Palestina Tertia


[pal-uh-stahyn for 1, 2; pal-uh-steen for 3]

Palestine is a name which has been widely used since Roman times to refer to the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Other terms that have been used to refer to all or part of this area include Israel, "Greater Israel" (Hebrew Eretz Yisrael), Southern Syria, Greater Syria, Arabistan, Canaan, and the Holy Land.

In the broad geographical sense, Palestine refers to an area that includes contemporary Israel and the Palestinian territories, parts of Jordan, and parts of Lebanon and Syria. In the narrow sense, it refers to the area within the boundaries of the former British Mandate of Palestine (1920-1948) west of the Jordan River.

Today, Palestine may also refer to the State of Palestine proposed by the Palestinian National Authority.

Within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the term Palestine has weighty political connotations and arouses fierce controversy.

Name and boundaries

The name and the borders of Palestine have varied throughout history, though Palestine has certain natural boundaries that justify its historical individuality.

'Palestine' (Παλαιστίνη; Palaestina; פלשתינה Palestina; فلسطين Filasṭīn, Falasṭīn, Filisṭīn ) is a Latinized name given to the region by the Roman emperor Hadrian to blot out the name of Israel. In the Bible, the area inhabited by the Philistines was known as Pleshet Genesis, X.13. The Philistines were a seafaring people who lived in cities along the coast. During the Late Bronze Age, Philistia was located approximately where the Gaza Strip and the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod are situated today in modern Israel. Philistia was a confederation of five city states: Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod on the coast, and Ekron and Gath inland.

The ethnic affiliation of the Philistines is not clear. The Philistine names preserved on inscriptions appear to "contradict the notion that they were Greek-speakers. Some scholars argue however that they were a non-Semitic group, with roots in Southern Greece dating back to the period of early Mycenaean civilization. A link to the Anatolian people speaking the Palaic language, on mere phonological similitude, seems difficult as hypothesis but not that impossible.

Non-Biblical texts

Ancient Egyptian texts called the entire coastal area along the Mediterranean Sea between modern Egypt and Turkey R-t-n-u (conventionally Retjenu). Retjenu was subdivided into three regions and the southern region, Djahy, shared approximately the same boundaries as Canaan, or modern-day Israel and the Palestinian territories, though including also Syria.

Early archeological textual reference to the territory of Palestine is found in the Merneptah Stele, dated c. 1200 BCE, containing a recount of Egyptian king Merneptah's victories in the land of Canaan, mentioning place-names such as Gezer, Ashkelon and Yanoam, along with Israel, which is mentioned using a hieroglyphic determinative that indicates a nomad people, rather than a state.

Egyptian texts of the temple at Medinet Habu, record a people called the P-r-s-t (conventionally Peleset), one of the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt in Ramesses III's reign. This is considered very likely to be a reference to the Philistines. The Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəléshseth), usually translated as Philistia in English, is used in the Bible to denote their southern coastal region.

The Assyrian emperor Sargon II called the region the Palashtu in his Annals. By the time of Assyrian rule in 722 BCE, the Philistines had become 'part and parcel of the local population', and prospered under Assyrian rule during the seventh century despite occasional rebellions against their overlords. In 604 BCE, when Assyrian troops commanded by the Babylonian empire carried off significant numbers of the population into slavery, the distinctly Philistine character of the coastal cities dwindled away, and the history of the Philistine people effectively ended.

In the 5th century BCE, the Greek historian and geographer Herodotus wrote in Greek of a "district of Syria, called Παλαιστινη (Palaistinê). Syria, at that time, referred rather imprecisely to the region lying between Asia Minor, Sinai, the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. The boundaries of the "district" of Palaistinê described by Herodotus are even more imprecise, as is the ethnic nature of its people; sometimes it denotes the coast north of Mount Carmel, and elsewhere it seems to extend down all the coast from Phoenicia to Egypt, and as far east as the Jordan River.

During the Roman period, the province of Iudaea covered much of modern Palestine, although the Galilee and other northern areas remained distinct administratively. However, many writers continued to use the Greek name. For example, in the first century C.E., the Roman writer Pliny the Elder mentions a region of Syria that was "formerly called Palaestina" among the areas of the Eastern Mediterranean. The Jewish historian Josephus, writing in Greek, used the name Palaistinê for the smaller coastal area which most of his contemporaries preferred to call Philistia. the Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria, also writing in Greek, used the terms Palestine and Canaan interchangeably, noting that the region's Jewish population was larger than that of any other single country.

After the Jewish rebellions of the first and second centuries CE, the Romans merged the province of Iudaea with Galilee, Samaria and Idumaea, uniting the entire area in a new province bearing the Greco-Latin name, Syria-Palaestina.

During the Byzantine Period, this entire region (including Syria, Palestine, Samaria, and Galilee) was renamed Palaestina and then subdivided into Diocese I and II. The Byzantines also renamed an area of land including the Negev, Sinai, and the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula as Palaestina Salutoris, sometimes called Palaestina III. Since the Byzantine Period, the Byzantine borders of Palaestina (I and II) have served as a name for the geographic area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Biblical texts

In the Biblical account, the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah ruled from Jerusalem a vast territory extending far west and north of Palestine for some 120 years. Archaeological evidence for this period is very rare, however, and its implications much disputed.

The Hebrew Bible calls the region Canaan (כּנען) while the part of it occupied by Israelites is designated Israel (Yisrael). The name "Land of the Hebrews" (ארץ העברים, Eretz Ha-Ivrim) is also found, as well as several poetical names: "land flowing with milk and honey", "land that [God] swore to your fathers to assign to you", "Holy Land", "Land of the Lord", and the "Promised Land".

The Land of Canaan is given a precise description in as including all of Lebanon, as well (). The wide area appears to have been the home of several small nations such as the Canaanites, Hebrews, Hittites, Amorrhites, Pherezites, Hevites and Jebusites.

According to Hebrew tradition, the land of Canaan is part of the land given to the descendants of Abraham, which extends from the Nile to the Euphrates River (). This land is said to include an area called Aram Naharaim, which includes Ur Kasdim in modern Turkey, where Abraham's father was born.

In , "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt."

The events of the Four Gospels of the Christian Bible take place almost entirely in this country, which in Christian tradition thereafter became known as The Holy Land.

In the Qur'an, the term الأرض المقدسة ("Holy Land", Al-Ard Al-Muqaddasah) is mentioned at least seven times, once when Moses proclaims to the Children of Israel: "O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin." (The Holy Qur'an/Al-Meada)


Paleolithic and Neolithic periods (1 mya–5000 BCE)

Human remains found at El-'Ubeidiya, 2 miles (3 km) south of Lake Tiberias date back as early as 500,000 years ago. The discovery of the Palestine Man in the Zuttiyeh Cave in Wadi Al-Amud near Safad in 1925 provided some clues to human development in the area.

In the caves of Shuqba in Ramallah and Wadi Khareitun in Bethlehem, stone, wood and animal bone tools were found and attributed to the Natufian culture (c. 12800–10300 BCE). Other remains from this era have been found at Tel Abu Hureura, Ein Mallaha, Beidha and Jericho.

Between 10000 and 5000 BCE, agricultural communities were established. Evidence of such settlements were found at Tell es-Sultan, Jericho and include mud-brick rounded and square dwellings, pottery shards, and fragments of woven fabrics.

Chalcolithic period (4500–3000 BCE) and Bronze Age (3000–1200 BCE)

Along the Jericho-Dead Sea-Bir es-Saba-Gaza-Sinai route, a culture originating in Syria, marked by the use of copper and stone tools, brought new migrant groups to the region contributing to an increasingly urban fabric.

By the early Bronze Age (3000–2200 BCE) independent Canaanite city-states situated in plains and coastal regions and surrounded by mud-brick defensive walls were established and most of these cities relied on nearby agricultural hamlets for their food needs.

