IntroductionPalestine (pălˈəstĪn) [key], historic region on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, at various times comprising parts of modern Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (recognized internationally by nations as independent Palestine), Jordan, and Egypt; also known as the Holy Land. The name is derived from a word meaning "land of the Philistines." This article discusses mainly the geography and the history of Palestine until the United Nations took up the Palestine problem in 1947; for the economy and later history, see Israel, Jordan, and Palestinian Authority, West Bank, and Gaza Strip.
In the Bible, Palestine is called Canaan before the invasion of Joshua; the usual Hebrew name is Eretz Israel [land of Israel]. Palestine is the Holy Land of Jews, having been promised to them by God according to the Bible; of Christians because it was the scene of Jesus' life; and of Muslims because they consider Islam to be the heir of Judaism and Christianity and because Jerusalem is the site, according to Muslim tradition, of Muhammad's ascent to heaven. The Holy Land derives its special character from being a place of pilgrimage. Shrines, shared in common by several religions, cluster most numerously in and about Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Hebron.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Israeli Political Geography