I just got in from a family gathering. During the afternoon, the adults were talking about this latest battle between Israel and Palestine. Towards the end of the heated discussion; my nephew asked me how come Israel gets to kill so many kids and nobody else is helping them?

This is the message the world is sending to the children of the world as long as it approves of what has happened.

He then asked me is Israel better than Palestine. He told me that kids at his school told him the reason Israel can do what it wants is because God loves them better than anyone else.

Honestly, I didn't know what to say and be gentle about it. So, I've decided to come to this list and ask everyone; is Israel better than anyone else; in this case Palestine? Does God really love Israeli better
than anyone else? Remember; I've got to keep this on an 8 year old's level of conversation.

How come Israel gets to have weapons of mass destruction; ie nuclear warheads and no one else in the Middle East gets to have them? How come they get to have and use a huge Air Force and tanks against a country that doesn't have one tank or jet fighter?

How come Israel gets as many weapons as they want; and they get to block all weapons into Palestine?

What makes Israelis more important or better than Palestinians?

My nephew asked me when did this fight start? So, I'm asking this group, when did this war start? At what
date did the first stone get thrown?

He asked how come Israel got to come into Palestine and steal all their stuff and not have to give it back?

What do I tell him?

So, I'm asking; when does Palestine get their stuff back?

Map attached 1945 Palestine....

For those who don't think Palestinians don't get to have restitution for the things Israel has taken from Palestinians; why not?

What exempts Israel from rule of law?

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I teach my son to deal with everyone as equals, to always be fair, to have compassion and try to help people. If I had the answers to peace in the region I would tell more people than my son.

As for what you wrote about the doctor whose daughters were tragically and crimally killed- in general, we have a view of our own group as three dimensional and other groups as one dimensional. So you view the Israeli army as either incredibly sophisticated/advanced or evil in its intentions (i.e. they knew exactly which house they were bombing and what they were doing). As someone who views the IDF in a more complex way, I make an assumption that some 20 year old fired at a building because he was fired on from the building, that no information on what building to not shoot at reached him (you would be amazed at the amount of chaos and incompetence in the Israeli army) or all the buildings look the same or some other excuse. You and I and the poor family will never know which version is the truth. I will likely believe in the goodness of Israelis and others will likely believe that they are evil with evil intentions.

Do I think Israelis have a general disregard for Palestinian life? Absoloutely. I know that we have dehumanized each other to such a degree that to most Israelis don't care what happens to Gazans and other Palestinians. That is what happens (very sadly) in conflict. The same is true on the Palestinian side with how they view Israelis. And I would also add that as each side escalates, we further dehumanize each other which allows for further escalation. In the 80s there were protest songs in Israel against soldiers beating up Palestinians, today you barely hear anyone say anything. The Palestinians are right, we don't care if they live or die. That is another aspect of the tragedy.
Then what do you teach your son to do to stop what Israel and Palestine hasn't been able to stop to this point?
How can anyone not have judgements about this war? Anyone who can think is going to judge.

I understand Israel's position. Do you understand what this looks like to someone looking from the outside? There is a younger generation of Americans who ask why we support and finance Israel. What do we tell them? It's an honest question. My nephew's question was an honest question asked by an 8 year old who was told by some classmates God loves Israel better than anyone else. You are judging my nephew's and my intention asking the question.

If you son asked you why Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish's daughters were killed, what are you going to tell him? Dr. Abuelaish called his Israeli friends days before when a tank showed up and IDF moved them off. What changed in 2 days? I was in the military. You know Israel intelligence knows who lives where. What happened to change the Dr's status in a few days. Why didn't IDF put the Dr's house off limits? They knew he was no threat to Israel.,0,1925825.s...

Please tell me why IDF doesn't treat all the other victims of tank attacks as they treated Dr Abuelaish and his family? How many other families did IDF fly into Tel Aviv?

I didn't ask to debate Corey. I asked a question to get understanding.
Hi Ron, perhaps the best answer is the Israelis who were killed by friendly fire ... most of the Israeli war casualties. One couls ask the same questions you ask about them. Clearly Israel had no intent to kill its own. That, Ron, is war, and why we hate it so much. The spontaneous collection of help for the Gazan people in Israel, that started in Sderot, of all places, probably didn't make it to your newspapers ... and perhaps that's one of the problems. It has spread all over Israel with collection points in Haifa, Tel Aviv etc. People in Israel may have supported the stopping of the missiles, but would have been overjoyed if not a single civilian had died ... and if Hamas fighters weren't illegally using civilians as shields, few would have. Perhaps this is their way to demonstrate the truth of that.

