• U.S.

World: The Legacy of Abraham’s Children

2 minute read
TIME

THE historical area known as Palestine was originally bounded to the west by the Mediterranean Sea and to the south by the Sinai Desert. To the north it included a sliver of Lebanon and to the east it stretched beyond the Jordan River. Today, Israel holds most of the territory.

Jewish domination in Palestine diminished after the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and in the Diaspora most Jews were ultimately scattered. The Bible notes that Palestine had been promised to the “seed of Abraham.” This properly applies to Arabs as well as Jews, since Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, was born of the Egyptian concubine Hagar and is thus the father of the Arabs. Though Arabs did not conquer Palestine until A.D. 634, they have remained ever since, first as rulers and later as the subjects of an Ottoman hegemony that ended after the British captured Jerusalem in 1917. The British took part of Palestine east of the Jordan River to create Transjordan as a reward for the Hashemite dynasty, which helped Viscount Allenby defeat the Turks.

In 1947 the U.N. partitioned what remained of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. When Arab armies marched on the infant state of Israel the following year−and were clobbered−the Israelis retaliated by seizing 1,400 square miles of Arab territory. Transjordan’s King Abdullah, grandfather of the present King Hussein, annexed the Jordan River’s West Bank, a sizable chunk of Palestine; he renamed his expanded kingdom simply Jordan. In the Six-Day War, Israel captured the West Bank as well as the Arab quarter of Jerusalem. This marked the 25th time that the old city, a holy place to three faiths, had changed hands.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com