Palestine – the land of the Prophets. Rich in history – the history of generations of believers who lived and worshipped, and fought and died there, praising their Lord and defending their faith.
Historic region, the extent of which has varied greatly since ancient times, situated on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in south west Asia .
The region has an extremely diverse terrain that falls generally into four parallel zones. From west to east they are the coastal plain ; the hills and mountains of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea; the valley of the Jordan river.; and the east plateau. In the extreme south lies the Negev , a rugged desert area . Elevations range from 395 mile (1296 ft) below sea level on the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the earth, to 1020 mile (3347 ft) atop nearby Mt. Hebron .
The region has several fertile areas , which constitute its principal natural resource . The water supply of the region, however , is not abundant , with virtually all of the modest annual rainfall coming in the winter months . The Jordan Rever, the region’s only major stream, flows south through Lake Tiberias (the regions only large freshwater lake) to the intensely saline Dead Sea.
Ancient History of Palestine
3’RD MILLENNIUM BC
2’ND MILLENNIUM BC
1’ST MILLENNIUM BC
Breif modern history of Palestine
3’RD MILLENNIUM BC
3’rd millennium BC : The Canaanites were the earliest known inhabitants of Palestine. They became urbanized and lived in city-states, one of which was Jericho . They developed an alphabet. Palestine’s location at the center of routes linking three continents made it the meeting place for religious and cultural influences from Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor. It was also the natural battleground for the great powers of the region and subject to domination by adjacent empires, beginning with Egypt in the 3d millennium BC.
2’ND MILLENNIUM BC
2’rd millennium BC : Egyptian hegemony and Canaanite autonomy were constantly challenged by such ethnically diverse invaders as the Amorites, Hittites, and Hurrians. These invaders, however, were defeated by the Egyptians and absorbed by the Canaanites, who at that time may have numbered about 200000.
14th century BC : Egyptian power began to weaken, new invaders appeared: the Hebrews, a group of Semitic tribes from Mesopotamia, and the Philistines (after whom the country was later named), an Aegean people of Indo-European stock.
1230 BC : Joshua conquered parts of Palestine. The conquerors settled in the hill country, but they were unable to conquer all of Palestine.
1125 BC : The Israelites, a confederation of Hebrew tribes, finally defeated the Canaanites but found the struggle with the Philistines more difficult . Philistines had established an independent state on the southern coast of Palestine and controlled the Canaanite town of Jerusalem.
1050 BC : Philistines with there superior in military organization and using iron weapons, they severely defeated the Israelites about 1050 BC .
1’ST MILLENNIUM BC
1000 BC : David, Israel’s great king, finally defeated the Philistines, and they eventually assimilated with the Canaanites . The unity of Israel and the feebleness of adjacent empires enabled David to establish a large independent state, with its capital at Jerusalem.
922 BC : Under David’s son and successor, Solomon, Israel enjoyed peace and prosperity , but at his death in 922 BC the kingdom was divided into Israel in the north and Judah in the south .
722-721 BC : When nearby empires resumed their expansion, the divided Israelites could no longer maintain their independence . Israel fell to Assyria.
586 BC : Judah was conquered by Babylonia, which destroyed Jerusalem and exiled most of the Jews living there. Nebuchadnezzar entered Jerusalem. The Temple was sacked and set fire to, and razed to the ground. The Royal Palace and all the great houses were destroyed, the population carried off in chains to Babylon. And they lamented on their long march into exile.
539 BC : Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia and he permitted the Jews to return to Judea, a district of Palestine. Under Persian rule the Jews were allowed considerable autonomy. They rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and codified the Mosaic law, the Torah, which became the code of social life and religious observance. The Jews were bound to a universal God.
333 BC : Persian domination of Palestine was replaced by Greek rule when Alexander the Great of Macedonia took the region. Alexander’s successors, the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria , continued to rule the country . The Seleucids tried to impose Hellenistic (Greek) culture and religion on the population.
