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History of Palestine

I'm a bit confused about the term "Palestine." Today everyone uses it to refer to Arabs, but my grandfather played in Palestine Symphony Orchestra which changed its name to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra when the Jewish state came into being in 1948.

So what's the scoop on "Palestine"?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

In the year 70 CE the Romans burned down the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, murdering and exiling the Jews of Jerusalem. Following an unsuccessful revolt against Rome in 135 CE, the Roman emperor Hadrian decided to excise all things Jewish from the promised land. Jerusalem was renamed "Aelia Capitolina" and the penalty for any Jew daring to venture into the city was death. In addition, an idol to the pagan god Jupiter was erected in the remains of the Temple.

Further, Hadrian asked his historians who were the worst enemies of the Jews. The scribes said, "The ancient Philistines who vanished half a millennium prior." It was thus declared that Land of Israel would from then on be called "Philistia" to dishonor the Jews and obliterate their history. Hence the name "Palestine."

For the next 2,000 years, Israel remained at the forefront of Jewish consciousness. Jews always maintained a presence in Israel, and prayed to return en masse.

The rhetoric about a massive Arab presence being overrun by "invading Jews" is dispelled by Mark Twain, who visited the area in 1867 and wrote in his book, "The Innocents Abroad":

"We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given wholly to weeds – a silent mournful expanse... We never saw a human being on the whole route... hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country."

The vast majority of Arabs came to Israel after the early Zionists pioneers began to rebuild the land, thereby creating modern infrastructure and economic opportunities, which attracted Arabs from both surrounding territories and far-away Arab lands.

At the time, Jewish residents of Palestine were considered "Palestinians," whereby the Arabs were officially referred to as Arabs. The "Jerusalem Post" newspaper was called the "Palestine Post," and the Jewish Agency-issued postage stamps read "Palestine." As far as the Arabs were concerned no political entity called Palestine existed.

But that is all past history. The Arabs, in their decades-long war against Israel's very existence, have succeeded in convincing the world of a Palestinian Arab identity deserving of their own state. So that's the reality today, and we are trying to deal with it in a way that satisfies both world opinion and the security requirements of the citizens of Israel.

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