Let's assume that anybody who doesn't make an ideology of hatred and killing wants peace. It may make these discussions easier.
I didn't ask the questions to debate; I asked them for understanding. I already know the dynamic of people who hate each other. I didn't ask with pre-judgement here; but clearly you are judging my motivates instead of asking me what they are.

How can anyone not have judgements about this war? Anyone who can think is going to evaluate. Anyone who evaluates is going to come to a judgement. The point is can they continue to gather information to change the judgement. That's what I was looking for. Why does that offend you?

What do you teach your son to do to stop what Israel and Palestine hasn't been able to stop to this point? Are you teaching your son what your father's generation taught you? That's NO criticism. Life changes... some people change with it; some don't. That's how people can hate each other for 1000's of years.

I understand Israel's position. Do you understand what this looks like to someone looking from the outside? There is a younger generation of Americans who ask why we support and finance Israel. What do we tell them? It's an honest question. It's in Israel's best interest for the next generation of Americans to support Israel as this generation has. You blowing them off is not going to help Israel. My nephew's question was an honest question asked by an 8 year old who was told by some classmates God chooses Israel over everyone else. You are judging my nephew's and my intention asking the question.

If you son asked you why Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish's daughters were killed, what are you going to tell him? Dr. Abuelaish called his Israeli friends days before when a tank showed up and IDF moved them off. What changed in 2 days? I was in the military. I know, you know Israel intelligence knows who lives where. What happened to change the Dr's status in a few days. Why didn't IDF put the Dr's house off limits? They knew he was no threat to Israel. They'd verified that days earlier.,0,1925825.s...

I didn't ask to debate Corey. I asked a question to get understanding. Help me understand; or not, your choice.
I truly think it's important to discuss the other points. There are people who are emotionally passionate about this war, this conflict that haven't a clue what it really is about.
It's going to take people of faith, hope and good will working to educate and lead by example.
I'm shocked actually that some people believe that Palestine didn't exist before the League of Nations. I am beyond shocked that people who support Israel so passionately think it didn't exist before 1945.

If not education, discussions, what can bring people together in peace rather than war?
I think education and getting people together is the best path to peace.
Israel has a duty not to be a Jewish state rather a state of its citizens.

The situation where Israelis see themselves as the state of all Jews make Israel democracy kind of racist as it make non-Jewish citizens considered out of the consensus and it proved that they get less resources then the Jews and the society as a whole has racist behavior as disabling Arabs from buying property as equal citizens.
As you know; I have said many many many times Israel and Palestine both have a right to exist. Jews can exist in Israel of course. Are you asking me if I support eliminating or exterminating anyone not Jewish from Israel? No. I don't think Israel as a State should exterminate Arabs. I ask you why you compare Israel to Arab States?

Did you google " children of Israel" as we discussed earlier today? Are you now clear Israel existed before 1945? Do you now know that Palestine existed 2000 years before you thought it did?

You don't understand my pain. I'm not angry. And yes, I am very frustrated. More than 1200 people died in the last 3 weeks. Israel dropped bombs near American friends of mine who were visiting Bethelem and then other spots in the Holy Land. I asked you earlier why Israel chose the period when there would be a lot of tourists in the Holy Land for Christmas? Why then?

Did I read you correctly when said the problem would be solved if the Palestinians just moved out of Palestine. Now I read you don't want an Israel State; you want a Jewish State.

THAT explains much. At least you now admit you want a pure Jewish State.

So; that leads me to ask you what it means to you to be a Jewish State in Israel. You say Israel never existed before 1945. You say the Torah isn't a true record of God's word. You wrote Palestine is a creation of the League of Nations created in the early 20th Century. Where did your get your history of Israel, Palestine, Judism education?

