From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaGreek: Παλαιστίνη, Palaistinē; Latin: Palaestina; the Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəléshseth); also פלשׂתינה, Palestina; Arabic: فلسطينFilasṭīn, Falasṭīn, Filisṭīn) is a conventional name used, among others, to describe a geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands.
As a geographic term, Palestine can refer to "ancient Palestine," an area that today includes Israel and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, as well as part of Jordan, and some of both Lebanon and Syria. In classical or contemporary terms, it is also the common name for the area west of the Jordan River. The boundaries of two new states were laid down within the territory of the British Mandate, Palestine and Transjordan. Other terms for the same area include Canaan, Zion, the Land of Israel, and the Holy Land.
Origin of nameThe name "Palestine" is the cognate of an ancient word meaning "Philistines" or "Land of the Philistines". In keeping with the Greek culture of the day, it has also been suggested that it may also be a play on the word Παλαιστής Palaistes (Greek for wrestler) and a reference to Jacob, later called Israel, the founder of the ancient Israeli nation.
The earliest known mention is thought to be in Ancient Egyptian texts of the temple at Medinet Habu which record a people called the P-r-s-t (conventionally Peleset) among the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt in Ramesses III's reign. The Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəléshseth)- usually translated as Philistia in English, is used in the Bible to denote the southern coastal region that was inhabited by the Philistines to the west of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.
The Assyrian emperor Sargon II called the same region Palashtu or Pilistu in his Annals. In the 5th century BCE, Herodotus wrote in Ancient Greek of a 'district of Syria, called Palaistinê" (whence Palaestina, whence Palestine).
According to Moshe Sharon, Palaestina was commonly used to refer to the coastal region and shortly thereafter, the whole of the area inland to the west of the Jordan River. The latter extension occurred when the Roman authorities, following the suppression of the Bar Kokhba rebellion in the 2nd century CE, renamed "Provincia Judea" (Iudaea Province; originally derived from the name "Judah") to "Syria Palaestina" (Syria Palaestina), in order to complete the dissociation with Judaea.
During the Byzantine period, the entire region (Syria Palestine, Samaria, and the Galilee) was named Palaestina, subdivided into provinces Palaestina I and II. The Byzantines also renamed an area of land including the Negev, Sinai, and the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula as Palaestina Salutaris, sometimes called Palaestina III.
The Arabic word for Palestine is Philistine (commonly transcribed in English as Filistin, Filastin, or Falastin). Moshe Sharon writes that when the Arabs took over Greater Syria in the 7th century, place names that were in use by the Byzantine administration before them, generally continued to be used. Hence, he traces the emergence of the Arabic form Filastin to this adoption, with Arabic inflection, of Roman and Hebrew (Semitic) names. Jacob Lassner and Selwyn Ilan Troen offer a different view, writing that Jund Filastin, the full name for the administrative province under the rule of the Arab caliphates, was traced by Muslim geographers back to the Philistines of the Bible.
The use of the name "Palestine" in English became more common after the European renaissance. The name was not used in Ottoman times (1517–1917). Most of Christian Europe referred to the area as the Holy Land. It was officially revived by the British after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and applied to the territory that was placed under British Mandate.
Some other terms that have been used to refer to all or part of this land include Canaan, Greater Israel, Greater Syria, the Holy Land, Iudaea Province, Judea, Israel, "Israel HaShlema", Kingdom of Israel, Kingdom of Jerusalem, Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael or Ha'aretz), Zion, Retenu (Ancient Egyptian), Southern Syria, and Syria Palestina.
BoundariesThe boundaries of Palestine have varied throughout history. Prior to its being named Palestine, Ancient Egyptian texts (c. 14 century BCE) called the entire coastal area along the Mediterranean Sea between modern Egypt and Turkey R-t-n-u (conventionally Retjenu). Retjenu was subdivided into three regions and the southern region, Djahy, shared approximately the same boundaries as Canaan, or modern-day Israel and the Palestinian territories, though including also Syria.
Scholars disagree as to whether the archaeological evidence supports the biblical story of there having been a Kingdom of Israel of the United Monarchy that reigned from Jerusalem, as the archaeological evidence is both rare and disputed. For those who do interpret the archaeological evidence positively in this regard, it is thought to have ruled some time during Iron Age I (1200 - 1000 BCE) over an area approximating modern-day Israel and the Palestinian territories, extending farther westward and northward to cover much (but not all) of the greater Land of Israel.
