Ancient History

  • 10 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • August 1, 2022

In an easy world, people would look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ask how do we move forward and how do we all get along. Unfortunately, there seems to be a significant sore spot that never seems to be dealt with well, and that is the past. Whether people are indigenous or connected to the land is truly the source of disagreement; without answering it, it’s very hard to move forward. We must understand how these 2 groups: the Palestinian Arabs and the Paaletine Jews, came to this land called Palestine and why it was even called Palestine in the first place.

I have searched heavily all over the net to find a good video that explains the history of this region which has also been called levant, Judea/Judah, and Israel at different times. To my disappointment, I have not found honest and unbiased historical content that does not conveniently invent or omit information. So I decided to make my own. So without due, here’s the history of Palestine.

So to start off, I decided to skip the stories of the Old Testament.

I will be skipping the era of our super awesome patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; let’s not forget even awesomier, Sara, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. Our audacious super duper prophet Moses and our spectacular ancient kings David and his son Solomon. This is my faith that I love, and  I don’t want to debate it, convert anyone or have someone try to convert me. I respect that people don’t associate religious books with exact history so I will stick to strictly historical and archeological facts with minimal reference to the bible.

So where is our story starting then?

Post king Solomon when the Israelites people were divided into 12 tribes. 10 of the tribes decided that they no longer wanted to follow Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, because he did not deal fairly with economic issues, and they created the northern Israel Kingdom, which is also known as Samaria. The Judah and Benjamin tribe, with some members of Levi the priest tribe stayed with Rehoboam and become Judah. Get it get it, Judah — Jews 😉

According to the Bible and backed by some archeology, the Israelites had a lot of wars with a Nation called the Philistines. It’s fair to say ancient Philistines have become the arch enemies of the Israelites for about 12 to 7 centuries BCE. At their prime, the region of Philistia was situated at the coast, the south eastern region of the Levant bordering the Kingdom of Israel from the North, the Egyptian desert from the south, and the kingdom of Judea from the east, comprising Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza. Where Gaza was often referred to as the Capital. Famous philistines include Goliath from the David and Goliath story and Delilah, the women Samson was in love with and betrayed him by cutting his hair.

Modern archeologists have discovered 10 sets of human remains from ancient philistines in Ashkelon. When their DNA was matched, they managed to discover that the philistines were most likely from Greece, Crete, Sardinia, and the Iberian peninsula. The Pottery they found used ancient greek script instead of the local Semitic. In other words, the words greek descended.

Around 754 BCE King Tiglath-Pileser III of the Assyrian empire destroyed the kingdom of Israel. Tigath Pieleser´s grandson has tried to destroy the Judah empire but has not succeeded, which left Judah as independent people for a few more centuries. What happened to the people of the Kingdom of Samaria is an open discussion. They did try to conquer their land back in 724 BCE, but after that, they were known as the people of the ten last tribes of Israel. Till today there are groups of people from regions of Ethiopia, Ghana, India, and even China that claim to be descended from some of those tribes. Yet many modern scholars agree that a lot of the Israelites have been absorbed into the southern kingdom, and many continued to be a separate population called the Samaritan.

BTW do you know who also has been destroyed at approximately the same time? The Philippines the have been conquered in 712 and fully destroyed by 604 BCE, according to historical and ecological data. They lost their identity and disappeared as a nation.

By then, the people of this region were only called Judeans considering that was the only kingdom that was left.

Well, that was until 597 BCE  when Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon conquered them, where he destroyed the first temple, that bastard. But the Jews got their revenge when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia in 538 BCE and gave the Jews the right to return and all their religious rights back.

Unfortunately, in 333 BCE  Macedonia which was led by one of the most famous historical figure, Alexander the Great conquered the region, and his general captured Judea after he passed away. The generals were divided into 2 kingdoms: the Seleucid and Ptolemaic, and for a short while Jodah became the border region for those 2 kingdoms. Fortunately, we ended up on the Seleucid side in 200 BCE. Why fortunately? Because they become too distracted and unfocused.