What does a Jewish State of Israel look like to you now that you acknowledge that is what you actually want?
What is your sense of the history of Israel and Palestine now?
For those who claim tehy do not know history and who regurgitate long discredited myths, I am (at the risk of upsetting my publisher vis-a-vis copy right issues) include here Chapter 2 title People and the Land from my book Sharing the Land of Canaan. Hope you read it to knwo what Palestine and Palestinians are:

The land of Canaan was never "a land without a people for a people without a land" as was articulated by some early Zionists. To understand the conflict and thus begin to articulate a solution we must begin by understanding these people and their origins. The understanding of people also helps us understand their inter-connectedness, that is intentionally or unintentionally hidden which keeps us segregated and thinking tribally. The evolution of these civilizations and their relationships to each other and to outside forces reveal that many perceptions and views of this history currently expressed for political purposes simply have no basis in fact. Understanding the history of the people and the land of Canaan is key to shaping a future of peace for all its current and displaced inhabitants. For example, a simple examination of history shows that Canaanitic groups developed the first alphabet and evolved related language from the original Western Semitic language of Old Aramaic and Syriac to the new and thriving languages of Arabic and Hebrew. This organic connection is easily forgotten and many times dismissed by those who have a stake in maintaining that there is a clash of Arabic and Hebrew cultures and civilizations.

Ancient People and Culture

Archeological evidence from the Fertile Crescent showed that around 5000-6000 BCE nomadic hunter-gatherers started to raise crops and to domesticate animals. This transition happened fairly rapidly, and once established had a dramatic impact on the human populations. The presence of a predictable food source allowed small tribes to settle down and increase their population dramatically. The increased population and human contact in turn led to the need for rules that govern human behavior and leadership; hence evolved city states. Once humans were dependent on settled land for their sustenance there was the obvious impetus to raid and acquire more land and resources to add to the city-state. Regional conflicts over resources ensued, alliances between different city-states and tribes formed, and finally larger kingdoms and empires coalesced. The Canaanitic civilization emerged as the most dominant for the Western part of the Fertile Crescent while the Sumerian dominated the East.

Canaanites of the Eastern Mediterranean region spoke Semitic languages and many people in this region still do. One must distinguish here between languages/language groups and ethnicity. English is spoken by people of varied ethnicity, many of whose descendants may have spoken other languages in the past, even languages not in the same group as English (e.g. people in the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand). English is a language belonging to the Anglo-Saxon group of languages in the same way as Arabic and Hebrew belong to Semitic groups of languages. Strictly speaking, "Semitic" is not an ethnicity but a language group and thus "Semites" merely refers to people who speak Semitic languages and not an ethnic or religious group (see Chapter 6 for discussion of "anti-Semitism").

Semitic languages included Phoenician, Aramaic, Arabic (Aramaic modified by Nabatean), Moabite Phoenician, Hebrew (modified Aramaic), Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian. By far, the most dominant of the early Semitic languages was Aramaic, which became the most commonly used language in that whole area during the first millennium BCE (Before the Common Era). The word Aramaic refers to Aram by tradition son of Shem (Sam) from which the Aramaic word She-maa-yaa (Semitic) is derived. The land in which Shem/Semitic people lived including current day Syria, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, and Jordan is known traditionally as Bilad Al-Sham or the land of Shem. An inhabitant of this area is referred to in Arabic as "Shami", or hailing from Bilad Al-Sham.

A Cultural Admixture

The original proto-Aramaic language had two major dialectical descendents: Western or also referred to as Palestinian Aramaic spoken by people during Jesus’ time and Eastern or Syrian Aramaic as still spoken today by members of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Iraq and Syria. The characters of Aramaic were the precursor of both the Arabic and Hebrew alphabets (see Figure 1). The spoken language continued to change and expand and evolved into the classic dominant Western Semitic forms by 2000 BCE. Even as new tongues arrived, the area kept its Semitic languages first dominated by Aramaic, and later dominated by Arabic and now a modernized Hebrew.

Abstract or symbolic writing developed from pictorial writing in Sumerian cultures in Mesopotamia among early Eastern Semitic language. This writing used stylized cuneiform based on simplified pictorials of the objects or living things (this was later continued in most Asian writings and their evolution). However, some more recent studies suggest Egyptians may also have independently developed symbolic writings. The alphabets we use today (both Western and Semitic languages) were developed by the Phoenician Canaanites shortly after those early successes in Mesopotamia and Egypt. A hybridization of a simplistic design of about two dozen characters by using the cuneiform structure from Mesopotamia combined with the Sinaitic/Egyptian approach yielded the first alphabet as exemplified by the Ugarit tablets. This Phoenician alphabet formed the basis for all future Semitic and western alphabets (see Figure 1).