Philistia, the Philistine confederation, emerged circa 1185 BCE and comprised five city states: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod on the coast and Ekron, and Gath inland. Its northern border was the Yarkon River, the southern border extending to Wadi Gaza, its western border the Mediterranean Sea, with no fixed border to the east.
By 722 BCE, Philistia had been subsumed by the Assyrian Empire, with the Philistines becoming 'part and parcel of the local population,' prospering under Assyrian rule during the 7th century despite occasional rebellions against their overlords. In 604 BCE, when Assyrian troops commanded by the Babylonian empire carried off significant numbers of the population into slavery, the distinctly Philistine character of the coastal cities dwindled away, and the history of the Philistines as a distinct people effectively ended.
The boundaries of the area and the ethnic nature of the people referred to by Herodotus in the 5th century BCE as Palaestina vary according to context. Sometimes, he uses it to refer to the coast north of Mount Carmel. Elsewhere, distinguishing the Syrians in Palestine from the Phoenicians, he refers to their land as extending down all the coast from Phoenicia to Egypt. Josephus used the name Παλαιστινη only for the smaller coastal area, Philistia. Pliny, writing in Latin in the 1st century CE, describes a region of Syria that was "formerly called Palaestina" among the areas of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Since the Byzantine Period, the Byzantine borders of Palaestina (I and II, also known as Palaestina Prima, "First Palestine", and Palaestina Secunda, "Second Palestine"), have served as a name for the geographic area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Under Arab rule, Filastin (or Jund Filastin) was used administratively to refer to what was under the Byzantines Palaestina Secunda (comprising Judaea and Samaria), while Palaestina Prima (comprising the Galilee region) was renamed Urdunn ("Jordan" or Jund al-Urdunn).
The Zionist Organization provided their definition concerning the boundaries of Palestine in a statement to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919; it also includes a statement about the importance of water resources that the designated area includes. On the basis of a League of Nations mandate, the British administered Palestine after World War I, promising to establish a Jewish homeland therein. The original British Mandate included what is now Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan), and trans-Jordan (the present kingdom of Jordan),although the latter was disattached by an administrative decision of the British in 1922. To the Palestinian people who view Palestine as their homeland, its boundaries are those of the British Mandate excluding the Transjordan, as described in the Palestinian National Charter.
Additional extrabiblical referencesMerneptah Stele, dated c. 1200 BCE, containing a recount of Egyptian king Merneptah's victories in the land of Canaan, mentioning place-names such as Gezer, Ashkelon and Yanoam, along with Israel, which is mentioned using a hieroglyphic determinative that indicates a nomad people, rather than a state.
Mesha Stele, bearing an inscription by the 9th century BC Moabite King Mesha, discovered in 1868 at Dhiban (biblical "Dibon," capital of Moab) now in Jordan. The Stele is notable because it is thought to be the earliest known reference to the sacred Hebrew name of God – YHWH. It also notable as the most extensive inscription ever recovered that refers to ancient Israel.
Biblical textsUnited Kingdom of Israel and Judah ruled from Jerusalem a vast territory extending far west and north of Palestine for some 120 years. Archaeological evidence for this period is very rare, however, and its implications much disputed.
The Hebrew Bible calls the region Canaan (כּנען) (Numbers 34:1–12), while the part of it occupied by Israelites is designated Israel (Yisrael). The name "Land of the Hebrews" (ארץ העברים, Eretz Ha-Ivrim) is also found, as well as several poetical names: "land flowing with milk and honey", "land that [God] swore to your fathers to assign to you", "Land of the Lord", and the "Promised Land".
The Land of Canaan is given a precise description in (Numbers 34:1) as including all of Lebanon, as well (Joshua 13:5). The wide area appears to have been the home of several small nations such as the Canaanites, Hebrews, Hittites, Amorrhites, Pherezites, Hevites and Jebusites. According to Hebrew tradition, the land of Canaan is part of the land given to the descendants of Abraham, which extends from the "river of Egypt" to the Euphrates River (Genesis 15:18) – some identify the river of Egypt with the Nile, others believe it to be a wadi in northern Sinai, cf. Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:3-4; Joshua 15:47; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 24:7.
