Palestine is the name of the area located in the southwestern part of Asia; it is bordered by Lebanon from the north, Syria northeast, Jordan east, Red Sea south, Sinai in Egypt southwest and from the West by the Mediterranean Sea, map. This area witnessed the first recorded form of civilization in human history in the city of Jericho that was established ten thousand years ago. Since then, it was inhabited by the Canaanites and the sea immigrants named Philistines who mixed with them later on, it was afterwards invaded by the Romans, the Jews, the Moguls, and the Christian crusaders.
Since the seventh century, most of its population embraced Islam and joined successive Muslim rule until 1917, the year of disintegration of the Ottoman State, when Palestine came under the British mandate, that undertook to facilitate the realization of the Zionist dream of creating of a Jewish home in Palestine.
In the year 1948, the British mandate ended and the area became subject to a military dispute between the local Arab population and the immigrant Jews. The dispute resulted in the establishment of the Zionist “State of Israel” over 77% of the area and the displacement of 900,000 local Arabs, who are the descendants of the early Canaanites, Philistines and the Arab tribes that settled there after the coming of Islam.
This was followed by a war in 1967 that resulted in further “Israeli” occupation of more Palestinian land that was at the time under the rule of neighboring Arab countries. Since then, “Israel” maintained direct military occupation of the whole Palestine and of some areas of Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. But this occupation faced continuous civil and military resistance that brought the area into focus, and reserved for it a huge place in the news and top stories.
Palestine, the name: Palestine acquired its name from the Mediterranean immigrants who came from the southern Greek Islands in the 12th century B.C., and were known as the “people of the sea”. In the old Egyptian scripts they were referred to as the P.L.S.T, the N was added later possibly to pluralize the noun; they are referred to as the Philistines. The land, previously known as the Land of Canaan, took the name of the new settlers and came to be known as Palestine. Throughout the centuries of Muslim rule, Palestine had been an integral part of a larger geographical unit, Bilad Al-Sham or Greater Syria, as a sub-district or “Jund” in the language of that time. The sub-district of Palestine embraced a larger area than the present one. The new boundaries were set during the time of the British colonization (1918-1948), and on the bases of the Sykes-Picot agreement between France and Britain that divided the territories of the disintegrated Ottoman State. The final borders with Syria and Lebanon were set following a Franco-British agreement in 1920, while the borders with Trans-Jordan were fixed by the British High Commissioner in 1922 and those with Egypt were set in 1908 by the Ottomans and the Egyptian Khedive. Since then, Palestine included areas west of the Jordan River, south of the Mount of Lebanon as you may see in the map.
Geography and Climate: The total area of Palestine is 27,009 km2, including 704 km2 of water surface that is composed of Al-Hula Lake, Tiberias Lake and half of the Dead Sea. Palestine is generally divided into four geographic zones:
1- The coastal area: that is a plain land laying along the Mediterranean from north to south, its highest altitude is 180 meters above sea level. This is one of the most fertile areas of Palestine as it enjoys a Mediterranean climate with full four seasons. It is ideal for growing fruits and flowers by which it is known until today.
2- The Mountainous area: that is located to the east of the coastal areas and stands parallel to it, the highest altitude reaches 1208 meters in Mount Al-Jarmaq (Meron) in northern Palestine. This area is generally colder than the coastal one, but it still enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Despite its rough topography, the area is ideal for growing grains, beans, figs, olives and grapes; and is widely used for herding.
3- Al-Ghour (the rift valley): known also as the Jordan Valley, as the Jordan River divides it to eastern and western parts, in Jordan and Palestine consecutively. Al-Ghour is a fertile land ideal for growing vegetables, fruits and dates. This valley is the lowest dry point on earth, it reaches 395 meters beneath sea level to the point where the Jordan River influxes into the Dead Sea, the Valley then continues south down to the Red Sea with a total length of 460 km. The Dead Sea is the saltiest sea on earth and does not contain any form of marine life. Al-Ghour is generally hot and relatively dry all year round.
4- The Desert area: which occupies Southern Palestine, it is known as Al-Naqab (Negev) Desert with Beer Al-Sabec (Beersheba) as its main oasis. Al-Naqab occupies almost half the area of Palestine; it covers the area between Al-Khaleel (Hebron) east and Gaza west and extends to the northern coast of the Red Sea. Al-Naqab is hot and dry with some wind-driven sands and few oases.
Palestine is thus unique geographically with four different climates, with the lowest point on earth and mountains of 1200m altitude above see level, with lakes and seas among which one is known for its highest salt concentration that left it with no marine life. All these features are assembled in a small piece of land that connects Asia and Africa, and compromises no more than 27,009 km2.
Main cities: Since the establishment of the first city, Jericho in 8000 B.C., Palestine has been a center of civilizations that extended along its geographical zones. Most of the civilizational activities were concentrated in the coast and the mountains, and to lesser extent in the Jordan Valley, and the least were in the desert that had been inhabited by Bedouins thousands of years ago. The main cities of the cost are Yafa (Jaffa), cAkka (Acre), Haifa, Gaza and Isdod, while those of the Mountainous area are Al-Quds (Jerusalem), Al Khalil (Hebron), Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Safad. The main city of the Jordan Valley is Jericho and that of the desert is Beer Al-Sabec (Beersheba).
By Dr. Mohsen Salih
(Facebook / 22.04.2011)