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Map of Middle East Countries

Palestine (Hindi:फिलिस्तीन, Arabic: فلسطين‎ Filasṭīn) is a de jure sovereign state in the Middle East.


The areas claimed by the State of Palestine lie in the Levant. The Gaza Strip borders the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Egypt to the south, and Israel to the north and east. The West Bank is bordered by Jordan to the east, and Israel to the north, south, and west. Thus, the two enclaves constituting the area claimed by State of Palestine have no geographical border with one another, being separated by Israel. These areas would constitute the world's 163rd largest country by land area.[1][2]


Since the British Mandate, the term "Palestine" has been associated with the geographical area that currently covers the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.[3] General use of the term "Palestine" or related terms to the area at the southeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea beside Syria has historically been taking place since the times of Ancient Greece, with Herodotus writing of a "district of Syria, called Palaistine" in which Phoenicians interacted with other maritime peoples. [4]

Some other terms that have been used to refer to all or part of the geographical region of "Palestine" include Canaan, Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael or Ha'aretz),[5] Greater Syria, the Holy Land, Iudaea Province, Judea, Coele-Syria,[6] "Israel HaShlema", Kingdom of Israel, Kingdom of Jerusalem, Zion, Retenu (Ancient Egyptian), Southern Syria, Southern Levant and Syria Palaestina.


The history of Palestine is the study of the past in the region of Palestine, generally defined as a geographic region in the Southern Levant between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (where Israel and Palestine are today), and various adjoining lands. Situated at a strategic point between Europe, Asia, and Africa, and the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity,[7] the region has a long and tumultuous history as a crossroads for religion, culture, commerce, and politics. The Palestine region or parts of it have been controlled by numerous different peoples and regional powers, including the Canaanites, Amorites,[8] Ancient Egyptians, Israelites, Moabites, Ammonites, Tjeker, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, different dynasties of the Early Muslim period (Umayads, Abbasids, Seljuqs, Fatimids), Crusaders, Late Muslim dynasties (Ayyubids, Mamluks, Ottoman Turks), the British, Jordanians (1948–1967, on the "West Bank") and Egyptians (in Gaza), and modern Israelis and Palestinians. Other terms for approximate geographic area include Canaan, Zion, the Land of Israel, Southern Syria, Outremer and the Holy Land.

The region was among the earliest in the world to see human habitation, agricultural communities and civilization. During the Early and Middle Bronze Age, independent Canaanite city-states were established, and were influenced by the surrounding civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Minoan Crete, and Syria.

During Late Bronze Age 1550–1400 BCE, the Canaanite cities became vassals to the Egyptian New Kingdom who held power until the 1178 BCE Battle of Djahy (Canaan) during the wider Bronze Age collapse. Modern archaeologists dispute parts of the Biblical tradition, the latest thinking being that the Israelites emerged from a dramatic social transformation that took place in the people of the central hill country of Canaan around 1200 BCE, with no signs of violent invasion or even of peaceful infiltration of a clearly defined ethnic group from elsewhere.[9] The Philistines, part of Sea Peoples of Southern Europe, arrived and mingled with the local Canaanite population, and according to Biblical tradition, the United Kingdom of Israel was established in 1020 BCE and split within a century to form the northern Kingdom of Israel, and the southern Kingdom of Judah. The region became part of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from c. 740 BCE, which was itself replaced by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in c. 627 BCE. A war of Baylonians with Judean Kingdom culminated in 586 BCE when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II and the local leaders were deported to Babylonia, only to be allowed to return under the rule of the Achaemenid Empire.

In the 330s BCE, Alexander the Great conquered the coastline of the region of Palestine, and it changed hands numerous times during the wars of the Diadochi, ultimately joining the Seleucid Empire between 219 and 200 BCE. In 116 BCE, a Seleucid civil war resulted in the independence of certain regions including the minor Hasmonean principality in the Judean Mountains. From 110 BCE, the Hasmoneans extended their authority over much of the area, creating a Judean–Samaritan–Idumaean–Ituraean–Galilean alliance.[10] The Judean (Jewish, see Ioudaioi) control over the wider region resulted in it also becoming known as Hasmonean Judaea, a term that had previously only referred to the smaller region of the Judean Mountains. During 73–63 BCE, the Roman Republic extended its influence into the region in the Third Mithridatic War, making Judea a vassal kingdom in 63 BCE, and splitting the Hasmonean Kingdom into five districts. After several decades as vassal of the Roman Empire, the Herodian kingdom and tetrarchy was gradually absorbed into Roman Empire as the Roman Judea. Between 66 and 135 CE massive Judean revolts troubled the province, resulting in sack of Jerusalem and extensive depopulation of the country. Jews were prohibited from living in the vicinity of Jerusalem,[11] and in 132 Jerusalem was renamed "Aelia Capitolina". As a result, many Jewish landowners converted to the Ebionim to maintain their properties.[12] After the Bar Kokhba revolt Hadrian joined the province of Judaea with Syria to form a new province and renamed it Syria Palaestina. During 259–272, the region briefly fell under the rule of Odaenathus as King of the Palmyrene Empire. Following the victory of Christian emperor Constantine in the Civil Wars of the Tetrarchy (306–324), the Christianization of the Roman Empire began, and in 326, Constantine's mother Saint Helena visited Jerusalem and began the construction of churches and shrines. Byzantine Palestine became a center of Christianity, attracting numerous monks and religious scholars. Persecution of Ebionites led to their dispersion to Arabia and the Parthian Empire.[13] The Christians gradually gained dominance demographically, especially after the Samaritan Revolts during late Byzantine period, which had caused the near extinction of Samaritans. In early 7th century the region briefly fell under the Sasanian Empire and Jewish rebels, until the return of Byzantines in 625-9.