The mixture of languages present in Canaan three to five thousand years ago and the evolution of the Alphabet clearly indicate that this land was at the crossroads of ancient civilizations. It is well known that accelerated cultural developments occur with hybridization of powerful civilizations, languages, inventions, and thoughts. This is the secret to the success of not only the hybrid alphabet of the Phoenicians but also the philosophies and religions that developed in the area. Each culture and each people had their unique strengths and weaknesses. Great leaps in civilizations occurred by admixture of languages and cultures. The magnificent people of this area not only left us their descendents but they also left us great achievements and an imprint that still shapes all of us today.

The Jebusites, or Canaanites, are a good example of this cultural blending. Around 3,000 BCE they dwelt in Jebus, which later became known as Ur-Salem (from which Yerushalaym, and Jerusalem are derived). Ur-Salem (Jerusalem) is a Canaanite word meaning, the city of Salem, an ancient God-King of the Jebusite clan. The name Salem is Shalem in some Aramaic dialects and Ur-Salem thus became Jerusalem/Urhshalem/Yerushalaym. Similarly while Arabs and Jews think Bethlehem means house of bread or meat respectively, it is more accurately named after the house of Laham, which was the Canaanite god of the southern hills.

The temple of Solomon, like the Aqsa mosque, was probably built on a sacred Jebusite location. Historically, religious leaders built their new religious temples on sacred ground so that they could adapt the locals to the new religion. Similarly, the Kaaba in Mecca was constructed in the same place that the ancient Pagans worshipped. Descendents of the Jebusites continued to live in Jerusalem, some accepting new religions as they came along, some intermarrying with new immigrants, and some migrating out and later coming back under new regimes. But the Jebusite imprint on Ur-Salem would be permanent. Without the Jebusites, Jerusalem may not have existed and certainly Jerusalem would be a very different city today without its Jebusite roots.

The Nabateans

Nabateans is another kingdom that flourished in ancient times in the Southern parts of Canaan and left an indelible mark on future generations. Few today know about this group and its history seems to have been suppressed. A good summary of their history can be found in Nelson Glueck's "Deities and Dolphins: the Story of the Nabataeans" 1. Nabateans prospered on farming and trading in the Southern part of the land of Canaan. They traded everything from spices and cloths to animals and minerals. Their Kingdom prospered between 300 BCE and 100-150 CE. During the 3rd century BCE, the Nabateans built their first four cities in Al-Naqab (Negev) along the path of the trade route that crossed the desert to what is today Gaza: Avdat, Shivta, Halutza and Nitzana. The tribes of Saba were the ones who first settled in what later became Beer Saba' in Arabic or Beersheva in Hebrew (Beer means well in both languages). Their capital Petra, now in Southern Jordan, is a marvel of human engineering. At the peak of their power, Petra must have accommodated 60,000 people (about 300 BCE) and the area under their control stretched from what is now northern Saudi Arabia to southern Syria (Batsr or Basra was one of their major cities). The port city of "Elath" (Eilat) in Southern Palestine (now Israel) is Arabic Nabatean and its name derives from Al-Latt (a pagan Arabic goddess mentioned in the Qur'an).
Nabateans are also mentioned in connection with new testament events: King Herod spurns the daughter of the Arab - Nabatean king Aretas (al-Harith; Artas is now a locality near Bethlehem), Queen Zenobia (Zannuba, Zaynab in classic Arabic), Odenatus ('Udhayna(t)'), and Vaballatus or Wahbullatt; (again from Al-Latt). It is also thought that John the Baptist was Nabatean. Some went as far as suggesting that the Romans executed him fearing a Hebrew-Arab anti-Roman alliance.
Nabatean farming techniques were so advanced and were critical in establishing trade routes across the deserts. Scholars believe it was the first true farming of desert areas as they constructed dams in dry Wadi systems to capture flash flooding. During Roman times, the Nabateans settled in Southern Palestine actually "made the desert bloom" and their techniques are still practiced by some of their descendents among the current Palestinians around Hebron and Beer EsSabe' (Beersheva).
The Nabateans evolved their own Semitic Arabic dialect from proto-Aramaic by the fourth century CE. Evolution of the Aramaic script by Nabateans was the first recorded Arabic writing using an adaptation of a version of the Aramaic alphabet and phonetics that was dominant in that era 2. Its further evolution led to the standard representation of Classical Arabic 3. The Imrulqay's inscription in Nabatean script is the earliest recognizable classic Arabic script. The dots that distinguish the letters b-n-t-y-th, z-r, s-sh, etc. and the strokes for short vowels (damma, kasra, fatha) were added later when Islam was spreading and the Quran was being transcribed.