141-63 BC : Jews revolted under the Maccabees and set up an independent state.
132-35 BC : Jews revolts erupted, numerous Jews were killed, many were sold into slavery, and the rest were not allowed to visit Jerusalem. Judea was renamed Syria Palaistina.
63 BC : Jerusalem was overrun by Rome. Herod was appointed King of Judea. He slaughtered the last of the Hasmoneans and ordered a lavish restoration and extension of the Second Temple. A period of great civil disorder followed with strife between pacifists and Zealots, and riots against the Roman authorities.
37-4 BC : During the rule of King Herod the Great Jesus of Nazareth, peace be upon him was born. And years after, he began his teaching mission. His attempts to call people back to the pure teachings of Abraham and Moses were judged subversive by the authorities. He was tried and sentenced to death; “yet they did not slay him but only a likeness that was shown to them.”
70 AD : Titus of Rome laid siege to Jerusalem. The fiercely defended Temple eventually fell, and with it the whole city. Seeking a complete and enduring victory, Titus ordered the total destruction of the Herodian Temple. A new city named Aelia was built by the Romans on the ruins of Jerusalem, and a temple dedicated to Jupitor raised up.
313 AD : Palestine received special attention when the Roman emperor Constantine I legalized Christianity. His mother, Helena, visited Jerusalem, and Palestine, as the Holy Land, became a focus of Christian pilgrimage. A golden age of prosperity, security, and culture followed. Most of the population became Hellenized and Christianized .
324 AD : Constantine of Byzantium marched on Aelia. He rebuilt the city walls and commissioned the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and opened the city for Christian pilgrimage.
29-614 AD : Byzantine (Roman) rule was interrupted , however , by a brief Persian occupation and ended altogether when Muslim Arab armies invaded Palestine and captured Jerusalem in AD 638 .
638 AD : The Arab conquest began 1300 years of Muslim presence in what then became known as Filastin. Eager to be rid of their Byzantine overlords and aware of their shared heritage with the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, as well as the Muslims reputation for mercy and compassion in victory, the people of Jerusalem handed over the city after a brief siege. They made only one condition, That the terms of their surrender be negotiated directly with the Khalif ‘Umar in person. ‘Umar entered Jerusalem on foot. There was no bloodshed. There were no massacres. Those who wanted to leave were allowed to, with all their goods. Those who wanted to stay were guarantee protection for their lives, their property and places of worship.
Palestine was holy to Muslims because the Prophet Muhammad had designated Jerusalem as the first qibla (the direction Muslims face when praying) and because he was believed to have ascended on a night journey to heaven from the the old city of Jerusalem (al-Aqsa Mosque today) , where the Dome of the Rock was later built. Jerusalem became the third holiest city of Islam. The Muslim rulers did not force their religion on the Palestinians, and more than a century passed before the majority converted to Islam. The remaining Christians and Jews were considered People of the Book. They were allowed autonomous control in their communities and guaranteed security and freedom of worship. Such tolerance was rare in the history of religion . Most Palestinians also adopted Arabic and Islamic culture. Palestine benefited from the empires trade and from its religious significance during the first Muslim dynasty, the Umayyads of Damascus.
750 AD : The power shifted to Baghdad with the Abbasids, Palestine became neglected. It suffered unrest and successive domination by Seljuks, Fatimids, and European Crusaders. It shared, however, in the glory of Muslim civilization, when the Muslim world enjoyed a golden age of science, art, philosophy, and literature. Muslims preserved Greek learning and broke new ground in several fields, all of which later contributed to the Renaissance in Europe. Like the rest of the empire, however, Palestine under the Mamelukes gradually stagnated and declined.
1517 AD : The Ottoman Turks of Asia Minor defeated the Mamelukes, with few interruptions, ruled Palestine until the winter of 1917-18. The country was divided into several districts (sanjaks), such as that of Jerusalem. The administration of the districts was placed largely in the hands of Arab Palestinians, who were descendants of the Canaanites. The Christian and Jewish communities, however, were allowed a large measure of autonomy. Palestine shared in the glory of the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century, but declined again when the empire began to decline in the 17th century.