Archaeological finds from the early Canaanite era have been found at Tel Megiddo, Jericho, Tel al-Far'a (Gaza), Bisan, and Ai (Deir Dibwan/Ramallah District), Tel an Nasbe (al-Bireh) and Jib (Jerusalem).

The Canaanite city-states held trade and diplomatic relations with Egypt and Syria. Parts of the Canaanite urban civilization were destroyed around 2300 BCE, though there is no consensus as to why. Incursions by nomads from the east of the Jordan River who settled in the hills followed soon thereafter.

In the Middle Bronze Age (2200–1500 BCE), Canaan was influenced by the surrounding civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, and Syria. Diverse commercial ties and an agriculturally based economy led to the development of new pottery forms, the cultivation of grapes, and the extensive use of bronze. Burial customs from this time seemed to be influenced by a belief in the afterlife.

Political, commercial and military events during the Late Bronze Age period (1450–1350 BCE) were recorded by ambassadors and Canaanite proxy rulers for Egypt in 379 cuneiform tablets known as the Amarna Letters.

By c. 1190 BCE, the Philistines arrived and mingled with the local population, losing their separate identity over several generations.

Iron Age (1200–330 BCE)

Pottery remains found in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gat, Ekron and Gaza decorated with stylized birds provided the first archaeological evidence for Philistine settlement in the region. The Philistines are credited with introducing iron weapons and chariots to the local population.

Developments in Palestine between 1250 and 900 BCE have been the focus of debate between those who accept the Old Testament version on the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes, and those who reject it. Niels Peter Lemche, of the Copenhagen School of Biblical Studies, submits that the picture of ancient Israel "is contrary to any image of ancient Palestinian society that can be established on the basis of ancient sources from Palestine or referring to Palestine and that there is no way this image in the Bible can be reconciled with the historical past of the region."

Others point to the alleged David's Palace site, the sacrificial site at Shechem and the Merneptah Stele, and Mesha Stele among others, as providing some archaeological evidence of a nation that bears a resemblance to the Biblical Israel.

Hebrew Bible period


Though the Biblical tradition holds that the Israelites arrived in Canaan from Egypt, archaeology provides strong evidence that they emerged from among the local population existent there at the time; these events are generally dated to between the 13th and 12th centuries BCE. Archaeological evidence indicates that the late 13th, the 12th and the early 11th centuries BCE witnessed the foundation of perhaps hundreds of insignificant, unprotected village settlements, many in the mountains of Palestine. From around the 11th century BCE, there was a reduction in the number of villages, though this was counterbalanced by the rise of certain settlements to the status of fortified townships.

According to Biblical tradition, the United Kingdom of Israel was established by the Israelite tribes with Saul as its first king in 1020 BCE. In 1000 BCE, Jerusalem was made the capital of King David's kingdom and it is believed that the First Temple was constructed in this period by King Solomon. By 930 BCE, the united kingdom split to form the northern Kingdom of Israel, and the southern Kingdom of Judah. These kingdoms co-existed with several more kingdoms in the greater Palestine area, including Philistine town states on the Southwestern Mediterranean coast, Edom, to the South of Judah, and Moab and Amon to the East of the river Jordan.

There was an at least partial Egyptian withdrawal from Palestine in this period, though it is likely that Bet Shean was an Egyptian garrison as late as the beginning of the 10th century BCE. The socio-political system was characterized by local patrons fighting other local patrons, lasting until around the mid-9th century BCE when some local chieftains were able to create large political structures that exceeded the boundaries of those present in the Late Bronze Age.

Archaeological findings from this era include, among others, the Mesha Stele, from c. 850 BCE, which recounts the conquering of Moab, located East of the Dead Sea, by king Omri, and the successful revolt of Moabian king Mesha against Omri's son, presumably King Ahab; and the Kurkh Monolith, dated c. 835 BCE, describing King Shalmaneser III of Assyria's Battle of Qarqar, where he fought alongside the contingents of several kings, among them King Ahab and King Gindibu.

Between 722 and 720 BCE, the northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrian Empire and the Israelite tribes - thereafter known as the Lost Tribes - were exiled. The most important finding from the southern Kingdom of Judah is the Siloam Inscription, dated c. 700 BCE, which celebrates the successful encounter of diggers, digging from both sides of the Jerusalem wall to create the Hezekiah water tunnel and water pool, mentioned in the Bible, in . In 586 BCE, Judah was conquered by the Babylonians and Jerusalem and the First Temple destroyed. Most of the surviving Jews, and much of the other local population, were deported to Babylonia.

Persian rule (538 BCE)

After the Persian Empire was established, Jews were allowed to return to what their holy books had termed the Land of Israel, and having been granted some autonomy by the Persian administration, it was during this period that the Second Temple in Jerusalem was built. Sebastia, near Nablus, was the northernmost province of the Persian administration in Palestine, and its southern borders were drawn at Hebron. Some of the local population served as soldiers and lay people in the Persian administration, while others continued to agriculture. In 400 BCE, the Nabataeans made inroads into southern Palestine and built a separate civilization in the Negev that lasted until 160 BCE.

Classical antiquity

Hellenistic rule (333 BCE)

The Persian Empire fell to Greek forces of the Macedonian general Alexander the Great. After his death, with the absence of heirs, his conquests were divided amongst his generals, while the region of the Jews ("Judah" or Judea as it became known) was first part of the Ptolemaic dynasty and then part of the Seleucid Empire.

The landscape during this period was markedly changed by extensive growth and development that included urban planning and the establishment of well-built fortified cities. Hellenistic pottery was produced that absorbed Philistine traditions. Trade and commerce flourished, particularly in the most Hellenized areas, such as Ascalon, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Gaza, and ancient Nablus (Tell Balatah).

The Jewish population in Judea was allowed limited autonomy in religion and administration.

Hasmonean dynasty (140 BCE)

An independent Jewish kingdom under the Hasmonean Dynasty existed from 140–37 BCE. In the second century BCE fascination in Jerusalem for Greek culture resulted in a movement to break down the separation of Jew and Gentile and some people even tried to disguise the marks of their circumcision. Disputes between the leaders of the reform movement, Jason and Menelaus, eventually led to civil war and the intervention of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Subsequent persecution of the Jews led to the Maccabean Revolt under the leadership of the Hasmoneans, and the construction of a native Jewish kingship under the Hasmonean Dynasty. After approximately a century of independence disputes between the Hasmonean rivals Aristobulus and Hyrcanus led to control of the kingdom by the Roman army of Pompey. The territory then became first a Roman client kingdom under Hyrcanus and then, in 70CE, a Roman Province administered by the governor of Syria.

Roman rule (63 BCE)

Though General Pompey arrived in 63 BCE, Roman rule was solidified when Herod, whose dynasty was of Idumean ancestry, was appointed as king. Urban planning under the Romans was characterized by cities designed around the Forum - the central intersection of two main streets - the Cardo, running north-south and the Decumanus running east-west. Cities were connected by an extensive road network developed for economic and military purposes. Among the most notable archaeological remnants from this era are Herodium (Tel al-Fureidis) to the south of Bethlehem and Caesarea.

Around the time associated with the birth of Jesus, Roman Palestine was in a state of disarray and direct Roman rule was re-established. The early Christians were oppressed and while most inhabitants became Romanized, others, particularly Jews, found Roman rule to be unbearable.

As a result of the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73), Titus sacked Jerusalem destroying the Second Temple, leaving only supporting walls, including the Western Wall. In 135, following the fall of a Jewish revolt led by Bar Kokhba in 132–135, the Roman emperor Hadrian attempted the expulsion of Jews from Judea. His attempt was as unsuccessful as were most of Rome's many attempts to alter the demography of the Empire; this is demonstrated by the continued existence of the rabbinical academy of Lydda in Judea, and in any case large Jewish populations remained in Samaria and the Galilee. Tiberias became the headquarters of exiled Jewish patriarchs. The Romans joined the province of Judea (which already included Samaria) together with Galilee to form a new province, called Syria Palaestina, to complete the disassociation with Judaea.. Notwithstanding the oppression, some two hundred Jewish communities remained. Gradually, certain religious freedoms were restored to the Jewish population, such as exemption from the imperial cult and internal self-administration. The Romans made no such concession to the Samaritans, to whom religious liberties were denied, while their sanctuary on Mt.Gerizim was defiled by a pagan temple, as part of measures were taken to suppress the resurgence of Samaritan nationalism.

