The Is­raeli Pales­tinian con­flict Part I - The ori­gins

Jamaica Gleaner - - FAMILY & RELIGION - Paul H. Wil­liams Gleaner Writer

THE RE­GION in the Mid­dle East en­com­pass­ing Is­rael, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Si­nai Penin­sula, Golan Heights, etc, are places that are men­tioned in the Bi­ble, Chris­ten­dom’s holy book. Ac­cord­ing to Chris­tians, Je­sus Christ was the mes­siah sent by God, Je­sus’s fa­ther, to re­deem the world of sin.

Je­sus is said to have been born in Beth­le­hem of Judea, and His boy­hood town was Nazareth. Some other places that are men­tioned in His story are the Sea of Galilee, on which he is said to have walked; Bethany, where he raised Lazarus from the dead; Jerusalem where he had the last sup­per, was cru­ci­fied, and res­ur­rected; Jeri­cho, where he healed Bar­ti­maeous and con­verted Zac­cha­eus; and Cana; where he turned wa­ter into wine and healed the Caper­nuam of­fi­cial’s son. The re­gion is now bor­dered by Le­banon and Syria in the north, Jor­dan to the East, and Egypt to the South, and it has his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural, and reli­gious sig­nif­i­cance to Jews, Chris­tian, and Mus­lims. Since 1947, it has been a place of many wars and ru­mours of war, es­pe­cially be­tween the Is­raelis and the Pales­tini­ans.


This pro­tracted bel­liger­ence is of­ten re­ferred to as the Arab-Is­raeli con­flict since it is not just Pales­tini­ans who want the Jewish state of Is­rael to give up oc­cu­pied lands. The Jews and the Arabs are claim­ing own­er­ship based on his­tor­i­cal and reli­gious grounds. This mat­ter of oc­cu­pa­tion and own­er­ship of land goes back to 1,000 years be­fore the birth of Christ. The Bi­ble story is that Joshua led the Is­raelites (Jews) into the re­gion west of Jor­dan River. They con­quered the Canaan­ites but did not get Gaza from the Philistines. The Is­raeli King David ex­panded Is­rael and built his cap­i­tal around the sac­ri­fi­cial al­tar at Mount Mo­ri­ahin Jerusalem. There, his son, Solomon, built a mag­nif­i­cent tem­ple to God. The Is­raelites were even­tu­ally de­stroyed by Assyria and Baby­lon. In 586BC the Baby­lo­ni­ans de­stroyed the tem­ple and the Jews were sold into slav­ery.

The Ro­mans oc­cu­pied the re­gion from 63BC to AD395. The district known as Judea was ruled by lo­cal kings, in­clud­ing Herod, who be­gan to re­build Solomon’s tem­ple in 20BC. Je­sus was born in Beth­le­hem of Judea and cru­ci­fied in Jerusalem. The place even­tu­ally came to be called the Holy Land.

The Jews re­volted against the Ro­mans in AD66, but the rebels were heav­ily van­quished. The tem­ple was de­stroyed again in AD70, and the Jews were dis­persed. The re­gion was then re­named Syria Palaestina or Pales­tine, by the Ro­mans.

Af­ter that, the in­flu­ence of Chris­tian­ity be­gan to spread in the re­gion, with Jerusalem be­com­ing the cen­tre of the Byzan­tine World. The Chris­tian Byzan­tine rulers con­trolled much of the re­gion af­ter the Ro­man Em­pire was dis­in­te­grated in 395. These rulers built churches in which to wor­ship Je­sus Christ. But many of these churches were turned into mosques when the Mus­lims in­vaded and de­feated the Chris­tians.

The Arabs, who came over in AD7 spread Is­lam to the Mediter­ranean and be­yond. Four cen­turies later, Pope Ur­ban II and a Chris­tian army went on a cru­sade to re­cap­ture the Holy Land from the Mus­lims. It took them three years to march from Europe. They cap­tured Jerusalem in 1099, but their grip on the Holy City lasted less than a cen­tury.

From 1516-1917, Pales­tine was a part of the Ot­toman Em­pire. The econ­omy grew, but there was much cor­rup­tion, and in the late 19th cen­tury, the Jews who had fled to Rus­sia and other places in Europe be­gan to re­turn to Pales­tine. They bought lands and estab­lished com­mu­ni­ties. Some of them, known as Zion­ites, dreamt of es­tab­lish­ing a mod­ern Jewish state in the land of King


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