Region of Palestine was conqueredby the Islamic Empire following the 636 CE Battle of Yarmouk during the Muslim conquest of Syria, and the Muslims gave relief from burdensome Roman taxes and religious persecution of Christian heretics. The country was incorporated into Bilad al-Sham Province as military districts of Urdunn and Filastin. In 661 CE, with the assassination of Ali, Muawiyah I became the uncontested Caliph of the Islamic World after being crowned in Jerusalem. In 691, the Dome of the Rock became the world's first great work of Islamic architecture. The Umayyads were replaced by the Abbasids in 750. From 878 Palestine was ruled from Egypt by semi-autonomous rulers for almost a century, beginning with Ahmad ibn Tulun and ending with the Ikhshidid rulers who were both buried in Jerusalem. The Fatimids conquered the region in 969. In 1073, Palestine was captured by the Great Seljuq Empire, only to be recaptured by the Fatimids in 1098, who then lost the region to the Crusaders in 1099. Crusader control of Jerusalem and most of Palestine as the Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted almost a century until defeat by Saladin's forces in 1187, after which most of Palestine became controlled by the Ayyubids. A rump Crusader state in the northern coastal cities survived for another century, but despite seven further Crusades, the Crusaders were no longer a significant power in the region. The Mamluk Sultanate was indirectly created in Egypt as a result of the Seventh Crusade. The Mongol Empire reached Palestine for the first time in 1260, beginning with the raids into the Levant under Nestorian Christian general Kitbuqa and reaching an apex at the pivotal Battle of Ain Jalut. In 1486, hostilities broke out between the Mamluks and the Ottoman Turks and the Ottomans captured Mamluk Palestine and Syria in 1516.

The Ottoman rule of the country lasted for four centuries, administratively included in the provinces of Ottoman Syria. In 1832, the region was conquered by Muhammad Ali's Egypt, but, in 1840, Britain intervened and returned control of the Levant to the Ottomans in return for further capitulations. The turbulent period of Egyptian rule experienced two major revolts (the 1834 Arab Peasants revolt and 1838 Druze revolt) and a significant demographic change in coastal areas, repopulated by Egyptian Arab peasants and former soldiers of Muhammad Ali. Late 19th century was the timing for regional migrations of Druze, Circassians and Bedouin tribes and also the spike of Jewish immigration and the revival of the Hebrew language. Increasing Jewish immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries added considerably to the Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Jaffa.[8]


  1. "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency".
  2. "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency".
  3. Rubin, 1999, The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: The Arab world, p. 186, at Google Books
  4. Herodotus, Volume 4. P.21. 1806. Rev. William Beloe translation.
  5. Biger 2004, p. 133, 159
  6. Other writers, such as Strabo, referred to the region as Coele-Syria ("all Syria") around 10–20 CE.
  7. van Seters, John (1997), Abraham in History and Tradition (Yale University Press)
  8. Tomoo Ishida, History and Historical Writing in Ancient Israel: Studies in Biblical Historiography, BRILL 1999 pp.14–15
  9. Finkelstein and Silberman, Free Press, New York, 2001, 385 pp., ISBN 0-684-86912-8, p 107
  10. Smith, Morton (1999). "The Gentiles in Judaism, 125 BCE – 66 CE". In Horbury, William; Davies, W D; Sturdy, John. Cambridge History of Judaism, The early Roman period. 2. p. 210. ISBN 0521243777.
  11. Sogin, J. Alberto (1988), A History of Israel from the Earliest times to the Bar Kochba Revolt, 135AD (Canterbury Press)
  12. Jagersma, H. (1986) A History of Israel from Alexander to Bar Kochba (Fortress Press)
  13. Kung, Hans (2008), "Islam, Past, Present and Future" Oneworld Publications)