Israel shares land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories comprising the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the east and southwest, respectively, and Egypt and the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the south.
Origin of name
According to the Hebrew Bible Israel was given the name after he successfully wrestled with the angel of the Lord. Jacob's twelve sons became the ancestors of the Israelites, also known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel or Children of Israel. Jacob and his sons had lived in Canaan but were forced by famine to go into Egypt for four generations until Moses, a great-great grandson of Jacob, led the Israelites back into Canaan during the "Exodus". The earliest known archaeological artifact to mention the word "Israel" is the Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt (dated to the late 13th century BCE).
The first record of the name Israel (as ysrỉꜣr) occurs in the Merneptah stele, erected for Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah c. 1209 BCE, "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not." This "Israel" was a cultural and probably political entity of the central highlands, well enough established to be perceived by the Egyptians as a possible challenge to their hegemony, but an ethnic group rather than an organised state; Ancestors of the Israelites may have included Semites native to Canaan and the Sea Peoples. McNutt says, "It is probably safe to assume that sometime during Iron Age I a population began to identify itself as 'Israelite'", differentiating itself from the Canaanites through such markers as the prohibition of intermarriage, an emphasis on family history and genealogy, and religion.
Around 930 BCE, the kingdom split into a southern Kingdom of Judah and a northern Kingdom of Israel. From the middle of the 8th century BCE Israel came into increasing conflict with the expanding neo-Assyrian empire. Under Tiglath-Pileser III it first split Israel's territory into several smaller units and then destroyed its capital, Samaria (722 BCE). An Israelite revolt (724–722 BCE) was crushed after the siege and capture of Samaria by the Assyrian king Sargon II. Sargon's son, Sennacherib, tried and failed to conquer Judah. Assyrian records say he leveled 46 walled cities and besieged Jerusalem, leaving after receiving extensive tribute.
In 586 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon conquered Judah. According to the Hebrew Bible, he destroyed Solomon's Temple and exiled the Jews to Babylon. The defeat was also recorded by the Babylonians (see the Babylonian Chronicles).
In 538 BCE, Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon and took over its empire. Cyrus issued a proclamation granting subjugated nations (including the people of Judah) religious freedom (for the original text see the Cyrus Cylinder). According to the Hebrew Bible 50,000 Judeans, led by Zerubabel, returned to Judah and rebuilt the temple. A second group of 5,000, led by Ezra and Nehemiah, returned to Judah in 456 BCE although non-Jews wrote to Cyrus to try to prevent their return.
With successive Persian rule, the region, divided between Syria-Coele province and later the autonomous Yehud Medinata, was gradually developing back into urban society, largely dominated by Judeans. The Greek conquests largely skipped the region without any resistance or interest. Incorporated into Ptolemaic and finally Seleucid Empires, southern Levant was heavily hellenized, building the tensions between Judeans and Greeks. The conflict erupted in 167 BCE with the Maccabean Revolt, which succeeded in establishing an independent Hasmonean Kingdom in Judah, which later expanded over much of modern Israel, as the Seleucids gradually lost control in the region.
The Roman Empire invaded the region in 63 BCE, first taking control of Syria, and then intervening in the Hasmonean civil war. The struggle between pro-Roman and pro-Parthian factions in Judea eventually led to the installation of Herod the Great and consolidation of the Herodian Kingdom as a vassal Judean state of Rome.
With the decline of Herodians, Judea, transformed into a Roman province, became the site of a violent struggle of Jews against Greco-Romans, culminating in the Jewish-Roman Wars, ending in wide-scale destruction, expulsions, and genocide. Jewish presence in the region significantly dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE. Nevertheless, there was a continuous small Jewish presence and Galilee became its religious center. The Mishnah and part of the Talmud, central Jewish texts, were composed during the 2nd to 4th centuries CE in Tiberias and Jerusalem. The region came to be populated predominantly by Greco-Romans on the coast and Samaritans in the hill-country. Christianity was gradually evolving over Roman paganism, when the area under Byzantine rule was transformed into Deocese of the East, as Palaestina Prima and Palaestina Secunda provinces. Through the 5th and 6th centuries, dramatic events of Samaritan Revolts reshaped the land, with massive destruction to Byzantine Christian and Samaritan societies and a resulting decrease of the population. After the Persian conquest and the installation of a short-lived Jewish Commonwealth in 614 CE, the Byzantine Empire reinstalled its rule in 625 CE, resulting in further decline and destruction.
