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Sunday, July 10, 2011

History of Our Cousins, the Arabs and of Palestine

Nadene Goldfoot
The Arabs themselves trace their origins to Ishmael, who was Abraham's first son by his wife Sarah's Egyptian maid,  Hagar.  Later,  Sarah bore Isaac who was the proginator of the Jewish people.  Arabs are a Semitic people and would then be half-cousins of the Jews, inhabiting the Arabian peninsula and other nearby regions.  When Islam was created by Mohammed they moved out of their homeland and conquered the greater part of the then civilized world including Palestine.  Arabic is a cognate to Hebrew and is one of the branches of Semitic languages.   A big split divided the two groups when the Jews would not convert to Islam but remained faithful to their own religion, Judaism.  Most Arabs live in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.  Most Arabs are Muslims but there are also Arab Christians and Druses, who are an offshoot of  Ismaelism which is a monotheistic Persian belief of the eternity of the soul and of reincarnation started in the 11th Century CE.  . 

Once there was the kingdom of Judah and the larger kingdom of Israel, both Jewish states.  Israel was in the north and Judah was in the south. 

The Jews had created Judah in the south  with 20 kings reigning from Rehoboam in 933-917 BCE to Zedekiah in 597- 586 BCE with the city of Samaria as its capital in about 890 BCE , Samaria was in the center and Galilee was in the North.  Under Kings David and Solomon, Israel was a very large territory including most of Syria and covered about 58,000 sq. m. It had had 19 kings from Jeroboam in 933-912 BCE to Hoshea in 730-72 BCE.   It became known as Palestine after the Roman conquest in 70 CE. Israel ran from the Western Mediterranean Sea to the East with the Syrian Desert to the South with the Brook of Egypt as far as the Valley of Zoar south of the Dead Sea and in Transfordan from the river Arnon to Mt. Hermon and to the Valley of Iyon.

When Rome conquered, they named Judah "Judea" and it remained a vassal kingdom.  It later became a province in what they called Palestine when they started ruling in 63 BCE.   The Romans renamed it "Palaestina "(Prima and Secunda) in 135 CE.  .The southern part of the country remained Judea to distinguish it from Samaria in the center and Galilee in the north.   

The Romans came up with the term, Palestina" as that originally denoted the land of the Philistines, used to describe their hinterland by the Greeks.  Palestine was first used to denote Palestinian Syria.  The Romans renamed Judah to Judea and then as Palestine to erase its association with Jews.  Palestine had never been a country, just a name of a land that wasn't even occupied by the people who controlled it.    It lay waste except for the occasional nomad with a camel who traveled across it to get to the other side.  It became either swampland or  a desert.  Only a few Arabs managed to buy land from the Ottoman Empire and settle down.  Jews never had left the land though they became fewer in number as so many had been carted off and sold into slavery or had been slaughtered.  No one was interested in building up such tired and useless land. 

The Muslim Arabs were defeated in Palestine in 1250 CE by Muslims who were not Arabs but were Mamelukes.  They in turn were defeated by other non-Arab Muslims, the Ottoman Turks, who held onto the ownership until they lost it in 1917 in the WWI as they were on the German side of the war.  Arabs  had controlled Palestine for about 700 years while other Muslims had held onto it as well. 

The land was originally called Eretz Canaan (the land of Canaan)  in Hebrew.  Later by 1948 Jews were able to call their homeland Eretz Israel.  It's only been in recent years that Arabs have identified themselves as "Palestinians."  They had come into the land looking for work from neighboring countries in the 1800's to work for the Jews who were building there.  Five different periods of times called Alliyot brought Jews from Europe into the land.   Before 1948 all people living in "Palestine" were called Palestinians.    The Jewish interest in Palestine lay in their history of having been led there by G-d.  This wasteland had meaning to a people who had been bouncing around from country to country for over 2,000 years in search of someplace that would accept them for what they were.  After almost becoming extinct in the slaughter of the Pogroms in Russia and in the Holocaust, they finally braved the elements and returned to their homeland. 

Resource: A Young Person's History of Israel 2nd Edition by David Bamberger
The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

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