Saturday, May 19, 2007


Map of IsraelThe name "Israel" is rooted in the Hebrew bible, the Tanakh, where Jacob is renamed Israel after wrestling with a mysterious adversary ("a man", and later "God" according to Gen. 32:24-30; or "the angel", according to Hosea 12:4). Israel means "he who has wrestled with God." The Jews, the nation fathered by Jacob, were then called "the children of Israel" or the "Israelites."

The earliest known mention of the name 'Israel', probably referring to a group of people rather than to a place, is the Egyptian Merneptah Stele dated to about 1210 BCE. For over 3,000 years, Jews have held the Land of Israel to be their homeland, both as a Holy Land and as a Promised Land. The Land of Israel holds a special place in Jewish religious obligations, encompassing Judaism's most important sites — including the remains of the First and Second Temples (see temple), as well as the rites concerning those temples. Starting around 1200 BCE, a series of Jewish kingdoms and states existed intermittently in the region for over a millennium.

Under Babylonian, Persians, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and (briefly) Sassanian rule, Jewish presence in the province dwindled due to mass expulsions.

In particular, the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt against The Roman Empire resulted in the large-scale expulsion of Jews.


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