The Emperor Hadrian (132 CE) renamed Jerusalem "Aelia Capitolina" and built temples there to honor Jupiter. Christianity was practiced in secret and the Hellenization of Palestine continued under Septimius Severus (193–211 CE). New pagan cities were founded in Judea at Eleutheropolis (Beit Jibrin), Diopolis (Lydd), and Nicopolis (Emmaus).

Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) rule (330–640 CE)

Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity around 330 CE made Christianity the official religion of Palaestina. After his mother Empress Helena identified the spot she believed to be where Christ was crucified, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built in Jerusalem. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem were also built during Constantine's reign.. This was the period of its greatest prosperity in antiquity. Urbanization increased, large new areas were put under cultivation, monasteries proliferated, synagogues were restored, and the population West of the Jordan may have reached as many as one million..

Palestine thus became a center for pilgrims and ascetic life for men and women from all over the world. Many monasteries were built including the Saint George Monastery in Wadi al-Qelt, Deir Qarantal and Deir Hijle near Jericho, and Deir Mar Saba and Deir Theodosius east of Bethlehem.

In 352 CE, a Jewish revolt against Byzantine rule in Tiberias and other parts of the Galilee was brutally suppressed. Imperial patronage for Christian cults and immigration was strong, and a significant wave of immigration from Rome, especially to the area about Aelia Capitolina and Bethlehem, took place after that city was sacked in 410..

In approximately 390 CE, Palaestina was further organised into three units: Palaestina Prima, Secunda, and Tertia (First, Second, and Third Palestine). Palaestina Prima consisted of Judea, Samaria, the coast, and Peraea with the governor residing in Caesarea. Palaestina Secunda consisted of the Galilee, the lower Jezreel Valley, the regions east of Galilee, and the western part of the former Decapolis with the seat of government at Scythopolis. Palaestina Tertia included the Negev, southern Jordan — once part of Arabia — and most of Sinai with Petra as the usual residence of the governor. Palestina Tertia was also known as Palaestina Salutaris.

In 536 CE, Justinian I promoted the governor at Caesarea to proconsul (anthypatos), giving him authority over the two remaining consulars. Justinian believed that the elevation of the governor was appropriate because he was responsible for "the province in which our Lord Jesus Christ... appeared on earth". This was also the principal factor explaining why Palestine prospered under the Christian Empire. The cities of Palestine, such as Caesarea Maritima, Jerusalem, Scythopolis, Neapolis, and Gaza reached their peak population in the late Roman period and produced notable Christian scholars in the disciplines of rhetoric, historiography, Eusebian ecclesiastical history, classicizing history and hagiography.

Byzantine administration of Palestine was temporarily suspended during the Persian occupation of 614–28, and then permanently after the Muslims arrived in 634 CE, defeating the empire's forces decisively at the Battle of Yarmouk in 636 CE. Jerusalem capitulated in 638 CE and Caesarea between 640 CE and 642 CE.

Arab Caliphate rule (638–1099 CE)

In 638 CE, Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab and Safforonius, the Byzantine governor of Jerusalem, signed Al-Uhda al-'Omariyya (The Umariyya Covenant), an agreement that stipulated the rights and obligations of all non-Muslims in Palestine. Jews were permitted to return to Palestine for the first time since the 500-year ban enacted by the Romans and maintained by Byzantine rulers.

Omar Ibn al-Khattab was the first conqueror of Jerusalem to enter the city on foot, and when visiting the site that now houses the Haram al-Sharif, he declared it a sacred place of prayer. Cities that accepted the new rulers, as recorded in registrars from the time, were: Jerusalem, Nablus, Jenin, Acre, Tiberias, Bisan, Caesarea, Lajjun, Lydd, Jaffa, Imwas, Beit Jibrin, Gaza, Rafah, Hebron, Yubna, Haifa, Safad and Ashkelon.

Umayyad rule (661–750 CE)

Under Umayyad rule, the Byzantine province of Palaestina Prima became the administrative and military sub-province (jund) of Filastin - the Arabic name for Palestine from that point forward. It formed part of the larger province of ash-Sham (Arabic for Greater Syria). Jund Filastin (Arabic جند فلسطين, literally "the army of Palestine") was a region extending from the Sinai to the plain of Acre. Major towns included Rafah, Caesarea, Gaza, Jaffa, Nablus and Jericho. Jund al-Urdunn (literally "the army of Jordan") was a region to the north and east of Filastin which included the cities of Acre, Bisan and Tiberias.

In 691, Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ordered that the Dome of the Rock be built on the site where the Islamic prophet Muhammad is believed by Muslims to have begun his nocturnal journey to heaven, on the Temple Mount. About a decade afterward, Caliph Al-Walid I had the Al-Aqsa Mosque built.

It was under Umayyad rule that Christians and Jews were granted the official title of "Peoples of the Book" to underline the common monotheistic roots they shared with Islam.

Abbasid rule (750–969 CE)

The Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphs renovated and visited the holy shrines and sanctuaries in Jerusalem and continued to build up Ramle. Coastal areas were fortified and developed and port cities like Acre, Haifa, Caesarea, Arsuf, Jaffa and Ashkelon received monies from the state treasury.

A trade fair took place in Jerusalem every year on September 15 where merchants from Pisa, Genoa, Venice and Marseilles converged to acquire spices, soaps, silks, olive oil, sugar and glassware in exchange for European products. European Christian pilgrims visited and made generous donations to Christian holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Harun al-Rashid (786-809) established the Christian Pilgrims' Inn in Jerusalem, fulfilling Umar's pledge to Bishop Sophronious to allow freedom of religion and access to Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims.

Fatimid rule (969–1099 CE)

From their base in Tunisia, the Fatimids, who claimed to be descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, conquered Palestine by way of Egypt in 969 CE. Jerusalem, Nablus, and Askalan were expanded and renovated under their rule.

After the 10th century, the division into Junds began to break down. In 1071, the Isfahan-based Seljuk Turks captured Jerusalem only to hand it back in 1098.

See also the Mideastweb map of "Palestine Under the Caliphs", showing Jund boundaries (external link).

Crusader rule (1099–1187 CE)

Under the European rule, fortifications, castles, towers and fortified villages were built, rebuilt and renovated across Palestine largely in rural areas. A notable urban remnant of the Crusader architecture of this era is found in Acre's old city. During the period of Crusader control, it has been estimated that Palestine had only 1,000 poor Jewish families

In July 1187, the Cairo-based Kurdish General Saladin commanded his troops to victory in the Battle of Hattin. Saladin went on to take Jerusalem. An agreement granting special status to the Crusaders allowed them to continue to stay in Palestine and In 1229, Frederick II negotiated a 10-year treaty that placed Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem once again under Crusader rule.

In 1270, Sultan Baibars expelled the Crusaders from most of the country, though they maintained a base at Acre until 1291. Thereafter, any remaining Europeans either went home or merged with the local population.

Mamluk rule (1270–1516 CE)

Palestine formed a part of the Damascus Wilayah (district) under the rule of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and was divided into three smaller Sanjaks (subdivisions) with capitals in Jerusalem, Gaza, and Safad. Celebrated by Arab and Muslim writers of the time as the "blessed land of the Prophets and Islam's revered leaders," Muslim sanctuaries were "rediscovered" and received many pilgrims.