At Beidha, fifteen minutes to the north of the major Nebatean city of Petra, there are the excavated remains of a village dated to 6,500 BCE when humankind was first making the transition from small bands of hunter-gatherers to settled villagers. Descendents of those inhabitants still live in the surrounding villages and constructed magnificent temples and later churches and mosques that dot the landscape in Jordan. Nabatea became a prosperous province under Roman rule and then was conquered by the Byzantines who ruled it for almost 4 centuries (from 300 to 634 CE). The inhabitants converted to Christianity. They built some of the first examples of churches including beautifully decorated ones at Madaba, Siyaghah, Ma'in, Amman Citadel, Jerash, Rihab, Umm el-Jimal, Umm Qais, Tabaqat Fahl, Dhiban and Umm er-Risas. The art work in the temples, churches, and later mosques in these areas testify to the mixture of ancient symbolism and emphasis on nature in early Nabatean art. Many of the beautiful churches were plundered during the Persian attacks between 614-629 CE.

Nabatean were receptive to the advent of Judaism, Christianity and finally Islam in the sixth century. Most have since converted to Islam, but a Christian population remained especially around Madaba and Karak (now in Jordan) and around Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala (now in Palestine). The movement by inhabitants between these two areas of Nabatea was recorded as late as the 17th century (families in Beit Sahour came from the South and East parts of Nabatea and families in Karak came from the Naqab or Southern Palestine). This suggests a cohesiveness of the community even into the 17th century and even while they practiced Christianity and Islam. To this day, Nabatean farming and trading methods continue and include methods to build wells and dams in arid regions, knowledge of local fauna and flora, goat and sheep husbandry, and, even while restricted, moving caravans of donkeys and camels across the barren hills from one area to another. Over forty of their places of residence (housing some 15,000 people) are on the list of "unrecognized" villages in the state of Israel.

Cultural and Religious Symbiosis in Canaan

In the north of the Land of Canaan, the Phoenician Empire developed and spread throughout the Mediterranean basin 4. Phoenicians were the original sea traders, taking their ships around ports in the Mediterranean where they bought and sold from many inhabitants, including the Nabateans. Phoenicians spoke a stock of old Semitic tongue closely allied to East Semitic (Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian), and more distant from but still related to Western Semitic (Arabic/Aramaic).
In the land of Canaan the Philistines lived around Gaza and Ashkelon, the Jebusites around Jerusalem, the Hebrews around Hebron and Nablus/Shekhem, the Nabateans lived in Northern Saudi Arabia to Southern Jordan and Southern Palestine, and the Phoenicians in the North around the Galilee, Mt. Carmel and into Lebanon and established outposts throughout the Mediterranean. All these groups occasionally fought but mostly traded and collaborated and their histories are intertwined 5. The abundance of resources (food) and moderate climate helped reduce tensions and inter-tribal conflicts. Archeology provides ample evidence of the endurance of the a prosperous and relatively peaceful Canaanitic civilization coexisting with nearby civilizations 6.

The Jewish religion and history is covered at length in other books and I could not do justice to it trying to summarize a rich and influential history. But I do want to make brief comments. The culture best recognized in the Kingdoms of David and Solomon, was, like the Nabateans and Jebusites coexisting with them a culture of native Canaanites who evolved and modified the language and the philosophies (religion) as they evolved in the context of a rich admixture of civilizations in this Fertile Crescent. This maybe hard to glean from some ideologically driven archeological studies which seem intent on proving the historicity of the Bible text. For example, the work of Israeli general and amateur archeologist Yigal Yadin did not withstand later rigorous archeological research. Israeli and other archeologists, not bonded to religious dogma, began to examine the history based on physical evidence. Significant archeological advances agree with those who suggest that the Bible and the Torah were not to be taken literally or as historically accurate texts but as myths and metaphors for our human connection to the spirit world 7. For example, documents from Roman and local sources studied by these authors refute the idea of any large-scale removal of Jews from Palestine following the Jewish revolt in 70 ACE. They argue that the revolt was put down, but there is no evidence for large displaced communities as a result.

