Monday, October 3, 2011

Palestine Before Zionism

Originally posted by Oh My Gaza at


The land of Palestine has a political, economic and religious significance in history. It is the land that connects between Egypt and the Mesopotamia (Iraq). According to Richard Hooker in Washington State University, “It was the land bridge that carried all the commercial goods between these two wealthy and powerful areas; it was also the highway on which armies would travel, whether Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, or Roman.” That’s why it has been a land with much turmoil.

Religious Significance

Palestine is regarded as a holy place by more than half of the world for the existence of Jerusalem inland. It’s considered a pilgrimage site by the three monotheistic religions (AKA Abrahamic religions) Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

For Jews:
It’s the land where Jacob - who is considered the grand father of the tribes of Israel- lived with his children.

Although Moses received revelation in Sinai. They believe it had been their destination when Moses led escaping the Pharos in Egypt.

Also, it’s the land that witnessed the righteous kingdom of David and Solomon.

Moreover, it’s that place where Solomon temple was once built before being destroyed by the Babylonians.

For Christians:
It’s the land where Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was born, lived and preached and (as they believe) crucified and will be resurrected.

In Jerusalem, there exist the three churches that denote his life.

For Muslims:
Muslims believe Islam is the continuation of Judaism and Christianity and its message was the message of all prophets completed by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They believe that all prophets who passed by or lived there were leading the struggle of good against evil with the message to worship the one and only God.

Jerusalem was their first direction of prayers, and the place where their third shrine (Al-Aqsa Mosque) stands in which a prayer is worth 500 prayers.

Also, it’s believed to be the site from which prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ascended to heaven in a holy night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem.

Canaan (3000 B.C. – 1000 B.C.)

Remains and wheat fossils were discovered in the city of Jericho dating back to 8000 B.C. making it the oldest form of agricultural city in the world. So it’s known that Palestine has been continuously inhabited since then.

Between 3000 B.C and 2000 B.C., tribes migrated from the northern Arab Peninsula and settled in Ard Al-Sham and especially in Palestine forming different tribal groups of which the most famous are Amorites, Canaanites, Jebosites, other Semitic peoples. So it was called the land of Canaan denoting all Palestine regardless of racial connotation. Due to Canaan’s geographical and population diversity, its inhabitants didn’t form a united entity. They lived as self contained tribes mostly administrated by powerful neighboring kingdoms such as Egyptians and Hittites.

Between 1850 B.C. and 1500 B.C., the history of Hebrews tribe started with the migration of Abraham from Mesopotamia (Iraq) to the Land of Canaan. Abraham is considered the great grand father of both Arabs (Ishmael’s descendants), and Hebrews (Isaac’s descendants). It wasn’t until later that Hebrews will be called the children of Israel named after their grand father Jacob (Isaac’s son who was called Israel in Biblical and Quranic records). Hebrews migration in Palestine ended when Jacob and all of his family left to Egypt looking for a better life when Egypt was under Hyksos rule.

Around 1250 B.C., the Children of Israel led by Moses escaped the Pharos in Egypt heading towards Palestine. That’s when the Jews came to exist. They are those who believed in Moses as a prophet sent by the one and only God called in Judaism Yahweh. They couldn’t beat the Canaanites, and lived as scattered tribes trying to seep into Canaan every now and then.

Around 1200 B.C., some peoples from Mediterranean Islands called peoples of the sea migrated to the land of Canaan and settled in the western south coast which became PLST and its dwellers called Philistines. Although they dissolved within the Canaanites and Jebusites, the whole area would take the name of Palestine later on.
The Jewish Kingdom (1000 B.C. – 920 B.C)
It wasn’t until 1004 B.C, when the Hebrew tribes managed to beat the Semitic and non Semitic peoples living in Palestine. They built a united monarchy on much of Canaan land led by David. With the weakness of surrounding kingdoms in Egypt and Iraq, David and then his son Solomon managed to create a flourishing kingdom.

Around 960 B.C., Solomon built an enormous temple denoting his political strong rule. Following Solomon’s death, the Jews unity broke into Judea in the south and Israel in the north. The two kingdoms kept enmity towards each other until Assyrians conquered and destroyed the Israeli monarchy and later Judea was destroyed by the Babylonians.