The story is that the leader at the time, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was such an asshole that he tried to convert all Jews to Hellenic religions and he picked a fight with the wrong Maccabees. Yes, that’s right, the Maccabees from Hacnukah with Matiyahu and Judah. If your Jewish schools only spent time celebrating the idea that we 8 days of light in the temple while playing with dreidels and eating big fat Jewish donuts, they kind of missed the point. Don’t get me wrong greasy donuts and light are cool, but you know what’s really cool! a bunch of badasses Maccabees beating the living hell out of the greeks and completely taking back Israel. That’s cool!

To be clear, we celebrate because  Hashmonen, the family name of the Maccabees, kicked some ass and were taking names, completely decolonizing Judah and becoming autonomous for almost 200 years. The Hasmonean kingdom, as it was called at the time, ran from 140 BCE to 37 CE. Unfortunately, the period of Hasmonean has shown that Jews are not immune for being dicks also. The future generation that descended from the second Maccabeen brother Simon Thassi successfully conquered backstabber and even did the big nono of forcefly converting their neighbors Etom. I think that’s probably why they stuck with the 8 days of lights story.

Eventually, Israeli has divided into 4 major movements. The Pharisees, which is the rabbinical movement we recognize till today, the Sadducees, which were the priests and the upper class of the Israelites, and the Essences, which were this kind of super-religious celibate hippies that were disgusted by any corruption with the other 2. And later on, came the Christians. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi at the time, influenced a new sect called Christians. Sorry crazy extremists who think that Jews killed Jesus, but before Rome made their own religion, the Christians were simply another sect of Jews where all the famous 12 apostles who wrote the new testament were all members of the tribe. The joke was that Christians have been so successful because finally, Jews were allowed to do some marketing.

Considering the unpleasant rule of the ashomean, it ended with a civil war with the Pharisees, where the new rulers of the world, the Romans, had to intervene in 64BCE. By that time, a new king called Herod the great took over Judea with the support of Rome and made sure to eliminate any trace of the Hashomoneans and the Sadducees. King Herod, with no question, kind of sucked, but at least he did Hollywood-style renovations on the Jewish temple making it one of the greatest structures of that time. Once Herod died, things went from bad to worst for the Jews.

The Jews had 3 major revolts against the Romans to try to repeat the Hashomnean’s success with a bitter ending.

The first was in 66 CE, which was called the first roman war, caused by anti Taxation protests and unfortunately, was lost because of bitter infighting between a new group called the zealots and the Sadducees. It’s finished with the bitter destruction of the second Jewish temple

The second one was the Kiktos war, also known as the second Roman war. The interesting tidbit on this one is that it had a more international aspect on it. Diaspora Jews from Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, and Mesopotamia were revolting together. Unfortunately, that also crashed.

The third, interestingly enough, was also called the second Jewish-Roman war, which was also famously named after its biggest hero, Bar Kochva. The Bar Kochva revolt is another event that Jewish schools often kind of miss the mark in connecting the dots for us.

The revolt was caused because the Romans and their leader at the time decided to rename Jerusalem and put a temple of Juniper where the Jewish temple was destroyed. Bar Kochva was such a beast he kept the revolt for 3 years again the mighty Roman army. The Jews have proven to be such a pain in the ass that the Romans, decided to completely evict all Jews out of Jerusalem and rename, Judea, Syria Palaestina after the ancient enemies of the Jews.

So for all the people I need to spell this, this is why the region was called Philistine. It’s very much part of the Jewish History of that land, and by mentioning that name, you simply say an  Alternative Name to Judah and Israel.

The Christian Jews avoided participating in the revolts and, by the end of the third revolt, had become a full-fledged separate group and clearly started their own story and changed the course of history.

While the Jews got kicked out of Jerusalem, Jews still maintained a majority in Israel till the 4th century. The Romans let them live in the Gallilee where they wrote the Mishna, which is an interpretation of The Torah.)

