The name Israel derives from the patriarch Jacob (Yisrael, Isrāīl: Struggle with God) who was given that name after he successfully wrestled with the angel of the Lord, as per the Hebrew Bible (Tanach or Tanakh or the Jewish Bible or the Old Testament). As per verse 28 of Chapter 32 of Genesis of the Old Testament: “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Jacob was the son of Issac (and Rebecca), who was the son of Abraham (and Sarah), the founder of Judaism and father of the Jewish race. Abraham (Abram), his son Yitshak (Isaac), and grandson Jacob (Israel), are referred to as the patriarchs of the Israelites. They all lived in the Land of Canaan that later came to be known as the Land of Israel. The three patriarchs and their wives are buried in the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Ma’arat HaMachpela) in Hebron (Old Testament: Genesis, Chapter 23).
Jacob with his 12 sons lived in Canaan. The 12 sons became the ancestors of the Israelis. They were also named as the Twelve Tribes of Israel or the Children of Israel. The root of the term Jew is Yehuda (Judah), one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Famine in Canaan forced Jacob and sons to migrate to Egypt. In the famous Exodus, Moses, a great-great grandson of Jacob, led the Israelis back into Canaan.
The Hebrews (Israelites, Jews) had been in the area of and around the current Israel since the second millennium BCE. Hebrew kingdoms existed under Joshua, followed by King David and his descendants. Jews were the main settled population of Judea (Palestine) for over 1600 years. As per the Torah, God promised the land to the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people in the early 2nd millennium BCE. The first Kingdom of Israel was established in the 11th century BCE. The name Israel first appears in the Merneptah Stele or the Israel Stelestele (inscription) of the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah of 1209 BCE.
The territory of Israel was known by various names through the centuries: Canaan, Judea, Samaria, Southern Syria, Syria Palaestina, Kingdom of Jerusalem, Palestine, and so on. The area of and around the current Israel can be referred to as Judea or Palestine both for brevity and for historical reasons. Rome invaded Judea and took its effective control in the first century CE. In order to de-Judaize it, the Romans renamed it after the Philistines as Palestine. The Philistines were an Aegean people closely related to the Greeks (and not to the Arabs), who inhabited a narrow coastal strip on the Mediterranean, including Gaza. As per Wafa Sultan, (a) the root of the word “Philistine” is a Hebrew word “plisha” which means “invader”, as the concerned people had invaded that part and settled on it; (b) Arabs can’t pronounce “P”, so why would they name themselves that way: even now Palestinian Arabs pronounce themselves as “Falestinians”. Since 1920 the whole region was known as Mandate Palestine or Palestine (under the British Mandate) until the UN partition plan, followed by the establishment of Israel in 1948. It is worth noting that there was no nation called Palestine. There is nothing like Palestinian nationality or Palestinian language. The word “Palestine” was used to refer only to an area, and NOT to a country or nation.
Several Arab leaders and academicians have unambiguously stated that there was and is no such country as Palestine. However, the name has since (since the creation of Israel in 1948) been used politically to create a false impression that Palestine was a nation, parts of which were unjustly given to Israel, and that the “Palestinians” as “original” inhabitants have been denied their rights. This is what Zuheir Muhsin, late Military Department head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) himself said: “Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel…”
Jerusalem & the Temple Mount
King David (1050-970 BCE) established the city of Jerusalem as the capital of the whole Land of Israel; and for over 3,000 years it has been the Jewish capital. In the Hebrew or Jewish Bible (Tanakh), Jerusalem is mentioned over 600 times and Zion (meaning Jerusalem or the Land of Israel) over 150 times.
King David’s son King Soloman constructed the First Temple (also called Soloman’s Temple) at Mount Moriah (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem in 970 BCE, popularly known as the Temple Mount (Beit HaMikdash in Hebrew). A tradition related to Mount Moriah is the binding of Isaac for sacrifice by his father Abraham.
After the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Second Temple at the same site was built in 538-41 BCE, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the holiest site for the Jews. It is also a holy site for the Christians on account of close association of Jesus Christ with the Mount.
Caliph Abd el-Malik built Dome of the Rock in 691-692 CE on the site of the First and Second Temples (Temple Mount) of Jews. Al Aqsa Mosque was built next to the Dome of the Rock in 714 CE. Muslims believe the location of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque to be the site of Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey to heavens and back. The Night Journey is mentioned in the Quran, though Quran does not specify the location as Temple Mount or Jerusalem; the Quran simply says in sura Al-'Isra' (The Night Journey) 17.1: “Exalted is He who took His Servant (Prophet Muhammad) by night from al-Masjid al-Haram [of Mecca] to al-Masjid al-Aqsa [the furthest place of worship], whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs…” There is no evidence to show that Prophet Mohammad ever came to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Quran. Temple Mount is like the so-called Babri Masjid of India which was built at the site of the destroyed Hindu temple, as decisively proven in the scientific archaeological findings submitted to the court by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Under the Jordanian rule Jewish holy sites were desecrated and the Jews were denied access to their places of worship. However, with Jerusalem under the Israeli rule, all Muslim and Christian sites have been preserved and made accessible to people of all faiths. Israel has been liberal enough to even allow the Arab Waqf to control the Temple Mount. Yet, the Arab Waqf does not allow the Jews to pray at the Temple Mount! Jews only pray at the Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall or Kotel) of the Temple Mount.
Rajnikant Puranik (To be concluded)