Historical reconstruction based on archeological evidence suggest that some Western Semitic Canaanites began to identify themselves as belonging to a unique religion worshipping the highest of Canaanitic gods, (El or in another case YHWH). They were among many other peoples with other beliefs in this area. El is the same God worshipped by a tribe of Semites called the 'Abiru or Habiru (Hebrews). The root of this word are the letters 'ein, be, ra; roughly 'abr which relates to crossing over and travels. These Habirus are mentioned in both Egyptian and Mesopotamian sources. Their ancient worship of El is enshrined in many of the names like IsraEl (from Yisra' to struggle with or Yasra, to persist), IshmaEl/IsmaEl (from yisma'/yishma', heard by God/El), and DaniEl, and MichaEl (he who is like El). It is the root of the words for Aramaic (Aalah, Aaloh) and later evolving into the Hebrew (Eleim, Elohim), and Arabic (Allah). The word Aalah/Allah is a combination of the definitive article AL and Ilah or Allah (meaning God or El in all these languages).

Karen Armstrong examined the Bible by simple textual analysis and concluded that El was the tribal God for a fairly uniform people, the 'Abiru (Habiru), while a more approachable God, Yahweh/YHWH, united many different ethnic groups 8. The latter tradition was adopted by some tribes of related wanderers or nomadic tribes called 'Arab (the Arabs, also derived from the same language root). These Arabs called God by the name Allah (root El and Elah). That is the name they used as they also adopted Christianity and later Islam. But even at the height of worship of El/Allah or Yahweh in the millennia before Christianity and Islam, locals who spoke Aramaic and its derived written languages of Hebrew and Arabic maintained Canaanitic religious and social traditions. “Prophets like Moses preached the lofty religion of Yahweh, but most of the people wanted the older rituals with their holistic vision of unity among the gods, nature and mankind" 9. But regardless of religious persuasions and the use by all rulers of religion to justify their rule, a prosperous community of Canaanitic people continued to exist even as its names and areas of authorities changed (Nabatea, Judea, Samaria, Jebus/Yebus, Filistine etc).

Some argue that fundamentalist followers of any religion or a social phenomena like to emphasize its novelty, freshness, and uniqueness. Deeper examination of history shows more of a mosaic and even a blending of cultures and religions and languages that actually makes us more refreshingly hopeful. As stated above the first Hebrews worshiped only one of the Canaanitic gods “El.” Jesus was a practicing Jew who came not to negate but to complement the old scriptures. The Quran clearly states that all its principles were revealed to older prophets before Mohammed. Many cities under the control of a new religion retained their older names and also their traditions and myths. Thus, Bethlehem (Arabic and Hebrew usage Beit Lahem) actually means in the old Canaanitic tongue the House of Laham/Lahmu (A Canaanitic god worshipped by the Nabateans). It is believed that the site of the Church of Nativity, where Jesus is believed to have been born, sits on ruins of a Canaanitic temple of Lahmu.

A "Melting-Pot" Origin of Native People

Other people settled in the area and intermarried with Canaanites. The Egyptians conquered this area frequently, and ruled the land from about 2500 to 1700 BCE, as well as 1550 to 1200 BCE. The Hyksos invaded and ruled from 1710 to 1550 BCE. The Hittites invaded and ruled from 1350 to 1290 BCE. The Philistines (Aegean origin) ruled from 1250 to 711 BCE. Other people lived or ruled in Palestine including Edomites, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Armenians.
While evolving variations of ancient philosophical and religious beliefs, tribes and kingdoms variously competed and cooperated. The kingdom of Judah lasted 341 years (927-586 BCE) while Israel lasted even a shorter 205 years (927 - 722 BCE). But when the Romans barred some Jews from Jerusalem in the first century CE, these Jewish Canaanites continued to live with other Canaanites in other parts of Palestine. Many also converted to Christianity and later Islam. Those remaining developed the major rabbinical school that now constitutes the bulk of Rabbinical Judaism (developed in Safad in Northern Palestine). This Judaism was partially influenced in its philosophy by Rabbis being barred from Jerusalem and by the pressures of new religious beliefs and political realities. At the time, this sect of Judaism was in competition with other Jewish religious sects including Karaitism. Karaitism, Rabbinical Judaism, cults of Yahweh, and other Canaanitic religions continued in Palestine. Conversions, intermarriage, and religious plurality were not uncommon. Mulhall commented:
The Bible states that not only Amorites but other ethnic groups lived in Canaan in Joshua's era. He did not conquer all of them. Judges 1 states that Hebrews enslaved many natives rather than expel or kill them. Judges 3:5-6 also relates: 'The Israelites lived among the Canaanites and Hittites and Amorites, the Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites; they married the daughters of these peoples, gave their own daughters in marriage to their sons, and served their gods.' According to this, extensive genetic, religious and cultural blending occurred. Large ethnic groups remained free. Some, including Hittites and Edomites, were noted in David's reign, more than two hundred years later. David vastly extended Hebrew rule by both assimilation and conquest within Canaan. This shows how incomplete Hebrew rule was when he began to reign about 1000 B.C. The Philistines, in Canaan's central and southern coastal area, became David's vassals but kept their identity until the second century B.C. or later 10.

