Jews have lived in Gaza for over 2000 years. For centuries, it was a farming and rabbinic community and in the Middle Ages, it was the first major city that pilgrims, coming from Egypt – Jewish, Samaritan, and Muslim – would encounter upon entering Palestine. Gaza was home to the 15th century Rabbi Solomon of Prague and the 16th century poet Israel Najara as well as Rabbi Avraham Azulai. In the 17th century, it was the focal point of a new spiritual movement led by Rabbi Nathan ben Elisha, known historically as Rabbi Nathan of Gaza, and the false messiah Shabbatai Zvi. By the time Napoleon’s army invaded Palestine through Gaza, the local Jews had been led by the Castel family for a long time. Upon Napoleon’s invasion, the French soldiers, along with the enthusiastic help of the local Arabs, began a process of expulsion of the town’s Jews and Samaritans. Even though the French forces were driven out of Palestine later that year, the expulsion process continued until the early 19th century when no Jew or Samaritan was left. It wasn’t until the 1880s that Jews resettled in the town and in 1890, an orchard was purchased nearby by one Tuvia Miller from Rehovot.
Jews were expelled again by the Turks during World War I but returned after the war. However, during the bloody Arab intifada in 1920-1, Jews began to flee for their lives, and during the next bloody intifada in 1929, the last Jews left the town for good. The orchard was abandoned during the 1936 Arab riots, but it wasn’t until 1946 that the orchard’s land was in Jewish possession again and the village of Kfar Darom was built in its place. It was destroyed during the War of Independence by the Arab army of Egypt but was resettled three years after the Six Day War in 1967. In 2005, it was destroyed again at the orders of the bloody Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Today, Kfar Darom and the communities around it remain in ruins and no Jew is permitted to set foot there. The formerly Jewish land, instead, has become a place where rockets are launched on Israeli communities in the Negev. Jews are also banned from reestablishing themselves in Gaza City where the local cemetery is used as a garbage dump and part of the ancient synagogue is used as part of a mosque. The Israeli government has no intention of rectifying this situation.