Assyrians and Babylonians Rule (722 B.C - 530 B.C)
In 722 B.C., the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and exiled the upper class and tribes’ chiefs into other places in their kingdom. The Babylonians then took over Iraq from within and managed to end Assyrians rule and its territories. By 597 B.C., they conquered Judea and all of Palestine was under the Babylonians (Chaldeans) rule. They entered Jerusalem, and destroyed the temple. They also exiled thousands out of Judea into Babylon (Capital of Iraq then).

Persians and Greek Rule (539 B.C to 167 B.C)
By 539 B.C., the Persians conquered Palestine in their efforts to take over the whole world. It was the first conquest done for religious reasons. Cyrus believed he had a mission to support the Good religions over the bad ones. He thought Jewish religion was among the Good ones, so he ordered the Jews to return back to Jerusalem, rebuild the Temple, and worship Yahweh. However, large numbers of the Jews didn’t return and stayed in Babylon. Those who returned rebuild the temple and exercised autonomous rule in Jerusalem as a theological state following Persian rule.

By 333 B.C., the Greek led by Alexander conquered the Persian Empire including Palestine. Following his death, a Greek division called the Seleucids ruled in Palestine. They forced the Jews in Jerusalem to worship their gods and follow their cult. By 168 B.C., the Greek ruler Antiochus IV destroyed the Jews second Temple which agitated the Jewish revolt in 161 B.C. under the leadership of the Maccabees, which succeeded to retain an autonomous rule of Jerusalem (Judea) under protection of an emerging power of the Romans.

Romans and Byzantine Rule (65 B.C. - 600s A.D.)
By 63 BC, Jerusalem became a protectorate of Rome. Romans gave the Jews a governor in Jerusalem on condition to pay as much taxes as possible. Afterwards, prophet Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Jerusalem. By 6 AD, Romans ruled Palestine directly, and only the Judicial and religious systems were in Jews hands. As Christians believe Jesus was crucified and his body was raised to heaven, his followers were oppressed and killed by the Jews which led to fleeing from Jerusalem or secretly preaching their religion. Also some fled to Rome.

In 70 AD and 132 AD, the Romans managed to annihilate Jews revolts after which, Romans prohibited Judaism in Palestine and exiled the Jews from Jerusalem and they were dispersed all over the world. Small numbers of Jews stayed in Palestine but were never allowed into Jerusalem. By 300 AD, Palestine was under the Byzantine rule and Christianity spread all over Palestine.

Palestine witnessed a mosaic population at that time consisted of Jews and Palestinian converts to Christianity, Pagans, Romans, and others who had constantly been living in Palestine.
Islamic Rule (636 A.D – 1917 A.D.)

By the 7th century, Islam appeared in the Arab Peninsula. As Muslims believe their religion is the final monotheistic message from God to the whole universe, Prophet Muhammad sent letters to the two greatest kingdoms ruling the area at that time, the Romans and Persians. He gave them the choice to accept Islam and reveal it to their peoples or Muslim armies would conquer their territories.
Around 638, Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab entered Jerusalem called Aelia at that time after the acceptance of peace by its Patriarch. A promise called the covenant of Omar was granted to Jerusalem people that guaranteed the protection of Christians and Jews holy places. Freedom of religion was assured with Muslims paying Zakkah and non Muslims paying Jizziah which are two forms of calculated taxes paid in Islamic ruled regions.

Gradually, most Palestine inhabitants embraced Islam and accordingly the Arabic Islamic culture. Islamic rule was interrupted in 1099 when Crusaders brutally invaded Palestine slaughtering Jews and Muslims, and again Jews were banned from living in Jerusalem. It remained under Crusaders rule till the Muslim ruler Saladin managed to retain the city by 1187. And different Muslim powers kept ruling the area till early 1900s.

Al-Suwaidan, Tareq. Palestine, the Photographic History. Kuwait: Al-Ebdaa Al-Fekri, 2009.
Saleh, Mohsen M. History of Palestine. Cairo: Al-Falah Foundation, 2005.
Gelvin, James L. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: one hundred years of war. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Said, Edward W. The Question of Palestine. New York: Vintage books Edition, April 1992.

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