While the first half of the Mamluk era (1270-1382) saw the construction of many schools, lodgings for travellers (khans) and the renovation of mosques neglected or destroyed during the Crusader period, the second half (1382-1517) was a period of decline as the Mamluks were engaged in battles with the Mongols in areas outside Palestine.

In 1486, hostilities broke out between the Mamluks and the Ottoman Turks in a battle for control over western Asia. The Mamluk armies were eventually defeated by the forces of the Ottoman Sultan, Selim I, and lost control of Palestine after the 1516 battle of Marj Dabiq.

Ottoman rule (1516–1831 CE)

After the Ottoman conquest, the name "Palestine" disappeared as the official name of an administrative unit, as the Turks often called their (sub)provinces after the capital. Following its 1516 incorporation in the Ottoman Empire, it was part of the vilayet (province) of Damascus-Syria until 1660. It then became part of the vilayet of Saida (Sidon), briefly interrupted by the 7 March 1799 - July 1799 French occupation of Jaffa, Haifa, and Caesarea. During the Siege of Acre in 1799, Napoleon prepared a proclamation declaring a Jewish state in Palestine.

Egyptian rule (1831-1841)

On 10 May 1832 the territories of modern Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories were conquered and annexed by Muhammad Ali's expansionist Egypt (nominally still Ottoman) in the 1831 Egyptian-Ottoman War. Britain sent the navy to shell Beirut and an Anglo-Ottoman expeditionary force landed, causing local uprisings against the Egyptian occupiers. A British naval squadron anchored off Alexandria. The Egyptian army retreated to Egypt. Muhammad Ali signed the Treaty of 1841. Britain returned control of the Levant to the Ottomans.

Ottoman rule (1841-1917)

In the reorganisation of 1873, which established the administrative boundaries that remained in place until 1914, Palestine was split between three major administrative units. The northern part, above a line connecting Jaffa to north Jericho and the Jordan, was assigned to the vilayet of Beirut, subdivided into the sanjaks (districts) of Acre, Beirut and Nablus. The southern part, from Jaffa downwards, was part of the special district of Jerusalem. Its southern boundaries were unclear but petered out in the eastern Sinai Peninsula and northern Negev Desert. Most of the central and southern Negev was assigned to the vilayet of Hijaz, which also included the Sinai Peninsula and the western part of Arabia.

Nonetheless, the old name remained in popular and semi-official use. Many examples of its usage in the 16th and 17th centuries have survived. During the 19th century, the Ottoman Government employed the term Arz-i Filistin (the 'Land of Palestine') in official correspondence, meaning for all intents and purposes the area to the west of the River Jordan which became 'Palestine' under the British in 1922". However, the Ottomans regarded "Palestine" as an abstract description of a general region but not as a specific administrative unit with clearly defined borders. This meant that they did not consistently apply the name to a clearly defined area. Ottoman court records, for instance, used the term to describe a geographical area that did not include the sanjaks of Jerusalem, Hebron and Nablus, although these had certainly been part of historical Palestine. Amongst the educated Arab public, Filastin was a common concept, referring either to the whole of Palestine or to the Jerusalem sanjak alone or just to the area around Ramle.

Ottoman rule over the eastern Mediterranean lasted until World War I when the Ottomans sided with Germany and the Central Powers. During World War I, the Ottomans were driven from much of the region by the United Kingdom during the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

The 20th century

In European usage up to World War I, "Palestine" was used informally for a region that extended in the north-south direction typically from Raphia (south-east of Gaza) to the Litani River (now in Lebanon). The western boundary was the sea, and the eastern boundary was the poorly-defined place where the Syrian desert began. In various European sources, the eastern boundary was placed anywhere from the Jordan River to slightly east of Amman. The Negev Desert was not included.

Under the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, it was envisioned that most of Palestine, when freed from Ottoman control, would become an international zone not under direct French or British colonial control. Shortly thereafter, British foreign minister Arthur Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which laid plans for a Jewish homeland to be established in Palestine eventually.

The British-led Egyptian Expeditionary Force, commanded by Edmund Allenby, captured Jerusalem on 9 December 1917 and occupied the whole of the Levant following the defeat of Turkish forces in Palestine at the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918 and the capitulation of Turkey on 31 October.

British Mandate (1920–1948)

The British Mandate enacted English, Hebrew and Arabic as its three official languages. The land designated by the mandate was called Palestine in English, Falastin (فلسطين) in Arabic, and in Hebrew Palestina or Eretz Yisrael ((פלשתינה (א"י).

In the Anglo-French Declaration of 1918 the French and British governments pledged their support for "national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous populations." In May 1919, elections were held for the General Syrian Congress. At a meeting in Damascus, held on the 8th of March 1920, the Congress adopted a resolution rejecting the Faisal-Clemenceau accords. The congress declared the independence of Syria, including Palestine, and proclaimed Faisal the king of Arabs. The new state included territory in Syria, Palestine, and northern Mesopotamia which had been set aside under the Sykes-Picot Agreement for an independent Arab state, or confederation of states.

In April 1920 the Allied Supreme Council (the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan) met at Sanremo and formal decisions were taken on the allocation of mandate territories. The United Kingdom obtained a mandate for Palestine and France obtained a mandate for Syria. The boundaries of the mandates and the conditions under which they were to be held were not decided. The Zionist Organization's representative at Sanremo, Chaim Weizmann, subsequently reported to his colleagues in London:

There are still important details outstanding, such as the actual terms of the mandate and the question of the boundaries in Palestine. There is the delimitation of the boundary between French Syria and Palestine, which will constitute the northern frontier and the eastern line of demarcation, adjoining Arab Syria. The latter is not likely to be fixed until the Emir Feisal attends the Peace Conference, probably in Paris.

In July 1920, the French drove Faisal bin Husayn from Damascus ending his already negligible control over the region of Transjordan, where local chiefs traditionally resisted any central authority. The sheikhs, who had earlier pledged their loyalty to the Sharif of Mecca, asked the British to undertake the region's administration. Herbert Samuel asked for the extension of the Palestine government's authority to Transjordan, but at meetings in Cairo and Jerusalem between Winston Churchill and Emir Abdullah in March 1921 it was agreed that Abdullah would administer the territory (initially for six months only) on behalf of the Palestine administration. In the summer of 1921 Transjordan was included within the Mandate, but excluded from the provisions for a Jewish National Home. On 24 July, 1922 the League of Nations approved the terms of the British Mandate over Palestine and Transjordan. On 16 September the League formally approved a memorandum from Lord Balfour confirming the exemption of Transjordan from the clauses of the mandate concerning the creation of a Jewish national home and from the mandate's responsibility to facilitate Jewish immigration and land settlement. With Transjordan coming under the administration of the British Mandate, the mandate's collective territory became constituted of 23% Palestine and 77% Transjordan. The Mandate for Palestine, while specifying actions in support of Jewish immigration and political status, stated, in Article 25, that in the territory to the east of the Jordan River, Britain could 'postpone or withhold' those articles of the Mandate concerning a Jewish National Home. Transjordan was a very sparsely populated region (specially in comparison with Palestine proper) due to its relatively limited resources and largely desert environment.

The Preamble of the League of Nations Mandate required the Principal Allied Powers to fix the boundaries. In 1923 an agreement between the United Kingdom and France established the border between the British Mandate of Palestine and the French Mandate of Syria. The British handed over the southern Golan Heights to the French in return for the northern Jordan Valley. The border was re-drawn so that both sides of the Jordan River and the whole of the Sea of Galilee, including a 10-metre wide strip along the northeastern shore, were made a part of Palestine with the following provisoes:

  • Any existing rights over the use of the waters of the Jordan by the inhabitants of Syria shall be maintained unimpaired.
  • The Government of Syria shall have the right to erect a new pier at Semakh on Lake Tiberias or to have joint use of the existing pier
  • Persons or goods passing between the existing landing-stage or any future landing-stages on the Lake of Tiberias and Semakh Station shall not by reason of the mere fact that they must cross the territory of Palestine be deemed persons or goods entering Palestine for the purpose of Customs or other regulations, and the right of the Syrian Government and their agents to access to the said landing-stages is recognised.
  • The inhabitants of Syria and of the Lebanon shall have the same fishing and navigation rights on Lakes Huleh and Tiberias and on the River Jordan between the said lakes as the inhabitants of Palestine, but the Government of Palestine shall be responsible for the policing of the lakes.

