Historical Context

According to historians, Palestine is a historical region in the Middle East between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (where Israel and Palestine are today), and various adjoining lands.

The state of Palestine is recognized by the world community only in part. Palestinians consider Jerusalem and Ramallah their capital cities. The state language is Arabic. The total number of Palestinians around the world is about 9.6 million, 4.8 million of which live in diaspora, and 4.5 million in the State of Palestine. The state religion is Islam.

Historically the region of Palestine is divided into the following parts: plains by the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Galilee (the northern part), Samaria (the central part, north from Jerusalem), Judah (the southern part, including Jerusalem), Transjordan and the West Bank.

In the 2nd millennium BC, the region of today’s Palestine was populated by Canaanite tribes, the descendants of Ham, one of the sons of Noah. The Bible speaks about Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. The Bible stresses their lawlessness, which was the result of their idolatry. Because of that, God planned to destroy them and populate the land with Hebrews.

In the 13th century BC, Canaan was eventually conquered by the Israelites. It happened according to a promise, which Patriarch Abraham received in the early 2nd millennium BC, when he left his city of Ur and went to a region, which the Lord promised to give him and his descendants. However, Israelites have not fulfilled the plan of God completely and have not destroyed those nations. Because of that, for centuries, they were at war with them.

In the 11th century BC, the Kingdom of Israel was established. Later it was divided into two kingdoms – the Kingdom of Israel (existed until 772 BC) and the Kingdom of Judah (existed until 586 BC). After the Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, the name of Judah gradually started to refer to the whole region. Much later, under the rule of the Roman Empire, it was named the Province of Judah. In the 1st century AD, Romans renamed it Palestine, with the intent to erase any memory of the Kingdom of Judah and the fact that Jews or Israelites ever lived there.

Palestine was conquered by many great powers. It was conquered by Parthians, then became a Roman province and was divided as Judah, Samaria, Galilee and Gilead. It has also been under the power of Arabs, the Crusaders and the Ottoman Empire. Arabs conquered Palestine in the 7th century. In 1099-1187, the Crusaders conquered a part of Palestine and renamed it the Kingdom of Jerusalem, although the city of Jerusalem itself was under the control of Muslims. Before coming under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, it became a part of Egypt after the war of the Crusaders with Egypt. In 1517, Palestine was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, and remained its part for 400 years. After the World War I, in 1920, at the San-Remo Conference, the Great Britain was given the Mandate to govern the Palestinian territory.

From 1919, many Jews started to immigrate to Palestine. The region was occupied mainly by Muslim Arabs. However, Jerusalem, which was the biggest city, was populated mostly by Jews. After the World War II, the Jewish population in Palestine was 33%, while in 1922, it was only 11%. In 1947, the British government terminated its Mandate in Palestine, explaining that it cannot find a solution acceptable for both Arabs and Jews.

In the same year, the UN adopted the Partition Plan for Palestine. According to it, Palestine would be divided into two states, Arabic and Jewish. Jerusalem was proclaimed an international city under the control of the UN to avoid collision. Jews accepted that resolution, but Arabs didn’t.

On May 14, 1948, on the territory of Palestine, which formerly was under the British Mandate, the state of Israel was proclaimed. The very next day, seven Arabic countries (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Yemen) attacked the newly created state of Israel, thus starting the first Arab-Israeli War. After military actions that lasted for a year, armistice was established, and the new temporary borders were called the Green Line.

After the Six-Day War in 1967, the territories captured by Israel beyond the Green Line were East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and Sinai Peninsula (Sinai Peninsula has since been returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 peace treaty). Thus, no Arabic state has been established on the territory of the former British Mandate. Before that, in 1964, Palestinian Liberation Organization (the PLO) was formed. The PLO along with its allies did not recognize the state of Israel and waged terroristic actions against it.

The situation changed at the end of 1980s and the beginning of 1990s, after the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and negotiations between Israel and Jordan. In 1994, after a series of negotiations in the UN, the PLO finally announced renunciation of plans for the destruction of Israel and terrorism against it. Israel started negotiations with the PLO and as a result, in 1994, Palestinian National Authority was established.

On November 29, 2012, through a UN Assembly General vote (for: 138, against: 9, and 41 abstaining countries), Palestine was granted a status of a non-member observer state as a representative of Palestinian people and an affiliate to the UN.

Palestinian-Israeli conflict is still going on. It is a part of a broader Arab-Israeli conflict. This is a contest between two people groups who claim their authority and legal right over the same land, the former British Mandate Palestine. There have been many attempts to create two different states on this territory of contest that is an independent Palestine next to Israel. Right now, polls among the majority of Israelites and Palestinians show that having two states is the best way to end the conflict. There are still things that cause disagreements, like allocation of territory, the issue of the refugees, etc.; however, the main cause of disagreement is Jerusalem.

In Judaism, Jerusalem is the most important spiritual center for the Jews. Here the First and Second Temples were built, here the Wailing Wall is located. “Jerusalem is the eternal and indispensable capital city of the Jewish state” – this clause is established by the Knesset as a law. No Jewish leader can make a decision to give this city to Arabs.

Arabs call Jerusalem Al-Kuds, which means “Holy”, and consider it the third holy city for all Muslims after Mecca and Medina. Arab leaders too can’t deny their claims for Jerusalem.

Many archaeological researches have shown that Israelites lived in the territory of today’s Palestine since the 13th century BC. From the 11th to 6th centuries BC, this region had Israeli states. Jewish presence was dominant in this region even after King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon conquered Judah. During the later centuries, when different powers ruled Palestine, many Jews were displaced by force; yet many still stayed in their fatherland. Jews call this region “Eretz Israel”, which means “the Land of Israel.” This land was promised to their forefather Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, and since then, it is the Promised Land predestined for the Israelites.


Christian Context

Currently the situation of Christians in the Palestinian National Authority is very difficult; they are less than two percent. Previously they emigrated because of difficult economy; currently they emigrate because of Islamic violence and pressure.