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Eretz Yisrael and Historical Palestine

There are multiple governmental claims over the region traditionally known in the Jewish world as Eretz Yisrael, and traditionally known in the Islamic world and internationally as Palestine. Over the centuries, the terms “Israel” and “Palestine” have had competing Roman, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic political connotations, and even “exchanged hands” several times. Their etymologies and the sources of their boundaries are,




ארץ ישראל
Eretz Yisrael

Land of Israel

Eretz Yisrael is a Hebrew term meaning Land of [the people of] Jacob and is drawn from the Torah, the core Jewish holy books. Its boundaries were delineated in the Torah, playing an important part in Jewish religious law (halakha) over the millennia, and forming the approximate limits of the State of Israel.



The term Palestine originates from “Paleset” in Ancient Egyptian (referring to Sea Peoples) and “Palesheth” (פלשת) in Hebrew (referring to non-Jews in Eretz Yisrael). The Roman Empire administered various provinces sharing the name Palestina from the 2nd century onwards, following which Palestine gained its initial Islamic significance when the Prophet Muhamed (PBUH) journeyed to Jerusalem in the 7th century. From the Roman period to the present day, natural and non-natural boundaries tracing back to the halakhic definition of Eretz Yisrael have had a sustained role in Palestine’s identification.

Note: The term فلسطين التاريخية Historical Palestine is the State of Palestine’s term for the region, devoid of country divisions.

Natural features

The main natural features are the Mediterranean Sea to the west, and the Jordan River to the east. In addition, the south is bounded by Gaza and the largely uninhabited wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula. The north is dominated by the Sea of Galilee and Mount Hermon.