The award of the mandates was delayed as a result of the United States' suspicions regarding Britain's colonial ambitions and similar reservations held by Italy about France's intentions. France in turn refused to reach a settlement over Palestine until its own mandate in Syria became final. According to Louis:

Together with the American protests against the issuance of mandates these triangular quarrels between the Italians, French, and British explain why the A mandates did not come into force until nearly four years after the signing of the Peace Treaty.... The British documents clearly reveal that Balfour's patient and skillful diplomacy contributed greatly to the final issuance of the A mandates for Syria and Palestine on September 29, 1923.

United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing had been a member of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at Paris in 1919. He explained that the system of mandates was simply a device created by the Great Powers to conceal their division of the spoils of war, under the color of international law. He observed that the value of the former German and Ottoman territories would have been applied to offset the Allies claims for war reparations, if sovereignty had been ceded directly. He also observed that Jan Smuts had been the author of the original concept.

The US Senate refused to ratify the Covenant of the League of Nations, in part over a dispute regarding the legality of the mandates. Senator Lodge, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee had attached a reservation which read: 'No mandate shall be accepted by the United States under Article 22, Part 1, or any other provision of the treaty of peace with Germany, except by action of the Congress of the United States.' Senator Borah, speaking on behalf on the 'Irreconcilables' stated 'My reservations have not been answered.' He completely rejected the proposed system of Mandates as an illegitimate rule by brute force. Under the plan of the US Constitution, Article 1, the Congress was delegated the power to declare or define the Law of Nations and this dispute cast a cloud over the validity of the mandate system.

The US government subsequently entered into individual treaties to secure legal rights for its citizens, and to protect property rights and businesses interests in the mandates. In the case of the Palestine Mandate Convention, it recited the terms of the League of Nations mandate, and subjected them to eight amendments. One of those precluded any unilateral changes to the terms of the mandate. The United States did not agree to mutual defense, provisionally recognize a Jewish State, or pledge itself to maintain the territorial integrity of the mandate.

The Official Journal of the League of Nations, dated June 1922, contained an interview with Lord Balfour in which he explained that the League's authority was strictly limited. The article related that the 'Mandates were not the creation of the League, and they could not in substance be altered by the League. The League's duties were confined to seeing that the specific and detailed terms of the mandates were in accordance with the decisions taken by the Allied and Associated Powers, and that in carrying out these mandates the Mandatory Powers should be under the supervision--not under the control--of the League.'

The Palestine Exploration Fund published surveys and maps of Western Palestine (aka Cisjordan) starting in the mid-19th century. Even before the Mandate came into legal effect in 1923 (text), British terminology sometimes used '"Palestine" for the part west of the Jordan River and "Trans-Jordan" (or Transjordania) for the part east of the Jordan River.

The first reference to the Palestinians, without qualifying them as Arabs, is to be found in a document of the Permanent Executive Committee, composed of Muslims and Christians, presenting a series of formal complaints to the British authorities on 26 July 1928.

In the years following World War II, Britain's control over Palestine became increasingly tenuous. This was caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Rapid deterioration due to the attacks by the Irgun and Lehi on British officials, armed forces, and strategic installations. This caused severe damage to British morale and prestige, as well as increasing opposition to the mandate in Britain itself, public opinion demanding to "bring the boys home".
  • World public opinion turned against Britain as a result of the British policy of preventing Holocaust survivors from reaching Palestine, sending them instead to Cyprus internment camps, or even back to Germany, as in the case of Exodus 1947.
  • The costs of maintaining an army of over 100,000 men in Palestine weighed heavily on a British economy suffering from post-war depression, and was another cause for British public opinion to demand an end to the Mandate.
  • US Congress was delaying a loan necessary to prevent British bankruptcy. The delays were in response to the British refusal to fulfill a promise given to Truman that 100,000 Holocaust survivors would be allowed to migrate to Palestine.

Finally in early 1947 the British Government announced their desire to terminate the Mandate, and passed the responsibility over Palestine to the United Nations.

UN partition

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly, with a two-thirds majority international vote, passed the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181), a plan to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict by partitioning the territory into separate Jewish and Arab states, with the Greater Jerusalem area (encompassing Bethlehem) coming under international control. Jewish leaders (including the Jewish Agency), accepted their portion of the plan, while Palestinian Arab leaders rejected it and refused to negotiate. Neighboring Arab and Muslim states also rejected the partition plan. The Arab community reacted violently after the Arab Higher Committee declared a strike and burned many buildings and shops. In a speech delivered on 25 March 1948, US President Truman recommended a temporary trusteeship and stated: We could not undertake to impose this solution on the people of Palestine by the use of American troops, both on Charter grounds and as a matter of national policy. As armed skirmishes between Arab and Jewish paramilitary forces in Palestine continued, the British mandate ended on May 15, 1948, the establishment of the State of Israel having been proclaimed the day before (see Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel). The neighboring Arab states and armies (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Transjordan, Holy War Army, Arab Liberation Army, and local Arabs) immediately attacked Israel following its declaration of independence, and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War ensued. Consequently, the partition plan was never implemented.

Current status

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and neighboring Arab states eliminated Palestine as a distinct territory. With the establishment of Israel, the remaining lands were divided amongst Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The Arab governments at this point refused to set up a State of Palestine.

In addition to the UN-partitioned area it was allotted, Israel captured 26% of the Mandate territory west of the Jordan river. Jordan captured and annexed about 21% of the Mandate territory, known today as the West Bank. Jerusalem was divided, with Jordan taking the eastern parts, including the Old City, and Israel taking the western parts. The Gaza Strip was captured by Egypt.

For a description of the massive population movements, Arab and Jewish, at the time of the 1948 war and over the following decades, see Palestinian exodus and Jewish exodus from Arab lands.

From the 1960s onward, the term "Palestine" was regularly used in political contexts. Various declarations, such as the 15 November 1988 proclamation of a State of Palestine by the PLO referred to a country called Palestine, defining its borders based on the U.N. Resolution 242 and 383 and the principle of land for peace. The Green Line was the 1967 border established by many UN resolutions including those mentioned above.

In the course of the Six Day War in June 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt.

According to the CIA World Factbook, of the ten million people living between Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, about five million (49%) identify as Palestinian, Arab, Bedouin and/or Druze. One million of those are citizens of Israel. The other four million are residents of the West Bank and Gaza, which are under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority.

In the West Bank, 360,000 Israeli settlers live in a hundred scattered settlements with connecting corridors. The 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians live in four blocs centered in Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, and Jericho. In 2005, all the Israeli settlers were evacuated from the Gaza Strip in keeping with Ariel Sharon's plan for unilateral disengagement, and control over the area was transferred to the Palestinian Authority.


Early demographics

Estimating the population of Palestine in antiquity relies on 2 methods - censuses and writings made at the times, and the scientific method based on excavations and statistical methods that consider the number of settlements at the particular age, area of each settlement, density factor for each settlement.

