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January  8, 2008

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نبذة تاريخية قصيرة


(Also written as Isdoud, Isdud, and Ashdod)*

Isdood is the village of the Editor of this publication (, where his parents lived before being evicted from it in October 1948. They became refugees living in a tent near the sea of Gaza city, where he was born. Then, the family moved to Dair El-Balah refugee camp, in central Gaza Strip.

The UN General Assembly passed Resolution194 in 1948, calling on the Israeli government to allow Palestinian refugees to be repatriated into their villages and towns after the war. However, successive Israeli governments never allowed Palestinian refugees to return to their lands, towns, and villages, thus creating the Palestinian refugee problem. Instead, the Israeli government encouraged Jews from all over the world to immigrate to Israel, acquire the Israeli citizenship, and dispossess the Palestinian people, by living in their homes and using their lands and property.

Directly, after the war, Israelis destroyed Isdood, like they did to the vast majority of Palestinian villages and towns in an attempt to destroy the Palestinian-Cana'anite history, which spans thousands of years in the Holy Land, well before the existence of Judaism itself.

The following is an attempt to keep Isdood in the human memory and to educate Palestinians, Israelis, and peace-loving people around the world about our precious history, which can never be dismissed by destroying villages and towns.

I hope, dream, and pray that one day real peace comes to the Holy Land, allowing descendants of the Palestinians refugees to return to Isdood and other villages and towns, to rebuild their schools, mosques, and homes; and live in peace forever in their Holy  ancestral homeland.

Hassan Ali El-Najjar

1 Muharram, 1429

January 9, 2008. 

A Brief History of Isdood

By Mariam Shanin

Isdood: The Great City of SyriLz
~ Herodotus, 5th century BCE

The few remnants of what was once the town of Isdood are hardly visible to a passerby. Four kilometers from the sea, Isdood was one of the five most important Philistine cities in antiquity, and a vibrant Palestinian town of over 5,000 in 1948. Now, there are only dirt mounds and a few ruins overgrown with shrubs and weeds. From the roadside, it hardly seems possible that Isdood was a historic town of note, almost continuously inhabited from 1700 BCE until 1948 CE.

The 3,700-year-old town was a strategic city in antiquity that stood on the main route from Palestine to Egypt. Believed to have been built in the Middle Bronze Age by the Cana'anites on the acropolis of the present mound, it was known for its weight standard and its harbor, from which it exported its textiles and traded in dyes. Its main trading partner was neighboring Egypt.

In about 1300 BCE, the city appears to have been completely laid to waste. At the time, towns were destroyed either by invaders or by the local population who burned their own homes rather than allow the invaders to have them. Shortly after Isdood's destruction, the Philistines arrived. They appear to have used the remains of the Cana'anite buildings. They rebuilt the city and settled it, expanding its borders beyond the acropolis for the first time. The size of the town went from an area of approximately 20 acres to at least 90 in a few years. According to the Old Testament version of history, the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and took it to their main sanctuary, the Temple of Dagon in Isdood.

One of the most culturally revealing archeological finds-the result of seven seasons of digs-was a figurine of a seated woman that forms part of a throne. Archeologists and biblical scholars, who had worked together to prove biblical claims, had asserted that the Philistines worshipped only male deities. The unearthing of Ashdoda (an arbitrary name given to the figurine by archaeologists - Editor of put an end to this claim once and for all. She was, apparently, one of several Philistine female goddesses. The goddesses were found toward the bottom of some 23 layers of civilization. The ancient fortified city was known as Ashdod Yam to the Israelites, Azotos Paralios to the Greeks, and Castellum Beroart to the Crusaders.

Close to the highest point of the mound archeologists unearthed an 11th-century BCE burial site of a single male skeleton. A heavy dagger with an iron blade lay next to him and within a short distance of the man's skeleton was the burial chamber of a horse.
Other finds indicate that by the end of the 11th century a vast shift in lifestyle, art, and religion began. Pottery shapes and images began to change, the deities became almost entirely male, and the musical instruments reverted to Cana'anite types rather than Philistine.