In the 3rd century, Emperor Constantine fully accepted Christianity and his mother Elena booked a donkey to Jerusalem and Bethlehem and built the Church of the Nativity and Church of the Holy Sepulchre

In 351 CE, Jews attempted another failed revolt against the Romans, yet they almost got their wish in 362  CE when the roman emperor Julian the Apostate actually attempted to build another Jewish temple but died a year later.

Eventually, The Romans, now fully Christian has become Byzantine Empire between 394 to 634. They let the Jews stay in Galilee, and with time, Jewish had more and more bans on their religious freedom. The Samaritans, the Israelite brothers and Sisters who claimed to be descended from the Northern kingdom, started a revolt but lost about a million people to near extinction. The Jews, on the other hand, did a bit better in 611; they helped King Khosrow II, the ruler of the Neo-Persian kingdom to capture Jerusalem successfully in 614. The Jewish monarchy in Yemen was rumored to help also. Could you believe the monarchy of Yemen at the time was Jewish?

Of course the fun never lasts too long. Somehow the son of Korosow (Kavad II) became BFF with the Byzantine Emperor and let him into massacre the Jews of the galilee; how nice!

During this period the Jews of Palestine wrote the Gemara, Jerusalem Talmud, and the Passover seder, Die Die Daiyenu.

Enter Islam with that the Caliph movement. The Arabs who are originally from Medina are officially becoming the new tough guys in the region, enjoying vast expansions throughout North Africa and Asia. The term Caliphate is often used during their conquering, which simply means Islamic state and includes any conquered region. Anyway, many Muslims do believe that Muhammed’s final day was in temple Mount, and naturally, the caliphate came to Palestine by  Muawiyah I. They conquered the city, built the Dome of the rock the Al Aska Mosque, and made Jewish and Christian life quite tough. During the 8th century, Jews had to wear a yellow star around their neck or hat,. Christians had to wear blue. I guess Hitler was not an original.  Yet Jews somehow managed to write the final text in the Hebrew Bible, The Masoretic text in the Gallilee.

In 1099 the Christian crusaders  came to town, took over Jerusalem, and massacred Muslims and Jews. As usual, Jews were offered the spectacular option of conversion or their lives, and somehow always made the choice of losing their lives. If that’s not dedication, I’m not sure what is. Thank g-d the ruler of Egypt and Syria Sultan Saladin was able to take Jerusalem back in 1178. Saladin’s doctor was the world-famous Rabbi Maimonides, so naturally, this Saladin Dude was cool. Jerusalem again was back to Christianity in 1229, then Tartars came in 1244 and kicked all Jews out of Jerusalem, then the Mongols in 1258, and then the Mamluks of Egypt finally got rid of the Mongols and the crusaders by 1302. Since the Mamluks took over, the Jews were not allowed to pray in the  Cave of the Patriarchs (the second-holiest site in Judaism). But otherwise, proportionally to previous conquerors, Jews have managed to stay slightly below second-class citizens. Honestly not bad. The Mamluks considered the region part of Syria at the time.

In 1523 a Herzl-type character named David Reubeni tried to persuade and gain tons of traction to create an uprising in Palestine. Unfortunately, the King of Portugal, who was key to the success of this movement, decided not to trust Reubeni and asked him to leave the country.

Enter the Turks of the Ottoman empire who conquered the region in 1516 and called it Ottoman Syria. Like Saladin, Suleiman the Magnificent’s personal physician was Moses Hamson. I guess even then, every leader needed a good Jewish Doctor. Like Saladin, Mr. Magnificent was really a cool dude. He invited Jews refugees from the Spanish inquisition to come to hang in the Ottoman Empire. His successor Selim II who was married to a Jewish woman, was even nicer and let prominent Jewish businesswomen become the leader of Tiberias, and the Jew finally felt some comfort in regions like  Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias, while regions in Europe were committing atrocities against Jews. In 1799 Napoleon, who temporarily occupied the region, was interested in giving Jew their autonomy in the region but soon after was defeated in Acre.

And that brings us to the modern history of the last 200 years.

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