According to Joseph Jacobs, writing in the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906), the Pentateuch contains a number of statements as to the number of Jews that left Egypt, the descendants of the seventy sons and grandsons of Jacob who took up their residence in that country. Altogether, including Levites, there were 611,730 males over twenty years of age, and therefore capable of bearing arms; this would imply a population of about 3,154,000. The Census of David is said to have recorded 1,300,000 males over twenty years of age, which would imply a population of over 5,000,000. The number of exiles who returned from Babylon is given at 42,360. Tacitus declares that Jerusalem at its fall contained 600,000 persons; Josephus, that there were as many as 1,100,000. According to Israeli archeologist Magen Broshi, "... the population of Palestine in antiquity did not exceed a million persons. It can also be shown, moreover, that this was more or less the size of the population in the peak period--the late Byzantine period, around AD 600 Similarly, a study by Yigal Shiloh of The Hebrew University suggests that the population of Palestine in the Iron Age could have never exceeded a million. He writes: "... the population of the country in the Roman-Byzantine period greatly exceeded that in the Iron Age...If we accept Broshi's population estimates, which appear to be confirmed by the results of recent research, it follows that the estimates for the population during the Iron Age must be set at a lower figure.

Shmuel Katz writes:

When Jewish independence came to an end in the year 70, the population numbered, at a conservative estimate, some 5 million people. (By Josephus' figures, there were nearer 7 million.) Even sixty years after the destruction of the Temple, at the outbreak of the revolt led by Bar Kochba in 132, when large numbers had fled or been deported, the Jewish population of the country must have numbered at least 3 million, according to Dio Cassius' figures. Sixteen centuries later, when the practical possibility of the return to Zion appeared on the horizon, Palestine was a denuded, derelict, and depopulated country. The writings of travellers who visited Palestine in the late eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century are filled with descriptions of its emptiness, its desolation. In 1738, Thomas Shaw wrote of the absence of people to fill - Palestine's fertile soil. In 1785, Constantine Francois Volney described the "rained" and "desolate" country. He had not seen the worst. Pilgrims and travellers continued to report in heartrending terms on its condition. Almost sixty years later, Alexander Keith, recalling Volney's description, wrote: "In his day the land had not fully reached its last degree of desolation and depopulation.

The table below represents estimates of the first century population of Palestine (as adapted from Byatt, 1973).

Authority Jews Total population1
Conder, C R - 6 million
Juster, J 5 million >5 million
Mazar, Benjamin - >4 million
Klausner, Joseph 3 million 3.5 million
Grant, Michael 3 million not given
Baron, Salo W 2-2.5 million 2.5-3 million
Socin, A - 2.5-3 million
Lowdermilk, W C - 3 million
Avi-Yonah, M - 2.8 million
Glueck, N - 2.5 million
Beloch, K J 2 million not given
Grant, F C - 1.5-2.5 million
Byatt, A - 2.265 million
Daniel-Rops, H 1.5 million 2 million
Derwacter, F M 1 million 1.5 million
Pfeiffer, R H 1 million not given
Harnack, A 500,000 not given
Jeremias, J 500,000-600,000 not given
McCown, C C <500,000 <1 million
1. There is no consensus on the population of Palestine in the first century of the Common Era; estimates range from under 1 million to 6 million.

Demographics in the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods

In the middle of the first century of the Ottoman rule, i.e. 1550 CE, Bernard Lewis in a study of Ottoman registers of the early Ottoman Rule of Palestine reports:
From the mass of detail in the registers, it is possible to extract something like a general picture of the economic life of the country in that period. Out of a total population of about 300,000 souls, between a fifth and a quarter lived in the six towns of Jerusalem, Gaza, Safed, Nablus, Ramle, and Hebron. The remainder consisted mainly of peasants, living in villages of varying size, and engaged in agriculture. Their main food-crops were wheat and barley in that order, supplemented by leguminous pulses, olives, fruit, and vegetables. In and around most of the towns there was a considerable number of vineyards, orchards, and vegetable gardens.

By Volney's estimates in 1785, there were no more than 200,000 people in the country.

In his paper 'Demography in Israel/Palestine: Trends, Prospects and Policy Implications' Sergio DellaPergola, drawing on the work of Bachi (1975), provides rough estimates of the population of Palestine west of the River Jordan by religion groups from the first century onwards summarised in the table below.

Year Jews Christians Muslims Total1
First half 1st century CE Majority - - ~2,500²
5th century Minority Majority - >1st century
End 12th century Minority Minority Majority >225
14th cent. before Black Death Minority Minority Majority 225
14th cent. after Black Death Minority Minority Majority 150
1533-1539 5 6 145 157
1690-1691 2 11 219 232
1800 7 22 246 275
1890 43 57 432 532
1914 94 70 525 689
1922 84 71 589 752
1931 175 89 760 1,033
1947 630 143 1,181 1,970
1. Figures in thousands. The total includes Druzes and other small religious minorities.
2. There is no consensus on the population of Palestine in the first century of the Common Era; estimates range from under 1 million to 6 million.

According to Alexander Scholch, the population of Palestine in 1850 had about 350,000 inhabitants, 30% of whom lived in 13 towns; roughly 85% were Muslims, 11% were Christians and 4% Jews

Qazas Number of
Towns and
Number of Households
Muslims Christians Jews Total
1 Jerusalem
Jerusalem 1 1,025 738 630 2,393
Countryside 116 6,118 1,202
2 Hebron
Hebron 1 2,800
200 3,000
Countryside 52 2,820
3 Gaza
Gaza 1 2,690 65
Countryside 55 6,417
3 Jaffa
Jaffa 3 865 266
Ludd . 700 207
Ramla . 675 250
Countryside 61 3,439
4 Nablus
Nablus 1 1,356 108 14 1,478
Countryside 176 13,022 202
5 Jinin
Jinin 1 656 16
Countryside 39 2,120 17
6 Ajlun
Countryside 97 1,599 137
7 Salt
Salt 1 500 250
Countryside 12 685
8 Akka
Gaza 1 547 210 6 763
Countryside 34 1,768 1,021
9 Haifa
Haifa 1 224 228 8 460
Countryside 41 2,011 161
10 Nazareth
Nazareth 1 275 1,073
Countryside 38 1,606 544
11 Tiberias
Tiberias 1 159 66 400 625
Countryside 7 507
12 Safad
Safad 1 1,295 3 1,197 2,495
Countryside 38 1,117 616

Figures from Ben-Arieh, in Scholch 1985, p. 388.

According to Ottoman statistics studied by Justin McCarthy, the population of Palestine in the early 19th century was 350,000, in 1860 it was 411,000 and in 1900 about 600,000 of which 94% were Arabs. In 1914 Palestine had a population of 657,000 Muslim Arabs, 81,000 Christian Arabs, and 59,000 Jews.

According to Howard Sachar, the Arab population of Palestine was about 260,000 in 1882. This number had doubled by 1914 and reached 600,000 by 1920 and 840,000 by 1931. Thus, between 1922 and 1946 the Arab population of Palestine increased by 118 percent, the highest rate of population growth among all Arab lands except Egypt. McCarthy estimates the non-Jewish population of Palestine at 452,789 in 1882, 737,389 in 1914, 725,507 in 1922, 880,746 in 1931 and 1,339,763 in 1946.

Travelers' impressions of 19th century Palestine

Alphonse de Lamartine visited Palestine in 1835, "Outside the gates of Jerusalem we saw indeed no living object, heard no living sound, we found the same void, the same silence ... as we should have expected before the entombed gates of Pompeii or Herculaneam a complete eternal silence reigns in the town, on the highways, in the country ... the tomb of a whole people.

The satirist Mark Twain wrote a humorous account of his visit to Palestine in 1867, and wrote in chapters 46,49,52 and 56 of Innocents Abroad: "Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Palestine is desolate and unlovely -- Palestine is no more of this workday world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition, it is dreamland."(Chapter 56) "There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country". (Chapter 52) "A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely. We never saw a human being on the whole route". (Chapter 49) "There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent – not for thirty miles in either direction. ...One may ride ten miles (16 km) hereabouts and not see ten human beings." ...these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness..."(Chapter 46)

"Innocents Abroad" was a literary satire which poked holes in the underpinnings of various popularly held theories, like manifest destiny. Twain held some of the usual colonialist and orientalist assumptions of the day, but he openly mocked Christian and Jewish claims to Arab-owned lands in Palestine.

