Hamas controls a small slice of land bordered on the south by Egypt and on the west by the Mediterranean Sea. Known as the Gaza Strip, the area is also bordered on the east and the north by Israel.
So the little region is only 6.8 miles wide and 32 miles long, or a total area of 141 square miles. The small area is packed with 1.82 million people, making it one of the more dense populations of the world.
The Gaza Strip area has a colorful 4,000-year history. It has been held by a parade of countries and rulers over thousands of years.
When Joshua was conquering Canaan about 1240 B.C., he declared that Philistia (Gaza Strip) belonged to descendants of Abraham. The men of the tribe of Judah (Judges 1:18) conquered the area, which was later part of their inheritance.
Later, the Philistines held Gaza where there were five cities (Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 6:17). Also, it was in Gaza that Samson courted Deliliah, and finally scored a great victory for Israel at his death (Judges 13-16).
Of course, Goliath was a Philistine who challenged the armies of Israel. David, probably a teenager, smote the giant with a stone and finished the work with the giant’s sword.
As stated, Hamas rules in the Gaza Strip. Surprisingly, it helps its people in many ways. Israeli scholar Reuven Paz estimates that 90 percent of Hamas activities revolve around “social, welfare, cultural and educational activities.” Their social services include funding schools, orphanages, relief programs, educational programs, cultural events, health care clinics, and soup kitchens.
The people have free or inexpensive health care. Hamas contributes heavily to health needs, including hospital and physician services.
When a person is killed or imprisoned while carrying out military action, the family receives a one-time gift of $500 to $5,000. Families whose homes are destroyed by Israeli forces receive money for temporary housing.
One may well ask where does their money come from? A good question, for the Strip has a budget of $540 million with a portion coming from “undisclosed” sources.
In August 2011, the U.S. State Department threatened to cut $100 million dollars in aid it sends to the Gaza Strip. (The U.S. gives Israel about $43 billion a year.) Saudi Arabia and Iran contribute heavily.
Nonetheless, the violence of the Gaza Strip toward Israel goes on. New York Times journalist Steven Erlanger reported that “Hamas rocket and weapons caches, including rocket launchers, have been discovered in and under mosques, schools and civilian homes.”
The Israelis accused Hamas of launching attacks and shooting rockets from civilian areas. Israel states that between 2000 and 2008, 12,000 rockets and mortars were launched at Israel — nearly 3,000 in 2008 alone. In the June to July 2014 conflict, Hamas fired many rockets and mortar shells into Israel.
When will the attacks on Israel end? How long can Israel endure? Thankfully, the little country has a magnificent promise from God:
“I would no more reject my people than I would change my laws of night and day, of earth and sky. I will never abandon the Jews, or David my servant, or change the plan that his Child will someday rule these descendants of Abraham (Jeremiah 33:25, 26).”
(Column 3 in a four-part series on the Holy Land)