One of the most significant Isdoodi finds to date is a group of' figurines, five in all, which probably represented the orchestra at the court of the local ruler. They included statues of double flutes, cymbals, a tambourine, and a lyre.

Assyrian sources indicate that the city witnessed a renaissance for about 200 years, with substantial trade and mercantile activity from the 10th to 8th centuries BCE. But the Philistines were not to live in peace and prosperity: the city was destroyed again, this time by Uzziah, the king of Judah. Uzziah's 8th-century war to control the trade routes pitted him against the king of Israel as well as against the Philistines.

By 712 BCE the Assyrians made Isdood a tributary under Sargon II. Archeological finds in the late 1960s indicated that hundreds, if not thousands, of people were massacred during that conquest of the city. Mass graves containing dismembered bodies were uncovered at the time on the lowest part of the Mount of Isdud. Although Isdud became an Assyrian vassal state, it rebelled in no time. In 713 BCE, Azuri, the king of Isdood, refused to pay tributaries. Sargon then sent his armies to enslave the local population and settle the cities with people he had picked up as booty on the way. Archeological finds indicate that the Philistine population of Isdood was sent into exile and replaced by another, who simply moved into their homes.

Subsequently another ruler of Isdood, King Mitini, revitalized the city and with a largely new population, paid taxes to the Assyrian treasury. The Egyptians took the Assyrians to task and besieged the coastal city for 29 years. According to Herodotus, "Azotos [as Isdood was later called] held out against a siege longer than any city of which I have heard." But it was the Babylonians who finally brought Isdood to its knees. The city, exhausted and depopulated, shrank to a small town on the acropolis, while an adjacent city, Ashdod, more Persian (actually Babylonian) and Hellenistic in character, was built further north by the sea.

During the Persian period in the 5th century BCE, many Judeans married into Isdoodi families and were condemned by their governor, Nehemiah. After Alexander's conquest of Gaza, Isdood became known as Azotos. Finds from that period indicate that it again grew to be a city of some significance. Recent archeological finds indicate that the deities of the Philistines survived an overlay of Hellenistic culture that Alexander introduced.

In Byzantine times it was the site of a bishopric. The evangelist Philip came to the town after baptizing the eunuch of Queen Candance of Ethiopia. Isdood's first bishop was Sylvanus (323 CE), who according to church records actively participated in the bitter theological debates in the 5th century at the Council of Chalcedon. Sixth-century Isdood can be seen on the map of Madaba.

During the Arab-Muslim era Isdood became predominantly Muslim. During the Mamluk period it became one of the main postal stops from Gaza to the rest of the country and Syria. After the Middle Ages it provided the main stopover for travellers going from Gaza to Yaffa, and its inhabitants protected the route to Ramleh. Today's remnants of the Mamluk caravanserai to the south of the village are believed to date back to the days of Baibars. By the beginning of the 19th century it was already in disuse and local villagers were dismantling it, using its stones for building houses in the village.

During the Ottoman period Isdood was part of the administrative district of Gaza. In 1596, records show that the population of 413 harvested wheat, barely, and sesame, and tended goats and beehives.

Most homes in Isdood were built of mud brick, in the architectural style of the southern Palestinian coast. The town was filled with palm and fig trees, which provided staples for both the local and surrounding populations.

One of the town's two mosques was built during the era of Baibars, while the other was built during the Ottoman era. In 1929 the Mosque of Sidi Amer was reported to have been supported by "ancient" columns of white marble.

20th and 2Ist Centuries

In 1948 Isdood was a quiet Palestinian town with some 5,000 inhabitants. Local lore has it that the three shrines in the town were erected in memory of Salman al-Farisi, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, an Egyptian clergyman Shaykh al-Matbuli, and an otherwise unattributed (probably a Sufi Shaikh) Ahmad Abu aI-Iqbal.

Isdood was on the front lines between Israeli and Egyptian forces, which sent its 6th Battalion to Isdood in May 1948. Some fierce fighting took place around Isdood in early June, but the town did not fall to Israeli forces until October, when the townspeople fled after a three-night air bombardment. The 300 people who stayed and surrendered to the Israelis with white flags were expelled.