Similarly, the success of Christianity and Islam did not involve mass migration of people but rather by religious conversion 11. Today’s Egyptians for example, are clearly descendants mostly from the Egyptians of the Pharaonic era. A small minority of them retained the evolved Pharaonic language called Qubti (Coptic) spoken by Egyptian Christians. The predominantly Aramaic and Hebrew speaking Canaanitic population of Palestine became predominantly Christian by the fifth century CE and predominantly Moslem by the 8th century, but remained ethnically largely Western Canaanitic 12.


The area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean has had a history of 6000 years of civilization. For a large portion of its history it was simply the Southern part of the Land of Canaan. For 2000 years, it was called Palestine. As noted above, changing rulers and advent of certain political or religious ideologies was always met by an adapting native inhabitants. These people (known to the world as Palestinians) absorbed the religions and various philosophies and changed their allegiances to survive in an ever amorphous world. This world, sometimes violent, sometimes symbiotic was always there. The latest chapter in the native history is now well known. Professor Edward Said summarized it thus:

Palestine became a predominately Arab and Islamic country by the end of the seventh century. Almost immediately thereafter its boundaries and its characteristics - including its name in Arabic, Filastin - became known to the entire Islamic world, as much for its fertility and beauty as for its religious significance...In 1516, Palestine became a province of the Ottoman Empire, but this made it no less fertile, no less Arab or Islamic 13

Any examination of folklore and of customs of the people of Palestine will reveal fascinating stories and facts about the ancient heritage of this society. Just as one example, we may cite costumes. Each district and town in Palestine has its own traditional cloth and dress designs. Palestinian women's cloths in the Jerusalem area featured grapes; grapes were grown in the area for over 3,000 years and are symbols used in Jebusite culture referring to abundance and pleasure. Trees and flowers are more common in Northern Palestine and are used in designs of bed covers and curtains as well as dresses. These designs are also shared with Syria and Turkey. Cedars are found in the dresses of Palestinians in the Jalil (Galilee) region of Northern Palestine and are common Phoenician symbols (also in Lebanon). Simplistic designs interpreted as either palm leaves or wheat spikes are found in dresses from the Ramallah region. One recalls the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem when the locals placed palm leaves in his path. Easter is celebrated among Christian Palestinians with decorated Palm leaves. Stars are common in Palestinian dresses from several districts (stars were objects of worship of even the Cro-Magnon and Stone Age humans in Palestine).

The influence of the 20th century on Palestinian costumes and traditional clothes has been dramatic. The Palestine Costume Archives put this way on its web page:

At the beginning of the 20th century Palestinian costume could be classified by specific region, tribe or community. Of the three major historical classifications of nomadic Bedouin costume, Fellahin village dress and urban dress, very little definition remains. Today costume styles are best classified as refugee camp styles, Palestinian Territories styles and Bedouin costume. Only among the Bedouin does costume still retain elements of its traditional pre-1948 role. The styles of clothing worn today in the Palestinian Territories and in the refugee camps include Western dress and Islamic modesty dress as well as various forms of the so-called "traditional" embroidered dresses. What is now identified as "traditional" is a much simpler garment in terms of construction and decoration 14.