Kathleen Christison, an American author who spent sixteen years as an analyst for the CIA, was critical of attempts to use Twain's humorous writing as a literal description of Palestine at that time. She writes that "Twain's descriptions are high in Israeli government press handouts that present a case for Israel's redemption of a land that had previously been empty and barren. His gross characterizations of the land and the people in the time before mass Jewish immigration are also often used by US propagandists for Israel. For example she noted that Twain described the Samaritans of Nablus at length without mentioning the much larger Arab population at all. The Arab population of Nablus at the time was about 20,000.

During the nineteenth century, many residents and visitors attempted to estimate the population without recourse to official data, and came up with a large number of different values. Estimates that are reasonably reliable are only available for the final third of the century, from which period Ottoman population and taxation registers have been preserved.

After a visit to Palestine in 1891, Ahad Ha'am wrote:

From abroad, we are accustomed to believe that Eretz Israel is presently almost totally desolate, an uncultivated desert, and that anyone wishing to buy land there can come and buy all he wants. But in truth it is not so. In the entire land, it is hard to find tillable land that is not already tilled; only sandy fields or stony hills, suitable at best for planting trees or vines and, even that after considerable work and expense in clearing and preparing them- only these remain unworked. ... Many of our people who came to buy land have been in Eretz Israel for months, and have toured its length and width, without finding what they seek.

In 1852 the American writer Bayard Taylor travelled across the Jezreel Valley, which he described in his 1854 book The Lands of the Saracen; or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily and Spain as: "one of the richest districts in the world., while Lawrence Oliphant, who visited Palestine in 1887, wrote that Palestine's Valley of Esdraelon was "a huge green lake of waving wheat, with its village-crowned mounds rising from it like islands; and it presents one of the most striking pictures of luxuriant fertility which it is possible to conceive.

The Dutch scholar and cartographer Adriaan Reland visited Palestine in 1695, made a population census, and came to the conclusion that Palestine was mostly empty with several existing communities of Jews and Christians.

According to Paul Masson, a French economic historian, "wheat shipments from the Palestinian port of Acre had helped to save southern France from famine on numerous occasions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Walter C. Lowdermilk, Assistant Chief of the United States Soil Conservation Service has compared Palestine favorably to California:

The similarity of Southern California and Palestine is so close in climate, topography, soils and vegetation that the present condition of similarly placed areas in California is a reliable index of the early condition of the land of Palestine. Vegetation varied from desert scrub on lower slopes of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea, to luxuriant forests of Cedars of Lebanon on the flanks of Mount Hermon, similar to the desert vegetation from Coachella Valley below sea level in Southern California to pine and fir forests on lower slopes of Mt. Baldy (10,000 ft) in the San Gabriel Range. Rainfall favours Palestine, for Jaffa gets more rain 2 1.5 inches) per annum than Los Angeles (15.2 inches), and the Mt. Hermon mountain land mass gets up to of rain while Mt. Baldy only . Other comparisons are striking. The region of the Jordan River, including Palestine and Trans-Jordan and the maritime slopes, is quite similar to California, but has an added advantage of its limestone country rock. The climates are alike, the natural vegetation, the physiographic features, except for the great limestone springs in Palestine. Similar crops may be grown. Differences are that soils of Palestine were uniformly better, that uplands have been badly eroded from misuse, and that slopes of Palestine favoured tree crops and were terraced where surface rock was ready at hand..".

Researcher Abelson writes:

Official reports

The reports of the British Mandatory administration often contained self-serving descriptions and accounts which implied that the British Colonial Office or the European Jewish immigrants were bringing progress to a backward land and people.

Comparable conditions were reported in the Jewish settlements in the United States during the same period. Jewish settlers lived in poor sanitary conditions. They experienced malaria and yellow fever epidemics; lived in dirt dugouts and sod houses; used wooden plows; and had unpaved roads; They left behind many abandoned towns and settlements. Quite a few of the successful Jewish farming colonies only barely managed to get by with the help of charitable subsidies. Most died out after the second generation. The Report of the Palestine Royal Commission contains a similar description of conditions along Palestine's coastal plain in 1913: "The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts...No orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached [the Jewish village of] Yabna [Yavne]...Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen...The ploughs used were of wood...The yields were very poor...The sanitary conditions in the village were horrible. Schools did not exist...The western part, towards the sea, was almost a desert...The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants.

In 1920, the League of Nations' Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine stated that there were 700,000 people living in Palestine:

Of these 235,000 live in the larger towns, 465,000 in the smaller towns and villages. Four-fifths of the whole population are Moslems. A small proportion of these are Bedouin Arabs; the remainder, although they speak Arabic and are termed Arabs, are largely of mixed race. Some 77,000 of the population are Christians, in large majority belonging to the Orthodox Church, and speaking Arabic. The minority are members of the Latin or of the Uniate Greek Catholic Church, or--a small number--are Protestants.

The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000. Almost all have entered Palestine during the last 40 years. Prior to 1850 there were in the country only a handful of Jews. In the following 30 years a few hundreds came to Palestine. Most of them were animated by religious motives; they came to pray and to die in the Holy Land, and to be buried in its soil. After the persecutions in Russia forty years ago, the movement of the Jews to Palestine assumed larger proportions.

By 1948, the population had risen to 1,900,000, of whom 68% were Arabs, and 32% were Jews (UNSCOP report, including bedouin).

Genetic analyses of regional populations

According to various genetic studies, Jewish and Samaritan populations and various Palestinian populations overlap genetically because they share some of the same Neolithic ancestors.

Geneticists generally agree there was mixing in Middle East populations in prehistoric times. Nebel et al. (2000) doing Y-chromosome haplotype analysis for patrilineal ancestry of Jews and Palestinian Muslims "revealed a common gene pool for a large portion of Y chromosomes, suggesting a relatively recent common ancestry". The two modal haplotypes that comprise the Palestinian Arab clade were very infrequent among Jews, "reflecting divergence and/or admixture from other populations". Nebel et al. regard their findings in good agreement with historical evidence that suggest that "Part, or perhaps the majority, of the Muslim Arabs in this country descended from local inhabitants, mainly Christians and Jews, who had converted after the Islamic conquest in the seventh century AD... These local inhabitants, in turn, were descendants of the core population that had lived in the area for several centuries, some even since prehistoric times.

A subsequent study aimed at determining the genetic relationship among three Jewish communities (Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Kurdish) by the same group described two Y-chromosomal haplotype groups, Eu9 and Eu10, that represent a major part of Middle East ancestry. Eu9 appears to originate from the northern Fertile Crescent, while Eu10 appears to come from the southern part of it. Jewish and Muslim Kurdish populations have high-frequency of Eu9 but generally lack Eu10, which is prevalent in Palestinian Muslims. The study proposes that

...the Y chromosomes in Palestinian Arabs and Bedouin represent, to a large extent, early lineages derived from the Neolithic inhabitants of the area and additional lineages from more-recent population movements. The early lineages are part of the common chromosome pool shared with Jews. According to our working model, the more-recent migrations were mostly from the Arabian Peninsula, as is seen in the Arab-specific Eu 10 chromosomes that include the modal haplotypes observed in Palestinians and Bedouin... The study demonstrates that the Y chromosome pool of Jews is an integral part of the genetic landscape of the region and, in particular, that Jews exhibit a high degree of genetic affinity to populations living in the north of the Fertile Crescent.

The question of late Arab immigration to Palestine

Whether there was significant Arab immigration into Palestine after the beginning of Jewish settlement there in the late 19th century has become a matter of some controversy. The official British Census data for Palestine, the reports made by the Mandatory Administration to the League of Nations, the 1938 Palestine Partition Commission, Population expert A.M. Carr-Saunders, and the Anglo-American Committee concluded that Arab population growth was attributable to "natural increase", not to any substantial immigration. Critics of the official "natural increase" thesis have resorted to rationalizations or relied upon anecdotal statements and impressions which have little statistical value.