The 5,000 inhabitants of Isdood went to the Gaza strip in their entirety; most of them (and their descendants live in the Shati, Jabalia, Al-Nussairat, Al-Buraij, Dair El-Balah, Khan Younis, and Rafah) refugee camps to this day. Many of their children and grandchildren were active in the first and second Palestinian uprising. Many Palestinians laborers work at the port in Ashdod and elsewhere in the city. Under existing trade agreements much of the imports and exports coming to Palestinian self-rule areas must go through Ashdod or one of the other Israeli coastal cities. Isdood, in the. meantime, is known to Israelis as the archeological site Tell Ashdod.

Near Isdood


Founded in 1956, this modern Israeli city is 7 kilometers north, northwest of the ancient city ruins. An archeological museum on 15 Hasheyatim Street contains a few of the artifacts found in Isdood. The artificial port, enclosed by breakwaters, is southern Israel's only outlet to the Mediterranean; much of the country's citrus crop is exported through Ashdod. There are large synthetic-textile plants and a number of other industries. In addition, Ashdod has a petroleum refinery and one of Israel's major power plants. It has a population of 80,000.

Ad- Halom Bridge

This bridge was built toward the end of the Ottoman era on the remains of an older Roman bridge. It passes over Wadi Sukrair (the Lachish River) at the southern entrance of modern Ashdod. The small concrete tower served as an observation point and military post for the British west of the bridge. To the south, an obelisk symbolizes peace between Egypt and Israel. The monument honors the Egyptian soldiers who fought and died in defense of the Palestinians in this region.

Minet Al-Qala'a (Port of the Castle) 

Built by the Fatimids in the 10th century, the former Port Castle is a rectangular fortress (60 by 40 m/ 19 7 by 13 1 ft) with a guard tower at each corner. The towers were enclosed by a high wall. Two huge gates in the wall gave access to the stronghold. It is southeast of Isdood's ruins, close to Ashdod.


Known as Jabneel (Yabneel) in the Bible, Yahve to the Philistines, Iamnia or Gabinius to the Romans, and Yavne to the modern Israelis. This town has been inhabited continuously for 3,000 years. Though it appears to have been a secondary town to the Philistines, in Hellenistic times Yibna was a regional administrative center. The Hasmonians eventually destroyed it, but the Romans had the town and its port rebuilt. At the time the port superseded that of Yaffa in importance and the Judeans took refuge here in CE 70.

Muslims from nearby Ramleh also settled there and by 985 a beautiful mosque was built adjacent to the tomb of Abu Hureira, one of the Prophet Muhammad's companions.
The Fatimids ruled the town when Crusaders claimed a stake in Yibna, expelling all Muslims and built a strategic outpost. The town was already back in Mamluk hands by the time they defeated the Mongols and Baibars had the grand mosque renovated to mark the long-awaited victory. At the start of the Ottoman rule, the population was just under 1,000, but by the early 17th century that number had more than tripled.

By the time the Israelis invaded Yibna it had a settled population of 5,500 and some 1,500 nomads. Five hundred of its residents were schoolchildren and most of these, their children and grandchildren now live as refugees in the Gaza Strip. Eight Israeli settlements were built on Yibna's land by the 1960s.

Some 4 kilometers northwest of the town is Israel's first atomic research reactor. Today the "old" Yibna is a ghost town. Less than half a dozen houses of the village are occupied, mostly by Jewish families, one still by Arabs. The dilapidated mosque, over 1,000 years old, is falling apart. The Tomb of Rabbi Gamliel was super-imposed on the tomb of Abu Hureira.


* The author of the above article, Mariam Shahin, uses the word "Isdud." Other words used by other Arab authors include Isdood and Isdoud, which are Arabic Cana'anite in origin. 

Israelis today use the Babylonian word "Ashdod" to refer to the new city they built on the location of the ancient Babylon-controlled city, by the sea after 1948.

The editor of has replaced the word "Isdud" by the word "Isdood," as the the latter includes the more accurate longer vowel. He also added few comments in parentheses.


Mariam Shanin (Author) and George Azar (Photograhy). "Palestine: A Guide." 2005. Chastelton Travel. Catalogued in British Library. (Pages 395-401).

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