1831-1840 AD : Muhammad Ali, the modernizing viceroy of Egypt, expanded his rule to Palestine . His policies modified the feudal order, increased agriculture, and improved education.
1840 The Ottoman Empire reasserted its authority, instituting its own reforms .
1845 Jewish in Palestine were 12,000 increased to 85,000 by 1914. All people in Palestine were Arabic Muslims and Christians.
1897 the first Zionist Congress held Basle, Switzerland, issued the Basle programme on the colonization of Palestine.
Breif modern history of Palestine
Aided by the Arabs, the British captured Palestine from the Ottoman Turks in 1917-18. The Arabs revolted against the Turks because the British had promised them, in correspondence (1915-16) with Shareef Husein ibn Ali of Mecca (1856-1931), the independence of their countries after the war . Britain , however, also made other, conflicting commitments in the secret Sykes -Picot agreement with France and Russia (1916), it promised to divide and rule the region with its allies . In a third agreement , the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain promised the Jews a Jewish “national home” in Palestine.
This promise was subsequently incorporated in the mandate conferred on Britain by the League of Nations in 1922 . During their mandate (1922-48) the British found their contradictory promises to the Jewish and Palestinian communities difficult to reconcile. The Zionists envisaged large-scale Jewish immigration , and some spoke of a Jewish state constituting all of Palestine . Palestinians , however, rejected Britain’s right to promise their country to a third party and feared dispossession by the Zionists; anti-Zionist attacks occurred in Jerusalem (1920) and Jaffa (1921).
A 1922 statement of British policy denied Zionist claims to all of Palestine and limited Jewish immigration , but reaffirmed support for a Jewish national home. British proposed establishing a legislative council, Palestinians rejected this council as discriminatory.
After 1928, when Jewish immigration increased somewhat, British policy on the subject seesawed under conflicting Arab-Jewish pressures . Immigration rose sharply after the installation (1933) of the Nazi regime in Germany; in 1935 nearly 62,000 Jews entered Palestine.
Fear of Jewish domination was the principal cause of the Arab revolt that broke out in 1936 and continued intermittently until 1939. By that time Britain had again restricted Jewish immigration and purchases of land.
The struggle for Palestine, which abated during World War II, resumed in 1945 . The horrors of the Holocaust produced world sympathy for European Jews and for Zionism , and although Britain still refused to admit 100,000 Jewish to Palestine , many Jewish found their way there illegally.
Various plans for solving the Palestine problem were rejected by one party or the other . Britain finally declared the mandate unworkable and turned the problem over to the UN in April 1947. The Jews and the Palestinians prepared for a showdown . Although the Palestinians outnumbered the Jews (1300000 to 600000), the latter were better prepared . They had a semiautonomous government, led by David Ben-Gurion , and their military, the Haganah, was well trained and experienced . The Palestinians, on the other hand, had never recovered from the Arab revolt , and most of their leaders were in exile.
The Mufti of Jerusalem , their principal spokesman, refused to accept Jewish statehood . When UN proposed partition in November 1947, he rejected the plan while the Jews accepted it . In the military struggle that followed, the Palestinians were defeated . Violence was used on both sides.
Israel was established on May 14, 1948. Five Arab armies , coming to the aid of the Palestinians , immediately attacked it. Uncoordinated and outnumbered, they were defeated by Israeli forces. Israel enlarged its territory . Jordan took the West Bank of the Jordan River, and Egypt took the Gaza Strip. ( Israel occupied these lands after the Six Day War of 1967. ) The war produced 780,000 Palestinian refugees. About half probably left out of fear and panic , while the rest were forced out to make room for Jewish immigrants from Europe and from the Arab world. The Palestinians spread throughout the neighboring countries, where they have maintained their Palestinian national identity and the desire to return to their homeland.