What is Palestine? Who are the Palestinians?
Let’s start with the facts, once and for all.
It doesn’t matter what your political views are. If you think Israel should leave Judea and Samaria (The West Bank) or not; if you think the settlements are an obstacle for peace, or not. No matter what, it’s always a good idea to know the historic facts.
Historically, “Palestine” is the name of a region and did not refer to a specific country. The name “Palestine” was given by the Romans to what was the Land of Israel and Judea. The Bible never uses the term “Palestine” or “Palestinians” and refers to the land as “Israel” and “Judea.”
Before conquering Jerusalem, the Romans, as everyone else, called the land “Judea.”
In 70 A.D., the Romans conquered ancient Israel and destroyed the second Jewish Temple. The Roman empire issued a coin with the phrase “Judaea Capta” — “Judea has been conquered.”
‘Judea Capta’ sestertius of Vespasian, struck in 71 to celebrate the victory in the Jewish Revolt.
The legend on the reverse says: IVDEA CAPTA, “Judaea conquered”. More on the Judaea Capta coinage
Close up of relief showing spoils from the Siege of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) Arch of Titus, Rome.Despite the harsh conditions after the failed uprising, it was not the end of Jewish existence in Israel. Jewish communities continued to write the Mishna and the Talmud in Israel. With the destruction of Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life moved to the town of Yavne and later the town of Tiberias, in the Galilee. Jews had a consistent presence in the land of Israel continuously, since Biblical times, through the Bar Kochba revolt, and through today.
Throughout the centuries, the exiled Jewish people continued to maintain ties to its historic homeland, and repeatedly returned to their land in small numbers.
Over the years, many foreign invaders fought over and ruled in the land of Israel (Palestine), amongst them the Seljuk Turks, Richard the Lionhearted of England, France’s Napoleon and rulers from the Ottoman Empire.
In 1860, the first Jewish neighborhood (Mishkenot Sha’ananim) was built outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Between 1882 to 1903, about 30,000 Jewish people immigrated to Israel in what is called the First Aliyah.
In August 1897, the First Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland. At this conference, the World Zionist Organization was founded and the Basel Declaration was approved which stated that the Zionist movement’s ultimate aim is to establish and secure a homeland for the Jewish people. This homeland was to be located in the Biblical region dubbed variously “The Holy Land” or “Palestine” by the European Christians during the Catholic and later secular Enlightenment.
The delegates at the First Zionist Congress, held in Basel, Switzerland (1897)In 1898, German Kaiser Wilhelm visited Jerusalem met Theodore Herzl outside the city’s walls.
In 1901, at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, the Jewish National Fund was founded, with the aim of buying and developing land in the southern region of Ottoman Syria for Jewish settlement.
About 40 years earlier, in 1857, the British Consul to Palestine reported:
“The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population.”
in 1867, American writer Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens) visited the Holy Land and wrote a book about his journey – “The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress.”
Some quotes and pictures from Twain’s book:
“. . . A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse. . . . A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. . . . We never saw a human being on the whole route. . . . There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
“. . . Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent. The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a vast stretch of hill and plain wherein the eye rests upon no pleasant tint, no striking object, no soft picture dreaming in a purple haze or mottled with the shadows of the clouds. Every outline is harsh, every feature is distinct, there is no perspective–distance works no enchantment here. It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.”
“. . . Jericho the accursed lies a moldering ruin today, even as Joshua’s miracle left it more than three thousand years ago. . . . [Bethlehem,] the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sand “Peace on earth, good will to men,” is untenanted by any living creature.”
“. . . At the portion of the ancient wall of Solomon’s Temple which is called the Jew’s Place of Wailing, and where the Hebrews assemble every Friday to kiss the venerated stones and weep over the fallen greatness of Zion, any one can see a part of the unquestioned and undisputed Temple of Solomon, the same consisting of three or four stones lying one upon the other, each of which is about twice as long as a seven-octave piano, and about as thick as such a piano is high.”
Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials continue to praise terrorist murderers as “martyrs” and “heroes,” Palestinian Media Watch reports Monday, amidst an unending string of terror attacks.