took place, following a four-month siege. He was injured after two attacks were carried out on Gaza. A Greek leader named Batis led Gaza back then. Alexander sought the help of some engineers to design sandy terrain. After the siege ended, a larger number of people fled to Bit Lahia. When Alexander, who was known to be moral and ethical, entered the city, he was injured, and ordered to have the feet of Batis drilled after which he was killed, and then he killed all the men in Gaza.”

Alexander decided to reconstruct Gaza. He hired the Bedouins of the area, some of whom were atheists to reconstruct the city.

Abushmees asserted that the colonizers told the history of Gaza. “What we have about the history of Gaza was told to us by the colonizers.”

“History is a continuing walk between the past and the present. That time, which stopped in Gaza, cannot move except by moving again between the past and the present. This will enable us to realize where we belong in this place.”

“Gaza is on a crossroad. The Farma Road crossed from Gaza, which was known as Via Maris, the Road of the Sea, and is now known as Saladin Street. It goes up to the north of Palestine near the Sea of Galilee.”

Gaza’s valley used to be known as Alshareaa Valley, named after a nearby village. 188 migrant birds used to come to Gaza in the past, according to Abushmees.

Gaza has one of the richest archeological sites in the world. “An 8 to 11-meter wall surrounded Tal Alojoul. Flinders Petrie led a British archaeological expedition to the site in 1931. He left a year later after Malaria claimed the lives of a large number of his assistants. He suggested that the people of Gaza left the old city because of it. The people of Tal Alojoul were the first people in history to make swords. They were the first people in history to fight on horses. They used military vehicles along with horses and invaded ancient Egypt. The people of Tal Alojoul shaped the faith of Old Egyptians.”

Dozens of young people attended the lecture. This is a series of lectures that will address Gaza’s history from the perspective of alternative history, which is also known as People’s History.

– Yousef M. Aljamal is the Palestine Chronicle Correspondent in the Gaza Strip.

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