Israel is a small country (with a rich history) bordering theMediterranean Sea. Originally settled by the Jewish or “Hebrew” people – Israel has been a historical and religious hot-spot for the majority of the past 4,000 years. The geography of Israel is mountainous to the north and desert to the south with the Mediterranean Sea sculpting the western shoreline. Israel is bordered by several countries including: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
While historians debate on the origins of Israel – it is almost certain that Israel began as an ethnicity as opposed to an actual location/area. The area (according to religious sources) was originally the Land of Canaan. The Jewish people identify a figure known as Abraham to be their genetic progenitor, and his son Jacob (which can be translated into Israel) in turn settled the area in which modern day Israel now takes place. It is quite possible that the entire country was simply named due to the descendants of “Jacob” having settled in the location.
The first widely accepted mention of Israel, aside from the Torah, is found within the Merneptah Stele. The Merneptah Stele was erected around 1200 BC for the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah. A direct quotation that names the area of Israel is “Israel is laid waste and his seed is not.”
In history Israel has been ruled by many foreign entities spanning more than 2,000 years of foreign based control. The initial “conquering” took place somewhere around 580 BC with the assertion of Babylonian rule. The Persians in turn obtained control over Israel for more than 200 years after the Babylonians.
During the earliest times of Israel’s history the country (or land as it was at the time) has found itself under continued war between individual Jewish tribes and other nations/cultures. These incursions continued at least in part until the Babylonian conquering around 580 BC. Following the Babylonian rule and the Persian conquering of Babylon – the Jewish people were granted a measure of religious freedom under the proclamation of Cyrus the Great. This also lead to an exile (stated within the Hebrew bible) of some 50,000 Jews. Shortly after Alexander the Great conquered Babylon (and in turn what Babylon owned) the Pharisees or Jewish “Priest-Kings” ruled Israel for a time. The Roman Empire then claimed control over the region for more than 300 years. This period was subject to several historical events – including (according to the Christian Bible) the crucifixion of Christ. Following Roman rule the Byzantine Empire – this was in fact simply a subdivision of the now defunct Roman Empire. Arabic occupation took place shortly thereafter leading all the way up until the first of the “Crusades” and led to a Crusader occupation and again Arabic rule. The Mamluk followed until the eventual (and lengthy) Ottoman rule from roughly the 16th century until well into the 20th century. Following the Ottoman Empire’s rule over the area of Israel and World War II Israel was made its own independent nation in May of 1948.
The founding of Israel as a recognized nation was not the end of the area’s problems, though. The creation of Israel as a state has led to the scrutiny of several other nations – most notably in recent times Palestine. Although involved in several armed conflicts since the inception of the state – Israel has remained an independent nation with backing of several countries and the assembly of the UN.
Israel is many things to many people. To some it is a religious location, to others a place of conflict, and to many others simply another location on the map. To many thousands of Jewish individuals it is much more than a location or a political entity – it’s a home.