In Exodus 13:17, "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt."
The events of the Four Gospels of the Christian Bible take place almost entirely in this country, which in Christian tradition thereafter became known as The Holy Land.
In the Qur'an, the term الأرض المقدسة (Al-Ard Al-Muqaddasah, English: "Holy Land") is mentioned at least seven times, once when Moses proclaims to the Children of Israel: "O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin." (Surah 5:21)
Paleolithic and Neolithic periods (1 mya–5000 BCE)Ubeidiya, some 3 km south of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias), in the Jordan Rift Valley. The remains are dated to the Pleistocene, ca. 1.5 million years ago. It is traces of the earliest migration of Homo erectus out of Africa. The site yielded hand axes of the Acheulean type.
Wadi El Amud between Safed and the Sea of Galilee was the site of the first prehistoric digging in Palestine, in 1925. The discovery of the Palestine Man in the Zuttiyeh Cave in Wadi Al-Amud near Safed in 1925 provided some clues to human development in the area.
Qafzeh is a paleoanthropological site south of Nazareth where eleven significant fossilised Homo sapiens skeletons have been found at the main rock shelter. These anatomically modern humans, both adult and infant, are now dated to circa 90–100,000 years old, and many of the bones are stained with red ochre which is conjectured to have been used in the burial process, a significant indicator of ritual behavior and thereby symbolic thought and intelligence. 71 pieces of unused red ochre also littered the site.
Mount Carmel has yielded several important findings, among them Kebara Cave that was inhabited between 60,000 – 48,000 BP and where the most complete Neanderthal skeleton found to date. The Tabun cave was occupied intermittently during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic ages (500,000 to around 40,000 years ago). Excavation suggests that it features one of the longest sequences of human occupation in the Levant. In the nearby Es Skhul cave excavations revealed the first evidence of the late Epipalaeolithic Natufian culture, characterized by the presence of abundant microliths, human burials and ground stone tools. This also represents one area where Neanderthals – present in the region from 200,000 to 45,000 years ago – lived alongside modern humans dating to 100,000 years ago.
In the caves of Shuqba in Ramallah and Wadi Khareitun in Bethlehem, stone, wood and animal bone tools were found and attributed to the Natufian culture (c. 12800–10300 BCE). Other remains from this era have been found at Tel Abu Hureura, Ein Mallaha, Beidha and Jericho.
 Jericho is believed to be one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, with evidence of settlement dating back to 9000 BC, providing important information about early human habitation in the Near East.
Chalcolithic period (4500–3000 BCE) and Bronze Age (3000–1200 BCE)Along the Jericho–Dead Sea–Bir es-Saba–Gaza–Sinai route, a culture originating in Syria, marked by the use of copper and stone tools, brought new migrant groups to the region contributing to an increasingly urban fabric.
Canaanite city-states situated in plains and coastal regions and surrounded by mud-brick defensive walls were established and most of these cities relied on nearby agricultural hamlets for their food needs.
Archaeological finds from the early Canaanite era have been found at Tel Megiddo, Jericho, Tel al-Far'a (Gaza), Bisan, and Ai (Deir Dibwan/Ramallah District), Tel an Nasbe (al-Bireh) and Jib (Jerusalem).
The Canaanite city-states held trade and diplomatic relations with Egypt and Syria. Parts of the Canaanite urban civilization were destroyed around 2300 BCE, though there is no consensus as to why. Incursions by nomads from the east of the Jordan River who settled in the hills followed soon thereafter.
In the Middle Bronze Age (2200–1500 BCE), Canaan was influenced by the surrounding civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Minoan Crete, and Syria. Diverse commercial ties and an agriculturally based economy led to the development of new pottery forms, the cultivation of grapes, and the extensive use of bronze. Burial customs from this time seemed to be influenced by a belief in the afterlife.
Political, commercial and military events during the Late Bronze Age period (1450–1350 BCE) were recorded by ambassadors and Canaanite proxy rulers for Egypt in 379 cuneiform tablets known as the Amarna Letters. The Minoan influence is apparent at Tel Kabri.
By c. 1190 BCE, the Philistines arrived and mingled with the local population, losing their separate identity over several generations.
