Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Palestine (Latin: Syria Palćstina; Hebrew: פלשתינה Palestina, ארץ־ישראל Eretz Yisrael; Arabic: فلسطين Filasṭīn) is the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the banks of the Jordan River, plus various adjoining lands to the east. Many different definitions of the region have been used in the past three millenia (see also definitions of Palestine).
Boundaries and Name
Egyptian writings refer to the region as R-t-n-u (for convenience pronounced Rechenu). Several names for the region are found in the Bible: (Eretz) Yisrael "(land of) Israel", Eretz Ha-Ivrim "land of the Hebrews", "land flowing with milk and honey", "land that [God] swore to your fathers to assign to you", "Holy Land", and "land of the LORD". The portion of the land lying west of the Jordan was also called "land of Canaan" during the period in which it fell under the control of Egyptian vassals traditionally descended from Canaan the son of Ham. After the division of the Jewish kingdom into two the southern part was called "land of Judah" and the northern part was called "land of Israel".
The name "Palestine" comes from the Philistine people, who are first recorded by the ancient Egyptians as P-r/l-s-t (conventionally Peleset), one of the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt in Ramesses III's reign. "Palestine" (Hebrew פלשת Pəléšeth, P(e)léshet) is used in the Bible to denote the coastal region inhabited by the Philistines, whose five principal cities were Gaza, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, and Ashkelon. Usage of the term, usually in the form "Syria Palestina", to denote the inland areas as well was common among Greek writers as early as Herodotus. Josephus, however, apparently intended by the name only the land of the Phillistines. The Philistines (meaning "invaders" in Hebrew) were subjugated by David; however, by Amos' time they had regained their independence. They are no longer mentioned by Assyrian times.
The term "Syria Palaestina" is first recorded by the 5th century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, and later Ptolemy and Pliny, to refer to the eastern coast of the Mediterranean; it is generally accepted that the region they referred to extended further inland than the domain of the Philistines.
In A.D. 135, the Roman emperor Hadrian changed the name of the Roman province of Syria Judea to Syria Palaestina, which is the Latin version of the Greek name, and it became an administrative political unit within the Roman Empire. Approximately A.D. 390, Palaestina was further organised into three units: First, Second, and Third Palaestina. Palastina Prima consisted of Judea, Samaria, the coast, and Peraea which 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 the usual residence of the governor. Palestina Tertia was also known as Palaestina Salutaris. This reorganization reduced Arabia to the northern Jordan east of Peraea. Roman administration of Palestine ended temporarily during the Persian occupation of 614-28, then permanently after the Arabs conquered the region beginning in 635.
The new Arab rulers divided the province of ash-Sham (Syria) into five districts. Jund Filastin (فلسطين, literally "Palestine") was a region extending from the Sinai to south of the plain of Acre. At times it reached down into the Sinai. Major towns included Rafah, Caesarea, Gaza, Jaffa, Nablus, Jerico, Ramla and Jerusalem. Initially Ludd (Lydda) was the capital, but in 717 it was moved to the new city of ar-Ramlah (Ramla). Much later, it was moved to Jerusalem. Jund al-Urdunn (literally "Jordan") was a region to the north and east of Filastin. Major towns included Tiberias, Legio, Acre, Jerico, Beisan and Tyre. The capital was at Tiberias. Various political upheavals several times led to readjustments of the boundaries. After the 10th century, the division into Junds began to break down and the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem completed that process.
After the Ottoman conquest, the name disappeared as the official name of an administrative district but 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 Philistines') 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" (Mandel, page xx). However, the translation he gives is incorrect: Arz-i Filistin (أرض فلسطين) translates as "Land of Palestine." Amongst the educated Arab public, Filastin was a common concept, referring either to the whole of Palestine or to the Jerusalem sanjaq alone.
In European usage up to World War I, the name "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.
Formal use of the English word "Palestine" returned with the British Mandate. Between 1920 and 1922, Palestine was defined by the San Remo Conference as the area bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and a short stretch of Red Sea coastline between the latter two. These borders include all of present-day Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and some part of Jordan. . However, the final text left the borders unspecified (note in particular Article 25.) After Transjordan was split off from Palestine in 1922, the term Palestine referred to the non-Jordanian segment of the region  (see History of Palestine, History of Jordan).
Under the UN Partition Plan of 1947, Palestine was to be divided into two states of approximately equal size, one for Jews and one for Arabs, as well as the city of Jerusalem, which was to be administered by the UN . The Palestinians and the Arab states unanimously rejected the partition plan, and attacked the newly declared state of Israel in 1948. An independent Arab Palestine was briefly declared by a Palestinian National Congress meeting in Gaza; it defined its borders as those of the British Mandate, and its capital as Jerusalem. However, following the 1949 armistice agreement between Israel and neighboring Arab states, Palestine disappeared as a distinct territory. The territory previously known as Palestine was occupied by Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan.  
After this, the term Palestine was regularly used in political contexts to describe land considered to rightfully belong to a Palestinian state. Furthermore, since 1994, there has been a Palestinian Authority controlling varying portions of historic Palestine. See below for details of the post-1967 situation.
- Note: The article on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict attempts to describe this issue, but contributors to this article have yet to come to agreement that it is both accurate and neutral.
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