Gaza is an area of territory at the south-east corner of the Mediterranean, running north from Sinai. It has been occupied for over three and a half thousand years, in which time its precise boundaries have changed and shifted. It was known to the ancient Egyptians. This long history means that much has happened there. Perhaps readers of AWE are most likely to come across it in two main manifestations:
- In biblical times, when it belonged to Canaanites, then Egyptians, Philistines and Israelites, following its capture by David in the 11th century BCE. For an episode in its biblical history, see Samson in the mill at Gaza. By the name of 'Gaza', it appears that sometimes a town is meant, and at others a territory (or the land required to support the city).
- In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Gaza has become one of the most hotly contested trouble spots in world events, and a focus in the Middle East for conflict between the state of Israel and Islamic countries. Here the word usually means the Gaza Strip, a stretch of land on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, south of Israel and north-east of Egypt, measuring about 41 km long, and between 6 and 12 km wide. The Gaza Strip is centred on Gaza City (as the town is usually called in current use). It was assigned to Egypt after the second world war, in 1948; taken by Israel in the Six Days War of 1967; and transferred to the control of the Palestinian National Authority in 1994. Its administration has been controversial in many ways, between Israeli attempts to dominate the Palestinian authorities and in disputes between different Palestinian political parties over legitimacy and elections etc.
- Gazza, on the other hand - with two '-z-'s - is a nickname bestowed by his schoolboy football mates and later taken up by tabloid sports journalists on the British professional football player Paul Gascoigne, now retired. He famously shed tears during the World Cup in 1990. He has some notoriety because of his problems with drink, violence, the law and women.