24 Jul, 2016
On a sandy Rafah hilltop in mid-April, a few workers were digging carefully into the dry land. The excavators, their tools basic, were from Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The site they were digging — at 40 acres, Tel Rafah is among the largest of Gaza’s 30-odd archaeological sites — is believed to contain evidence of human settlement going back more than 4,000 years.
It is sites like these that make Gaza unique, a treasure trove for archaeologists, historians and, potentially, the local economy. Military occupation, economic warfare, violence and a blockade going back nearly a decade mean that potential lies untapped even as it points to a possible way forward for one of the world’s most impoverished areas. A crossroads for civilizations trading with each other for thousands of years, Gaza’s history is storied. Palestinians in Gaza will proudly tell you that no one has managed to rule them long. They will cite the Ottomans, the British, the Egyptians and now the Israelis.