This region for over 3000 years has been significant to three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
It has had many names, depending on the many tribes that have settled at different times in the land. The land has been nourished by an unfolding series of civilizations and structures because of its strategic position as a crossroad to three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe.
The region has witnessed the invasion of various powers throughout its history, including the Assyrians (8th century BCE), Babylonians (c. 601 BCE), Persians (539 BCE), Greeks (330s BCE), and Romans (63 BCE).
In 70 CE, the Second Jewish Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire. During the 4th century, the Roman emperor Constantine followed his mother’s conversion, making Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. In the 7th century, Muslim rulers conquered Palestine, followed by the Crusaders, the Egyptians and the Mongols. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire invaded and ruled the region until the end of World War I.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 gave British consent for a national home for Jews in Palestine, with the rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine should be respected.
In 1918, the Ottoman Empire was defeated, and the Middle East was divided between the British and the French. The British ruled over Palestine from 1923-1948, with many European Christians supported Jewish people immigrating to the “promised land.” The British gave land they did not own to a people who had no land, claiming that Palestine was a barren land without people living there. However, Palestine was a rich agricultural region, already the land of “milk and honey,” and a diverse set of tribes were already living there.
Support for the creation of a homeland for the Jews increased after the end of World War II, largely because of the Holocaust. The UN 1947 Resolution 181, called for 2 independent states (Palestine and Israel), and international status for the city of Jerusalem. But no sovereign Palestinian state exists.
May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was created. Between 1947 and 1949, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes.
In June 1967, Israel launched the Six-Day War. seizing Sinai and the Golan Heights, and occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
In 1988, Palestine proclaimed
its independence only on the
land Israel had occupied since 1967.
For the sake of peace,
Palestinians agreed to live on
only 22% of their original land.
There are over 5 million Palestinians living today in Palestine and Israel. 2% of these Palestinians are Christian, among a majority of Palestinian Muslims.
Jerusalem is the seat of 13 historically recognized churches. 75% of Palestinian Christians are from the Greek Orthodox Church.
Christians in Palestine have worked to develop an ecumenical spirit, with a Jerusalem Interchurch Office as a joint project of the churches in Jerusalem, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC).
Arts and Culture
Arts and culture are crucial for keeping people’s spirits strong and vibrant. Creativity shows that no matter how desperate you are, you can still dance, paint, write, and make music. The arts help
people continue living with hope.
Arts and culture also keep Palestinian heritage and memory alive. Poetry, visual art, embroidery, dabkeh (traditional folklore dancing), theatre and cinema portray Palestinian life. This affirms
that what Palestinians are experiencing is real, whether it is joy or pain.
Palestinians have tilled, sowed, planted and harvested in the land of milk and honey. They have worked both large and small plots of earth, including gardens and orchards. Herbs, spices, fruits and greens help to feed family and friends. Palestinian women make up a majority of those doing
Under the Israeli occupation, many farmers have been denied access to their fields, and olive trees have been uprooted. Olives and olive oil have been used throughout the region for medicinal purposes, healthy cooking, and to bless the foreheads of people.
The cactus has become an inseparable element of Palestine. Natural hedges and fences were planted to mark houses and neighbourhoods. Even after the 1948 destruction of over 400 villages, the cactus lived on to witness the plight of its inhabitants. This cactus, called the “prickly pear” bears delicious fruit.
In some regions of Palestine, one can also find trees bearing almonds, avocados, chestnuts, and citrus fruits, like oranges, grapefruit and pomelos.
95.4% of children are enrolled in basic education. There are three different systems of education for Palestinians: Israeli, Palestinian, and United Nations Refugee schools in the 19 Palestinian refugee camps. Traditionally most schools have separated boys and girls.
Hospitals in Palestine are well equipped with professional doctors and nurses, but the Palestinian health care system suffers from a lack of financial support for administration and running costs. Restrictions on movement make it difficult for Palestinians to access health care.
Water is the most crucial issue in Palestine. The most important aquifers are in the West Bank in area C, which is controlled by Israel. Palestinians have to buy water from Israel! The illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem use four times more water for swimming pools and luxury irrigation.