Palestine - Rich History and Cultural Heritage
Palestine, also known as "Palastine" in English, is an Arab state located in the geographic region of Southeastern Mediterranean, extending to the Jordan Valley. It is situated in West Asia, connecting the continents of Asia and North Africa at the Sinai Peninsula, which belongs to the Arab Republic of Egypt at the convergence point of the two continents. Palestine links the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean, representing the southwestern part of the Levant. It has always been of great significance, serving as a crossroads for cultures, civilizations, and trade. Many of its cities hold immense historical and religious importance, with Jerusalem being one of the most prominent.
Palestine occupies a strategic geographical area and boasts a rich history and diverse geography. It is one of the historical states that has existed since ancient times, being the source of civilizations and the cradle of divine religions. This has made Palestine a country rich in cultures and ancient civilizations, with 22 diverse civilizations having passed through its lands, starting with the Canaanite civilization. Consequently, tourism in Palestine thrives with the discovery of these ancient civilizations.
History of Palestine:
Palestine is the land of messages and the cradle of human civilizations. It is home to the oldest city in history, Jericho, in present-day Palestine. The land of Palestine has a long and ancient history, and many peoples inhabited it thousands of years before the birth of Christ, including the Amorites and the Arameans. The earliest among them were the Canaanites, who practiced agriculture, trade, and industry, establishing civilizations in the region.
Throughout its history, the land of Palestine faced numerous invasions until the native peoples expelled the invaders and regained their lands. Some of the invaders included the Hyksos around 1500-1750 BC, followed by the Persians, Greeks, and Romans in the 1st century AD. In 636 AD, the Islamic armies, led by Saladin, conquered the Palestinian lands from the Crusades, witnessing a period of prosperity during the Arab rule, even under the Ottoman Empire that lasted for four centuries.
In the 19th century, Palestine witnessed the Zionist movement with its efforts to occupy Palestinian lands and establish Jewish settlements based on a historically unfounded claim. In 1916, the Sykes-Picot Agreement was signed, stipulating that Palestine would be placed under British mandate after World War I. In 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued a declaration promising a national home for the Jews in Palestine, known as the "Balfour Declaration."
Palestine is located in an important strategic position. It is classified among the countries with long borders, stretching 984 kilometers. It is bordered by Syria and Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, and Jordan to the east, with a border length of 360 kilometers. To the west, it overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, and to the extreme south, it is bordered by Egyptian lands near the Negev Desert.
The total area of Palestine, including Lake Tiberias and half of the Dead Sea, is 27,000 square kilometers. The West Bank, including the part of the Dead Sea that belongs to it, covers an area of 5,842 square kilometers, while the Gaza Strip covers an area of 365 square kilometers.
The Palestinian population worldwide reaches around 13.5 million people. As of 2021, the population of Palestinians inside the Palestinian territories is approximately 5,101,414 people.
Palestine is known for its stunning beauty and diverse terrain, divided into four sections:
- The Coastal Plain: It extends from Ras al-Naqoura to Rafah, stretching over 12 kilometers. Famous Palestinian coastal cities include Acre and Jaffa. This region lacks natural ports due to the irregularity of its coasts.
- The Highlands: Palestine is renowned for its mountains, featuring several famous peaks with breathtaking scenery. Among these are the mountains of Galilee, Carmel, Nablus, Negev, Jerusalem, and Hebron. The Hebron Mountains extend about 50 kilometers to the coast of Akko. The Carmel Mountains, located in northern Palestine, form a triangular shape, with the highest peak reaching 550 meters. Nablus Mountains are characterized by Mount Ebal, reaching an elevation of 951 meters and also known as Mount Gerizim.
- The Negev Desert: This geographic region is part of the Sinai Peninsula, characterized by deserts, high temperatures, and low rainfall.
- The Jordan Rift Valley: Also known as the Jordan Valley, this fertile and low-lying region spans 400 kilometers along the Jordan River. It is suitable for agriculture, with numerous agricultural areas throughout. The Jordan Rift Valley, along with the Dead Sea and the Arabah Valley, forms part of the Dead Sea Rift.
Climate in Palestine:
The climate in Palestine is influenced by both the Mediterranean Sea and the desert. Most days are affected by the Mediterranean Sea, while on some days, the desert's effects dominate. This makes the climate transitional between the desert and Mediterranean climates, impacting both rainfall and temperatures. In winter, Palestine experiences heavy rainfall, while in summer, the weather is dry and relatively hot. This climatic combination makes Palestine suitable for the cultivation of olive trees and citrus fruits.
Cities in Palestine:
1. Jericho (Ar-Riha): One of the oldest cities in Palestine and the world, with a history dating back to the Stone Age, around 7,000 years ago. It was a Canaanite city and is believed to have been called "The Moon" by the Canaanites. Jericho flourished during the Roman era and was known for exporting dates.
Tourism in Jericho: Jericho is renowned for its historical sites from ancient civilizations. Additionally, it is famous for being near the Dead Sea, the baptism site, and Hisham's Palace, an impressive and large structure.
2. Nablus: Also known as "Damascus al-Saghir" (Little Damascus), Nablus is considered the heart of Palestine. It is one of the oldest Palestinian cities, dating back around 5,600 years. It was previously called "Shechem," meaning "the high place" in Semitic languages. Nablus is divided into the Old City and the new city on its outskirts due to its expansion.
Tourism in Nablus: Nablus boasts archaeological sites, including the Western Roman Cemetery, Eastern Roman Cemetery, Roman Theater, and the Roman Hippodrome dating back to the 2nd century AD. It is also home to various historic mosques, like the Great Salahiyeh Mosque.
3. Ramallah: Known as the administrative center of the West Bank and the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority. It is located about 21 kilometers away from Jerusalem and traces its origins back to the Ottoman era in the 16th century. Ramallah is known for olive cultivation and handicraft industries such as pottery, copper, and glass.
Tourism in Ramallah: Ramallah has historical relics, including Crusader buildings. South of Al-Bireh, it contains scattered ruins, buildings, and mosaics dating back to the Ottoman era.
4. Jerusalem: Also known as "Bait al-Maqdis," it is the eternal capital of Palestine and holds significant religious importance in both Palestine and the Islamic world. Jerusalem contains the third holiest site, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the first Qibla, as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, among other religious landmarks. Throughout its illustrious history, Jerusalem has been and continues to be a religious center for all Abrahamic religions.
Tourism in Jerusalem: Jerusalem's most important tourist site is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, known and revered in heavenly books and Prophetic traditions. Other famous places in Jerusalem include the Dome of the Rock.
5. Bethlehem: Located about 10 kilometers away from Jerusalem, Bethlehem is considered a cultural and tourist center in Palestine. It was built by the Canaanites and holds great significance among Christians as the birthplace of Prophet Jesus (Isa), son of Mary (Maryam).
Tourism in Bethlehem: The most important tourist site in Bethlehem, visited by Christians from around the world, is the Church of the Nativity. It was built on the site of the cave where Prophet Jesus is believed to have been born. Additionally, Bethlehem contains numerous other historical and archaeological churches, such as the Milk Grotto Church, as well as Omar Ibn al-Khattab Mosque.