Dispelling the “Disengagement” Myths

Myth: The Gaza Strip was never considered part of the land of Israel.

In the book of Genesis (12:10), Abraham leaves the land of Israel to go to Egypt because there was no food in Israel due to a famine. When there was a famine in the time of Isaac (Abraham’s son), however, God tells Isaac that he may not leave the land of Israel. Instead, God tells Isaac to stay within the land of Israel, and Isaac complies by going to the land that would eventually be inhabited by the Philistines.

In the book of Samuel (I Samuel 6:4), we learn that there were five governors of the Philistines, one from each of their five principle cities. In verse 17 of the same chapter, those cities are identified as Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gat and Ekron. Now, if Isaac could sojourn in the land of the Philistines because it was really considered part of Israel, and Gaza was one of the major Philistine municipalities, then it stands to reason that Gaza is considered to be inside the land of Israel. The four other Philistine cities are today inside of Israel’s “internationally recognized borders”; in fact, Ashdod and Ashkelon are major seaports vital to the State of Israel’s economy.

If Jews have no right to live in Gaza because it is not really part of the land of Israel, then Jews have no right to live in Ashkelon or Ashdod, either. In fact, if Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod were the major cities of the Philistines, then it stands to reason that Philistine territory extended a considerable distance along the coast north and south of those cities. Since Tel Aviv, which was built in modern times, is just north of Ashdod, the implication is that if Jews have no right to live in Gaza because it is not part of Israel, then they have no right to live in Tel Aviv.

In the books of Numbers (Chapter 34) and Ezekiel (Chapter 47), the borders of the land of Israel are explicitly defined. In both books, the southern border is described as extending from the southern side of the Dead Sea toward the Mediterranean Sea. While the identity and exact location of the towns the border is said to pass near is subject to debate among scholars, a more or less straight line drawn from the bottom of the Dead Sea westward toward the Mediterranean Sea runs well south of the Gaza Strip.

The book of Numbers mentions that the border is to intersect the “brook of Egypt” and follow the brook into the Dead Sea. Various conjectures have been given to identify the brook in question, but the reference to Egypt seems to imply some kind of connection with the Nile River, whose delta was much wider before the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The easternmost branch of the river probably flowed considerably into the Sinai Peninsula in ancient times, and that was probably the westernmost extremity of the territory inhabited by the Philistines. Today, a convenient marker between what is traditionally referred to as Egypt and the lands to its east, which include the Sinai Peninsula and the ancient territory of the Philistines, is the Suez Canal. Geographically speaking, the Suez Canal is what is now considered the dividing line between Asia and Africa.

Since the Gaza Strip is clearly considered to be part of the Holy Land by the Biblical sources that spell out its boundaries, many who insist that the Gaza Strip not be considered part of the land of Israel argue that, historically, Jews never settled extensively in that area and never conquered it in Biblical times. However, those who believe that the State of Israel represents at least a partial fulfillment of the Biblical promise that the Jews would one day return to the land and exercise political control over it (in short: those who call themselves Zionists) may find historical justification for the right of Jews to control the Gaza Strip in the fact that God delivered the entire region, all the way up to the Suez Canal, into the control of the Sate of Israel quite miraculously in 1967.

Rather than exploit the resources of the Sinai Peninsula and aggressively settle it, though, the State of Israel, from 1979 to 1982, did something absolutely unprecedented in human history – it returned territory that it conquered while fighting a defensive war in exchange for a peace agreement. That would be akin to the United States returning California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of several other states, to Mexico, since it conquered those lands from Mexico in an offensive war. Dispelling the “Disengagement” Myths

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