Moahoud Judeh - 28\12\2022

Wadi Gaza “Gaza Valley” is a geographical artery that extends from the history and ancient civilizations to our present days. Many events have occurred in Wadi Gaza, which is one of the largest valleys in historic Palestine, stretching 90 km from the Negev and Hebron Mountains to its estuary in the Mediterranean Sea in Al-Zahara region.
Wadi Gaza has played a significant role in the history and development of the region, as it has been a major route for trade, as well as a source of water and agricultural resources. It has also been a place of cultural and religious significance for various communities throughout history. Today, Wadi Gaza continues to be an important part of the cultural and natural landscape of Palestine.

Wadi Gaza extends from the heart of the Negev desert in Southern Palestine until the South of the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank before its water flows into the Strip. The valley extends into Gaza Strip for a distance of nine kilometers from its eastern border to the western coast of the sea.
The valley was connected in a vital way until the occupation built dams on its course, preventing the access of rainwater from valleys such as Al-Sha'ariya, Al-Rashrash, Al-Samou', Hebron and others. Its estimated water volume is 25 to 30 million cubic meters during the winter season and the months after, flowing towards the valley and feeding the underground reservoir of the Strip. This has all created a major obstacle for the access of rainwater to Wadi Gaza causing to be dry throughout the year and turning it into a drainage site for wastewater that has turned the entire area into a polluted and harmful Place for the population and the passersby.
Since ancient times, civilizations have developed along the banks of rivers and valleys, and Wadi Gaza was no exception to this geographical context. Due to the fertility of the soil around the banks of Wadi Gaza and the availability of fresh water necessary for human and agriculture, especially its proximity to the sea coast at the mouth and its location on the ancient road that connected Egypt in the South with Palestine, Syria and Iraq where this road was known as "Horus Road" by the ancient Egyptians, however, the valley area was one of the most Palestinian attractive areas since the Copper and Bronze Ages (4500-3200 BC).
Walking along the valley's two banks reveals ancient stone remnants and ruins damaged by environmental factors and neglect over a distance of 9 kilometers, which is the share of Gaza strip along the length of the valley course that contains many historical sites on its occupied side. “As revealed by the results of many excavations and exploration operations” explained professor Fadel AL-Atel, an expert in antiquities, “various cities and civilizations existed and flourished in the valley during the Bronze Age which was confirmed by discovery of large amount of silver coins, pottery, ruins of townships abandoned by their inhabitants due to environmental changes and wars, such as Tal Al-Ajjoul, which is three kilometers away from the valley's mouth in the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the oldest areas indicating the presence of urban stability in Wadi Gaza.” He added, “The Canaanites chose Wadi Gaza as the center of their civilization in the Bronze Age due to its vital location on the ancient Horus road.” Professor Al-Atel clarified “This is what drove us years ago to protest a residential project in Wadi Gaza that could’ve resulted the destruction of historic proofs”.

To the west of the valley is the site of “Tal Al-Sakan”, which is the largest fortified Canaanite city in southern Palestine, in the area of Wadi Gaza near the new city of Al-Zahra. “Tal Al-Sakan” was accidentally discovered during the sand extraction at top of the Tal during the constructing of housing units on the same site. The lower ancient layer at the site contains the remains of the largest and oldest fortified Canaanite city discovered in the southwest of Canaan land to date.
Wadi Gaza region revived again during the Roman-Byzantine period where its inhabitants established villages. On the southern bank of the valley, at its western end, is the archaeological site of Khirbet Um Al-Tout, where parts of a place believed to be the birthplace of St. Hilarion were also discovered. In 1991, this monastery was accidentally discovered during excavation and land leveling at the site of “Tal Um Amir”. All parts of the monastery have been revealed, including halls, bedrooms and services covered with colored mosaics, and residue of wheels used in olive oil pressing.
In 747 AD, a major earthquake occurred in the area, causing the destruction of many parts of the Tal and the cessation of construction there, leading to a state of migration that stopped the urban development in Wadi Gaza until the arrival of the Mamluk period, which began to revive and pay attention to that area where greater interest in the valley area began. The Sultans had established a group of rest houses on the banks of the valley where their main purpose was to serve travelers on the road to Egypt, such as the Sultan Al-Moayed Sheikh's Inn, which was built above Tal Ajjoul in Al-Mighraqa area. With these rest houses, people began to settle around them gradually.

Today, Wadi Gaza is an exceptional case of being the only waterway in the Strip. Recently, youth activist has launched several initiative and advocacy campaigns to raise awareness on importance of reviving the area as an attraction for domestic tourism and to push towards preserving the place through listing it a natural reserve, and thus channeling financial aid for these purposes.