DNA study on Y-STR Haplogroup Diversity in the Jat Population
The Jats represent a large ethnic community that has inhabited the northwest region of India and Pakistan for several thousand years. It is estimated the community has a population of over 123 million people. Many historians and academics have asserted that the Jats are descendants of Aryans, Scythians, or other ancient people that arrived and lived in northern India at one time. Essentially, the specific origin of these people has remained a matter of contention for a long time. This study demonstrated that the origins of Jats can be clarified by identifying their Y-chromosome haplogroups and tracing their genetic markers on the Y-DNA haplogroup tree. A sample of 302 Y-chromosome haplotypes of Jats in India and Pakistan was analyzed. The results showed that the sample population had several different lines of ancestry and emerged from at least nine different geographical regions of the world. It also became evident that the Jats did not have a unique set of genes, but shared an underlying genetic unity with several other ethnic communities in the Indian subcontinent. A startling new assessment of the genetic ancient origins of these people was revealed with DNA science.
The human Y-chromosome provides a powerful molecular tool for analyzing Y-STR haplotypes and determining their haplogroups which lead to the ancient geographic origins of individuals. For this study, the Jats and 38 other ethnic groups in the Indian subcontinent were analyzed, and their haplogroups were compared. Using genetic markers and available descriptions of haplogroups from the Y-DNA phylogenetic tree, the geographic origins and migratory paths of their ancestors were traced.
The study demonstrated that based on their genetic makeup, the Jats belonged to at least nine specific haplogroups, with nine different lines of ancestry and geographic origins. About 90% of the Jats in our sample belonged to only four different lines of ancestry and geographic origins:
2. Haplogroup R (28.5%): From somewhere in Central Asia, some descendants of the man carrying the M207 mutation on the Y chromosome headed south to arrive in India about 10,000 years ago (Wells, 2007). This is one of the largest haplogroups in India and Pakistan. Of its key subclades, R2 is observed especially in India and central Asia.
3. Haplogroup Q (15.6%): With its origins in central Asia, descendants of this group are linked to the Huns, Mongols, and Turkic people. In Europe it is found in southern Sweden, among Ashkenazi Jews, and in central and Eastern Europe such as, the Rhône-Alpes region of France, southern Sicily, southern Croatia, northern Serbia, parts of Poland and Ukraine.
4. Haplogroup J (9.6%): The ancestor of this haplogroup was born in the Middle East area known as the Fertile Crescent, comprising Israel, the West Bank, Jordon, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Middle Eastern traders brought this genetic marker to the Indian subcontinent (Kerchner, 2013).
5.-9. Haplogroups E, G, H, I, T (9.5%): The ancestors of the remaining five haplogroups E, G, H, I, and T can be traced to different parts of Africa, Middle East, South Central Asia, and Europe (ISOGG, 2016).
Therefore, attributing the origins of this entire ethnic group to loosely defined ancient populations such as, Indo-Aryans or Indo-Scythians represents very broad generalities and cannot be supported. The study also revealed that even with their different languages, religions, nationalities, customs, cuisines, and physical differences, the Jats shared their haplogroups with several other ethnic groups of the Indian subcontinent, and had the same common ancestors and geographic origins in the distant past. Based on recent developments in DNA science, this study provided new insights into the ancient geographic origins of this major ethnic group in the Indian subcontinent. A larger dataset, particularly with more representation of Muslim Jats, is likely to reveal some additional haplogroups and geographical origins for this ethnic group.
- Genesis, 32:28, 35:10
- Exodus 6:16–20
- Barton, John; Bowden, Julie (2004). The Original Story: God, Israel and the World. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8028-2900-7.,p.126.
- Stager in Coogan 1998, p. 91.
- Miller 1986, pp. 78–9.
- McNutt 1999, p. 35.
- Oppenheimer, A'haron and Oppenheimer, Nili. Between Rome and Babylon: Studies in Jewish Leadership and Society. Mohr Siebeck, 2005, p. 2.
- Morçöl 2006, p. 304
- Y-STR Haplogroup Diversity in the Jat Population Reveals Several Different Ancient Origins