Howard Sachar estimates the number of Arabs who immigrated to Palestine between 1922 and 1946 at 100,000. He argues that

The influx could be traced in some measure to the orderly government provided by the British; but far more, certainly, to the economic opportunities provided by Jewish settlement. The rise of the Yishuv benefited Arab life indirectly, by disproportionate Jewish contributions to the government revenue, and thereby to increase the mandatory expenditures on the Arab sector; and directly, by opening new markets for Arab produce and (until the civil war of 1936) new employment opportunities for the Arab labor. It was significant, for example, that the movement of Arabs within Palestine itself was largely to regions of Jewish concentration. Thus, Arab population increase during the 1930s was 87 percent in Haifa, 61 percent in Jaffa, 37 percent in Jerusalem. A similar growth was registered in Arab towns located near Jewish agricultural villages. The 25 percent rise in of Arab participation in industry could be traced exclusively to the needs of the large Jewish immigration.

According to Martin Gilbert, 50,000 Arabs immigrated to Palestine from the neighboring lands between 1919 and 1939 "attracted by the improving agricultural conditions and growing job opportunities, most of them created by the Jews".

American economist Fred Gottheil argues that there likely was significant Arab immigration:

There is every reason to believe that consequential immigration of Arabs into and within Palestine occurred during the Ottoman and British mandatory periods. Among the most compelling arguments in support of such immigration is the universally acknowledged and practiced linkage between regional economic disparities and migratory impulses. The precise magnitude of Arab immigration into and within Palestine is, as Bachi noted, unknown. Lack of completeness in Ottoman registration lists and British Mandatory censuses, and the immeasurable illegal, unreported, and undetected immigration during both periods make any estimate a bold venture into creative analysis. In most cases, those venturing into the realm of Palestinian demography—or other demographic analyses based on very crude data—acknowledge its limitations and the tentativeness of the conclusions that may be drawn.

Roberto Bachi has concluded that there was a small but significant unrecorded Muslim immigration into Palestine estimated at around 900 people per year or approximately 13,500 in total between 1931 and 1945.

McCarthy explains, "... evidence for Muslim immigration into Palestine is minimal. Because no Ottoman records of that immigration have yet been discovered, one is thrown back on demographic analysis to evaluate Muslim migration." McCarthy argues that there is no significant Arab immigration into mandatory Palestine:

From analyses of rates of increase of the Muslim population of the three Palestinian sanjaks, one can say with certainty that Muslim immigration after the 1870s was small. Had there been a large group of Muslim immigrants their numbers would have caused an unusual increase in the population and this would have appeared in the calculated rate of increase from one registration list to another... Such an increase would have been easily noticed; it was not there.
The argument that Arab immigration somehow made up a large part of the Palestinian Arab population is thus statistically untenable. The vast majority of the Palestinian Arabs resident in 1947 were the sons and daughters of Arabs who were living in Palestine before modern Jewish immigration began. There is no reason to believe that they were not the sons and daughters of Arabs who had been in Palestine for many centuries.
McCarthy also concludes that there was no significant internal migration to Jewish areas attributable to better economic conditions:
Some areas of Palestine did experience greater population growth than others, but the explanation for this is simple. Radical economic change was occurring all over the Mediterranean Basin at the time. Improved transportation, greater mercantile activity, and greater industry had increased the chances for employment in cities, especially coastal cities... Differential population increase was occurring all over the Eastern Mediterranean, not just in Palestine... The increase in Muslim population had little or nothing to do with Jewish immigration. In fact the province that experienced the greatest Jewish population growth (by .035 annually), Jerusalem Sanjak, was the province with the lowest rate of growth of Muslim population (.009).
Gad Gilbar has also concluded that the prosperity of the Palestine in the 45-50 years before World War I was a result of the modernization and growth of the economy owing to its integration with the world economy and especially with the economies of Europe. Although the reasons for growth were exogenous to Palestine the bearers were not waves of Jewish immigration, foreign intervention nor Ottoman reforms but "primarily local Arab Muslims and Christians.

Demographer Uziel Schmelz, in his analysis of Ottoman registration data for 1905 populations of Jerusalem and Hebron kazas, found that most Ottoman citizens living in these areas, comprising about one quarter of the population of Palestine, were living at the place where they were born. Specifically, of Muslims, 93.1% were born in their current locality of residence, 5.2% were born elsewhere in Palestine, and 1.6% were born outside Palestine. Of Christians, 93.4% were born in their current locality, 3.0% were born elsewhere in Palestine, and 3.6% were born outside Palestine. Of Jews (excluding the large fraction who were not Ottoman citizens), 59.0% were born in their current locality, 1.9% were born elsewhere in Palestine, and 39.0% were born outside Palestine.

Yehoshua Porath believes that the notion of "large-scale immigration of Arabs from the neighboring countries" is a myth "proposed by Zionist writers". He writes:

As all the research by historian Fares Abdul Rahim and geographers of modern Palestine shows, the Arab population began to grow again in the middle of the nineteenth century. That growth resulted from a new factor: the demographic revolution. Until the 1850s there was no "natural" increase of the population, but this began to change when modern medical treatment was introduced and modern hospitals were established, both by the Ottoman authorities and by the foreign Christian missionaries. The number of births remained steady but infant mortality decreased. This was the main reason for Arab population growth. ... No one would doubt that some migrant workers came to Palestine from Syria and Trans-Jordan and remained there. But one has to add to this that there were migrations in the opposite direction as well. For example, a tradition developed in Hebron to go to study and work in Cairo, with the result that a permanent community of Hebronites had been living in Cairo since the fifteenth century. Trans-Jordan exported unskilled casual labor to Palestine; but before 1948 its civil service attracted a good many educated Palestinian Arabs who did not find work in Palestine itself. Demographically speaking, however, neither movement of population was significant in comparison to the decisive factor of natural increase.
Daniel Pipes responded to Porath by granting that From Time Immemorial quoted carelessly, used statistics sloppily, and ignored inconvenient facts. Nonetheless, he explained that:
Miss Peters's central thesis is that a substantial immigration of Arabs to Palestine took place during the first half of the twentieth century. She supports this argument with an array of demographic statistics and contemporary accounts, the bulk of which have not been questioned by any reviewer, including Professor Porath.
Professor Porath replied with an array of data culled from expert demographers to confirm his position. He also pointed out that Peters demographic statistics were inexplicable:
...nowhere in her main text or in the methodological appendices (V and VI) did Mrs. Peters bother to explain to her readers how she managed to break down the Ottoman or Cuinet's figures into smaller units than subdistricts. As far as I know no figures for the units smaller than subdistricts (Nahia; the parallel of the French commune), covering the area of Ottoman Palestine, were ever published. Therefore I can't avoid the conclusion that Mrs. Peters's figures were, at best, based on guesswork and an extremely tendentious guesswork at that.

Current demographics

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, as of May 2006, of Israel's 7 million people, 77% were Jews, 18.5% Arabs, and 4.3% "others". Among Jews, 68% were Sabras (Israeli-born), mostly second- or third-generation Israelis, and the rest are olim — 22% from Europe and the Americas, and 10% from Asia and Africa, including the Arab countries.

According to Palestinian evaluations, The West Bank is inhabited by approximately 2.4 million Palestinians and the Gaza Strip by another 1.4 million. According to a study presented at The Sixth Herzliya Conference on The Balance of Israel's National Security there are 1.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank. This study was criticised by demographer Sergio DellaPergola, who estimated 3.33 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined at the end of 2005.

According to these Israeli and Palestinian estimates, the population in Israel and the Palestinian Territories stands at 9.8-10.8 million.

Jordan has a population of around 6,000,000 (2007 estimate). Palestinians constitute approximately half of this number.

See also


External links



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