In Biblical times Israel was named Judea. Judea was located in the “Fertile Crescent” from which much of our modern civilization arose: Farm based agriculture, domesticated livestock; writing and written codes of law; coinage and accounting; agreed terms of international trade and three major monotheistic Abrahamic religions.
The Geographic Location of Ancient Israel made it a Ripe Plum
Biblical Israel was racked by internal conflicts and civil wars and was also located on major trade routes and so became not only a ripe plum for the plucking but was a conveniently low hanging plum accessible by both sea and land routes by the surrounding and conflicting historical imperial powers of Babylonia, Persia, Phoenicia, Syria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantine, Muslim, Mongol, Mamluk, Crusader, Ottoman, France, and Britain. The historical land of Israel was invaded, conquered and re-conquered; garrisoned and occupied numerous times.
Sometimes the land of Israel was invaded because it was located on the major land route between competing powers. Repeated invasions were to suppress the pirates who used southern ancient Israel as a base of operations. Other times the population of Israel was viewed as an exploitable economic asset for educated slaves, booty, taxes and tribute. Other invasions were faith based. As a consequence the population of Israel was often in revolt against invaders and occupying armies.
The Roman occupation of Israel in 63 C.E. was marked with the traditional sacking of Jerusalem. Rome designated the are Judea; imposed the Herodian Dynasty to administer Roman laws; moved the Capital from Jerusalem to the more logical location of Caesarea. Imperial Roman Eagles were placed in all civic buildings and the Temple in Jerusalem. The Roman actions were viewed as attempts to destroy Judaism and produced the Zealot rebellion of 66-73 CE..
Imperial Rome assigned three legions to brutally quell the rebellion culminating in the battle of Masada. To squelch future rebellions by the fiercely independent Jewish people, the capitol city of Jerusalem was pillaged and the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
Roman Empire Plans to Eliminate Judaism as a Source of Rebellion
The Roman strategy of the pacification of Israel was to make Israel Juden Rein by eliminating the leaders of the Jewish people and forbidding the practice of Judaism.
An every growing list of Roman restrictions made illegal, on pain of public torture and crucifixion; observing the Sabbath, performing circumcisions, the study and teaching of Torah, performing Bar Mitzvah, practice of the kosher laws, observance of the Jewish New Year and The Day of Atonement.
During the Bar Kochbar rebellion of 132-135 CE Imperial Rome grew weary of expending treasure and blood maintaining Judea as part of the Empire. In typical Roman manner it was decided that if the people of Israel could not acknowledge being conquered and obliged to pay taxes and render tribute then Israel could not exist.
Israel Becomes an Example to the World of the Anger of Rome
Rome decided to wipe the embarrassing financial sinkhole off of the map. Rome called down seven Imperial Legions and laid waste to the land; the population was killed, enslaved or driven from the land. To eliminate any geographic nationalistic identification the names of Israel and Judea were eliminated and the area was renamed Syria Philistia–that part of Syria in which reside the people who do not love the beauty of Rome–pronounced “filistia”, for the extinct Greek Philistine pirates; bitter enemy of the Jewish People. This became the name Palestine. The name Jerusalem was eliminated, the city was renamed Aelia Capitolina and Jews were forbidden to enter.
Palestine became a barren wasteland of desert wilderness as an example for all the World to see of the results of rebellion against the laws of Rome.
The British Create Modern Palestine
During the periods of Byzantine Christian rule Israel was called the “Holy Land”, and the name Palestine survived in Christian writings as synonymous with “Holy Land.” Following the British and French occupation of the Ottoman Empire in WWI Palestine was resurrected as a geographical designation in 1917 to describe a geographic area under British colonial administration.
The borders between Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Mesopotamia (now Iraq) were established by the Franco-British Boundary Agreement signed in Paris December 23, 1920 as the colonial powers divied up the spoils of WWI.
Meeting in San Remo, Italy the Supreme Court of the League of Nations assigned mandates for the administration of Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine to England on April 25, 1922. Representing Palestine, America concluded negotiations with England on May 14, 1922; the terms were approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.
On September 16, 1922 Brittan presented the Transjordan memorandum to the League of Nations establishing the Jordan River as the border between Palestine and Transjordan; Palestine for the Jews and Transjordan for the Muslims.
The Mandate for the administration of Palestine came into force on September 22, 1922. In the Mandate the League of Nations recognized the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” and the “grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”
To facilitate the colonial administration of the lands east and west of the Jordan River the British created “Palestine.” It is from this British administrative decision the people living in this area, Jewish, Muslim, Druid, Pagan, agnostic, atheist and Christian all became “Palestinians.”
- The name was used by Ancient Greek writers, and was later used for the Roman province Syria Palaestina, the Byzantine Palaestina Prima and the Umayyad and Abbasid province of Jund Filastin.
- The region is also known as the Land of Israel, the Holy Land, the Southern Levant, Cisjordan, and historically has been known by other names including Canaan, Southern Syria and Jerusalem.
- Situated at a strategic location between Egypt, Syria and Arabia, and the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity, the region has a long and tumultuous history as a crossroads for religion, culture, commerce, and politics.
- Today, the region comprises the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories.
- The term Peleset (transliterated from hieroglyphs as P-r-s-t) is found in numerous Egyptian documents referring to a neighboring people or land starting from c.1150 BCE during the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt.
- The first mention is thought to be in texts of the temple at Medinet Habu, which record a people called the Peleset among the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt in Ramesses III’s reign.
- The first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt was in 5th century BC Ancient Greece.
- Herodotus wrote of a ‘district of Syria, called Palaistinê” in The Histories, the first historical work clearly defining the region, which included the Judean mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley.
- The Philistines arrived and mingled with the local 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.
- 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.
- Since the Byzantine Period, the Byzantine borders of Palaestina (I and II, also known as Palaestina Prima, “First Palestine”, and Palaestina Secunda, “Second Palestine”), have served as a name for the geographic area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.