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Palestine is located in Asia
     Boundaries of Roman Syria Palaestina, where dashed green line shows the boundary between Byzantine Palaestina Prima and Palaestina Secunda, as well as Palaestina Salutaris

     Borders of the British Mandate of Palestine      Borders of the Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip)

Palestine is a region in the Middle East. It is in the Levant, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.[1][2][3] Many cultures have lived in Palestine through history and built their civilizations. These included Canaanites, Hebrews (Israelites), Philistines, Phoenicians and Arabs. For Jews, Palestine was and is still known as the Land of Israel.[4] It is also called the Holy Land. It is where Judaism and Christianity began.

Today, the region is divided into two states: Israel and the State of Palestine. The territories belonging to Palestinians (West Bank and the Gaza Strip) are occupied by Israel.[5][6] Many cities in the region are sacred to Abrahamic religions: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Hebron are among the most important.

The name Palestine comes from the word Plesheth, meaning "invaders". In English it is usually written Philistine. The Philistines were a people who invaded the area. They were probably a Greek people, who did not speak Arabic, not too surprising as the arabs came to palestine nearly 2000 years later.


Ancient times

Israelites ruled over the region of Palestine which was known as Canaan or the Land of Israel.The area went from Tyre in the north to Beersheba in the south. After the death of King Solomon, the land was split into a Northern Kingdom known as Samaria and Southern Kingdom known as Judea. The Northern Kingdom was conquered by Assyrian King Sennacherib, expelling most of its Israelite residents. Judea was conquered by the Babylonians more than 100 years later, and much of its Jewish population was expelled as well. However, despite the destruction, some Jews and Samaritans remained in the land. After Persian takeover of the Babylonian Empire, more Jews returned to Judea and slowly rebuilt their civilization. The area remained under direct Persian rule for 200 years more, with Jews having a limited autonomy.


With conquests of Alexander the Great of Macedon, the area became dominated by Hellenistic rulers - first Alexander himself, later Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt and finally Seleucids. In second century before common era, the Jewish population of the area revolted against Seleucids and founded an independent Hesmonean kingdom. The Jewish kingdom expanded over the region in the next decades, conquering neighbouring Samaritans, Edomeans and Nabateans. Slowly however, the region became dominated by the Roman Empire.


After a semi-independent rule of King Herod, Judea was turned into a Roman Province. Jews violently revolted against the Romans twice, but the Romans reconquered the whole area and finally renamed it Syria-Palaestina after one of Judea's ancient enemies, the Philistines. After two centuries, the Eastern Roman Empire became known and Byzantium, which became a Christian Empire. Byzantium kept its rule over the country, naming it Palaestina Prima and Palaestina Secunda - both provinces with majorly Byzantine Christian population and big groups of Samaritans, Jews and Christian Arabs.


Over the next centuries, the region was briefly conquered by Persians, became part of Arab Muslim Empire, the Crusader kingdom, the Mamluk Sultanate, the Ottoman Syria, protected by the British Mandate and upon British withdrawal in 1948 taken over by Jordan, Israel and Egypt. The region is often named Holy Land, and is sacred for Muslims, Christans and Jews.



  1. Jacobson, David M., Palestine and Israel, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 313 (Feb. 1999), pp. 65–74
  2. The Southern and Eastern Borders of Abar-Nahara Steven S. Tuell Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 284 (Nov. 1991), pp. 51–57
  3. Herodotus' Description of the East Mediterranean Coast Anson F. Rainey Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 321 (Feb. 2001), pp. 57–63
  4. Gideon Biger (2004). The Boundaries of Modern Palestine, 1840–1947. RoutledgeCurzon. passim.
  5. Le More, Anne (2008). International assistance to the Palestinians after Oslo: political guilt, wasted money. Routledge studies on the Arab-Israeli conflict. 1. London and New York: Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-415-45385-1 .
  6. "December Overview" (PDF). UNOCHA. December 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-03.