The challenge of Zionism was to create a Jewish state in a land already inhabited by natives who mostly practiced Islam and Christianity. Early Zionist understood the challenge and contrary to their public pronouncements about "a land without a people for a people without a land" came to see that the natives posed an obstacle to their visions. As a pioneer of the Zionist movement, Ahad Ha-Am visited the land in 1891 and then wrote an essay titled “Truth from the Land of Palestine” in which he states:

We abroad are used to believing that Erez Israel is now almost totally desolate, a desert that is not sowed, and that anyone who wishes to purchase land there may come and purchase as much as he desires. But in truth this is not the case. Throughout the country it is difficult to find field that are not sowed. Only sand dunes and stony mountains that are not fit to grow anything but fruit trees – and this only after hard labor and great expense of clearing and reclamation- only these are not cultivated 15.

As we will see in Chapter 4, these natives were dispossessed and this resulted in the bulk of the Palestinian refugee population. How to coexist with human rights for all is the question that will then be addressed.

While use of terms like Israel and Palestine for this piece of land may provoke anxiety and fear among members of one group or another, the use of a name the "land of Canaan" maybe appropriate here until these fears subside. The Land of Canaan was and is inhabited by Canaanitic people with some intermingling with other groups. The Semitic speaking people continued to live, collaborate, and prosper in this area as pluralistic multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities with much less violence than is portrayed in many books and publications. This gives us optimism for the future and a vision of peace based on coexistence. For if people lived and traded together for thousands of years before the era of international cooperation and a global economy, there is no reason to insist that separation and narrow nationalism in this small area can work today.

Notes to Chapter 2

1. Good summaries are found in Nelson Glueck's, Deities and Dolphins: the Story of the Nabataeans, (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc., 1965), and Philip C. Hammond's The Nabataeans: their History, Culture & Archaeology (Philadelphia: Coronet Books 1973).
2. Jean Starcky, The Nabateans: A Historical Sketch in The Biblical Archaeologist, Volume XVIII, December 1955.
3. Beatrice Gruendler, Development of the Arabic Scripts: From the Nabatean Era to the First Islamic Century according to Dated Texts (Otterup: Scholars Press, 1993).
4. Harden, Donald, The Phoenicians, (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962).
5. Walter E. Rast, Through the Ages in Palestinian Archaeology, (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992).
6. Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 488pp.
7. See, for instance, Israel Finkelstein, and Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York: The Free Press, 2001); A.D. Marcus, The View from Nebo, How Archeology is rewriting the Bible and Reshaping the Middle East (Boston: Little Brown, 2000), and Thomas L. Thompson, The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (New York: Basic Books, 2000)., Keith W. Whitelam, The Invention of Ancient Israel: The silencing of Palestinian History (London and New York: Routledge, 1996).
8. Karen Armstrong, A history of God: the 4000-year quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).
9. Armstrong, A history of God, p. 23.
10. John W. Mulhall, CSP., America and the founding of Israel: An Investigation of the Morality of the America's Role, book available at
11. F. Donner. McGraw, The Early Islamic Conquests, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981).
12. M. Gill, A History of Palestine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp.643--1099. Also see S. Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, A Modern History of Palestine, 4th Edition, (New York: Olive Branch Press, 1991), 365 pp.
13. Edward W. Said, The Question of Palestine (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), p10-11.
14., see also Grace M. Crowfoot and Phyllis W. Sutton, A Study of Palestinian Embroidery (1935). For a detailed study and illustrations of Palestinian motifs, see Leila El Khalidi, The Art of Palestinian Embroidery (London: Saqi Books, 2000), Shelagh Weir and Serene Shahid, Palestinian embroidery (London: British Museum, 1988) and Jehan Rajab, Palestinian costume (London: Keegan Paul, 1989).
15. Ahad Ha-Am, 1891, Quoted by Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), p. 101.

Recommended Readings
Walter E. Rast, Through the Ages in Palestinian Archaeology: An Introductory Handbook (Harrisburg, PA : Trinity Press Intl, 1992).
Leila El-Khalidi, The Art of Palestinian Embroidery (London: Al Saqi, 1999).
Jonathan N. Tubb, Canaanites (Peoples of the Past, 2) (Oklahoma City: Univ of Oklahoma Press, 1999).
Arnold J. Toynbee, Ibrahim A. Abu-Lughod (Editor), The Transformation of Palestine: Essays on the Origin and Development of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, (Chicago: Northwestern University Press; 2nd edition, 1987)
My apologies for the length of the above but I would really, really like to hear reactions.



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