Iron Age (1200–330 BCE)Pottery remains found in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath (city), Ekron and Gaza decorated with stylized birds provided the first archaeological evidence for Philistine settlement in the region. The Philistines are credited with introducing iron weapons and chariots to the local population. Excavations have established that the late 13th, the 12th and the early 11th centuries BCE witnessed the foundation of perhaps hundreds of insignificant, unprotected village settlements, many in the mountains of Palestine. From around the 11th century BCE, there was a reduction in the number of villages, though this was counterbalanced by the rise of certain settlements to the status of fortified townships.
Developments in Palestine between 1250 and 900 BCE have been the focus of debate between those who accept the Old Testament version on the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes, and those who reject it. Niels Peter Lemche, of the Copenhagen School of Biblical Studies, submits that the biblical picture of ancient Israel "is contrary to any image of ancient Palestinian society that can be established on the basis of ancient sources from Palestine or referring to Palestine and that there is no way this image in the Bible can be reconciled with the historical past of the region."
Sites and artifacts, including the Large Stone Structure, Mount Ebal, the Menertaph, and Mesha stelae, among others, are subject to widely varying historical interpretations: the "conservative camp" reconstructs the history of Israel according to the biblical text and views archaeological evidence in that context, whilst scholars in the minimalist or deconstructionist school hold that there is no archaeological evidence supporting the idea of a United Monarchy (or Israelite nation) and the biblical account is a religious mythology created by Judean scribes in the Persian and Hellenistic periods; a third camp of centrist scholars acknowledges the value of some isolated elements of the Pentateuch and of Deuteronomonistic accounts as potentially valid history of monarchic times that can be in accord with the archaeological evidence, but argue that nevertheless the biblical narrative should be understood as highly ideological and adapted to the needs of the community at the time of its compilation.
Hebrew Bible/Old Testament periodUnited Kingdom of Israel was established by the Israelite tribes with Saul as its first king in 1020 BCE. In 1000 BCE, Jerusalem was made the capital of King David's kingdom and it is believed that the First Temple was constructed in this period by King Solomon. By 930 BCE, the united kingdom split to form the northern Kingdom of Israel, and the southern Kingdom of Judah. These kingdoms co-existed with several more kingdoms in the greater Palestine area, including Philistine town states on the Southwestern Mediterranean coast, Edom, to the South of Judah, and Moab and Ammon to the East of the river Jordan. According to Jon Schiller and Hermann Austel, among others, while in the past, the Bible story was seen historical truth, "a growing number of archaeological scholars, particularly those of the minimalist school, are now insisting that Kings David and Solomon are 'no more real than King Arthur,' citing the lack of archaeological evidence attesting to the existence of the United Kingdom of Israel, and the unreliability of biblical texts, due to their being composed in a much later period."
There was an at least partial Egyptian withdrawal from Palestine in this period, though it is likely that Bet Shean was an Egyptian garrison as late as the beginning of the 10th century BCE. The socio-political system was characterized by local patrons fighting other local patrons, lasting until around the mid-9th century BCE when some local chieftains were able to create large political structures that exceeded the boundaries of those present in the Late Bronze Age Levant.
Archaeological findings from this era include, among others, the Mesha Stele, from c. 850 BCE, which recounts the conquering of Moab, located East of the Dead Sea, by king Omri, and the successful revolt of Moabian king Mesha against Omri's son, presumably King Ahab (and French scholar André Lemaire reported that line 31 of the Stele bears the phrase "the house of David" (in Biblical Archaeology Review [May/June 1994], pp. 30–37).); and the Kurkh Monolith, dated c. 835 BCE, describing King Shalmaneser III of Assyria's Battle of Qarqar, where he fought alongside the contingents of several kings, among them King Ahab and King Gindibu.
Between 722 and 720 BCE, the northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrian Empire and the Israelite tribes – thereafter known as the Lost Tribes – were exiled. The most important finding from the southern Kingdom of Judah is the Siloam Inscription, dated c. 700 BCE, which celebrates the successful encounter of diggers, digging from both sides of the Jerusalem wall to create the Hezekiah water tunnel and water pool, mentioned in the Bible, in 2Kings 20:20. In 586 BCE, Judah was conquered by the Babylonians and Jerusalem and the First Temple destroyed. Most of the surviving Jews, and much of the other local population, were deported to Babylonia.