Palestine Travel Guide
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The boundaries of Palestine have varied throughout history. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia published between 1901 and 1906: "Palestine extends, from 31° to 33° 20′ N. latitude. Its southwest point is about 34° 15′ E. longitude, and its northwest point is at 35° 15′ E. longitude, while the course of the Jordan reaches 35° 35′ to the east. The west-Jordan country has, consequently, a length of about 150 English miles from north to south, and a breadth of about 23 miles at the north and 80 miles at the south. The area of this region, as measured by the surveyors of the English Palestine Exploration Fund, is about 6,040 square miles. The east-Jordan district is now being surveyed by the German Palästina-Verein, and although the work is not yet completed, its area may be estimated at 4,000 square miles. This entire region, as stated above, was not occupied exclusively by the Israelites, for the plain along the coast in the south belonged to the Philistines, and that in the north to the Phoenicians, while in the east-Jordan country the Israelitic possessions never extended farther than the Arnon in the south, nor did the Israelites ever settle in the most northerly and easterly portions of the plain of Bashan. To-day the number of inhabitants does not exceed 650,000. Palestine, and especially the Israelitic state, covered, therefore, a very small area, approximating that of the state of Vermont." According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, Palestine is:
"A geographical name of rather loose application. Etymological strictness would require it to denote exclusively the narrow strip of coast-land once occupied by the Philistines, from whose name it is derived. It is, however, conventionally used as a name for the territory which, in the Old Testament, is claimed as the inheritance of the pre-exilic Hebrews; thus it may be said generally to denote the southern third of the province of Syria.
Except in the west, where the country is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, the limit of this territory cannot be laid down on the map as a definite line. The modern subdivisions under the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire are in no sense conterminous with those of antiquity, and hence do not afford a boundary by which Palestine can be separated exactly from the rest of Syria in the north, or from the Sinaitic and Arabian deserts in the south and east; nor are the records of ancient boundaries sufficiently full and definite to make possible the complete demarcation of the country. Even the convention above referred to is inexact: it includes the Philistine territory, claimed but never settled by the Hebrews, and excludes the outlying parts of the large area claimed in Num. xxxiv. as the Hebrew possession (from the " River of Egypt " to Hamath). However, the Hebrews themselves have preserved, in the proverbial expression " from Dan to Beersheba " (Judg. xx.i, &c.), an indication of the normal north-and-south limits of their land; and in defining the area of the country under discussion it is this indication which is generally followed.
Taking as a guide the natural features most nearly corresponding to these outlying points, we may describe Palestine as the strip of land extending along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea from the mouth of the Litany or Kasimiya River southward to the mouth of the Wadi Ghuzza; the latter joins the sea in 31° 28' N., a short distance south of Gaza, and runs thence in a south-easterly direction so as to include on its northern side the site of Beersheba. Eastward there is no such definite border. The River Jordan, it is true, marks a line of delimitation between Western and Eastern Palestine; but it is practically impossible to say where the latter ends and the Arabian desert begins. Perhaps the line of the pilgrim road from Damascus to Mecca is the most convenient possible boundary. The total length of the region is about 140 m.; its breadth west of the Jordan ranges from about 23 m. in the north to about 80 m. in the south." Prior to its being named Palestine, Ancient Egyptian texts called the entire coastal area along the Mediterranean Sea between modern Egypt and Turkey R-t-n-u. 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.
Scholars disagree as to whether the archaeological evidence supports the biblical story of there having been a Kingdom of Israel of the United Monarchy that reigned from Jerusalem, as the archaeological evidence is both rare and disputed. For those who do interpret the archaeological evidence positively in this regard, it is thought to have ruled some time during Iron Age I over an area approximating modern-day Israel and the Palestinian territories, extending farther westward and northward to cover much of the greater Land of Israel.
Philistia, the Philistine confederation, emerged circa 1185 BCE and was comprised of five city states: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod on the coast and Ekron, and Gath inland. Its northern border was the Yarkon River, the southern border extending to Wadi Gaza, its western border the Mediterranean Sea, with no fixed border to the east.
By 722 BCE, Philistia had been subsumed by the Assyrian Empire, with the Philistines becoming 'part and parcel of the local population,' prospering under Assyrian rule during the 7th 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 Philistines as a distinct people effectively ended.
The boundaries of the area and the ethnic nature of the people referred to by Herodotus in the 5th century BCE as Palaestina vary according to context. Sometimes, he uses it to refer to the coast north of Mount Carmel. Elsewhere, distinguishing the Syrians in Palestine from the Phoenicians, he refers to their land as extending down all the coast from Phoenicia to Egypt. Josephus used the name Παλαιστινη only for the smaller coastal area, Philistia. Pliny, writing in Latin in the 1st century CE, describes a region of Syria that was "formerly called Palaestina" among the areas of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Since the Byzantine Period, the Byzantine borders of Palaestina, have served as a name for the geographic area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Under Arab rule, Filastin was used administratively to refer to what was under the Byzantines Palaestina Secunda, while Palaestina Prima was renamed Urdunn.
The Zionist Organization provided their definition concerning the boundaries of Palestine in a statement to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919; it also includes a statement about the importance of water resources that the designated area includes. On the basis of a League of Nations mandate, the British administered Palestine after World War I, promising to establish a Jewish homeland therein. The original British Mandate included what is now Israel, the West Bank, and trans-Jordan, although the latter was disattached by an administrative decision of the British in 1922. To the Palestinian people who view Palestine as their homeland, its boundaries are those of the British Mandate excluding the Transjordan, as described in the Palestinian National Charter.
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