So who does this land belong to anyway?

The Palestinians claim that this land "belongs" to them and that Israelis are the invaders, who should give it back to its "rightful owners", the Palestinians. Take a look at the following condensed history timeline (also click "Next" below for a crash course in Middle East history), and you will see that nothing could be farther from the truth. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in what is today Israel since the 13th century BC, while the first Arabs only arrived in the area with the Muslim conquests of the 7th century AD...

The Hebrews arrived in the area known today as Israel ca. 1250 BC, and the first Kingdom was established under Saul in 1020 BC. The Kingdom of Israel continued under the rule of David and Solomon (during which time the first temple was built in Jerusalem) until the land was conquered by Assyria in 722 BC, and subsequently by various other conquering armies.

When the Babylonians conquered the land in 586 BC, the temple was destroyed.

When the Persians defeated the Babylonians in 538 BC, beginning a period of Persian rule, the second temple was built in Jerusalem.

There were several exchanges of power in the centuries to follow, including of course the Romans, who took control in 63 BC.

The second temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans, and was never rebuilt. All that remains of it is the "Wailing Wall", or "Western Wall", at the base of the Temple Mount. This is the holiest site of the Jews.

It is of interest to note that it was the Romans who first coined the name "Palestine", based upon the name of the "Philistines", an Aegean people who had arrived in the area shortly after the Hebrews arrived from exile in Egypt. This was in order to attempt to dissociate the land from its Jewish history. It is based upon this that the Arabs now living in the area refer to themselves as "Palestinians", even though there were no Arabs here at the time the name Palestine was first used.

The Roman Byzantine period continued until 638 AD, when the Muslim conquests brought the first Arabs into the area. It is only at the end of the seventh century that Jerusalem was declared by the Arabs to be a holy site for Islam (Jerusalem is not mentioned a single time in the Koran).

In 691 AD, during the reign of the Omayyad dynasty, the Dome of the Rock was built and inaugurated by Abd Al-Malik ibn Al Marwan.

The Omayyad dynasty did not last long, and was succeeded by the Abbasids, who transferred their capital from Damascus to Baghdad.

After 460 years of Muslim rule, Jerusalem fell to the crusaders, who declared the city the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The crusaders were succeeded by Saladin, and then the Mamelukes, until the Ottoman Turks defeated the Mameluke forces in 1517 AD and began a 400 year Turkish domination of the Near East.

In 1917, near the end of World War I, the Turks surrendered to British forces, beginning the 31 year period of the British mandate over Palestine.

In 1947, the United Nations voted for a plan to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, Israel.

In May, 1948, the State of Israel was declared within the boundaries defined by the U.N. resolution. The Arabs refused to accept this, and less than 24 hours after the Declaration of Independence, five Arab armies attacked the new Jewish State. The rest is, as they say, history...

It is noteworthy that throughout the history of Israel/Jerusalem/Palestine, while Jewish political fortunes since the time of the first Jewish commonwealth have fluctuated, Jews always regarded Jerusalem as their capital. In the Islamic tradition, Jerusalem served as a spiritual center, but has NEVER served as a political center. Even after the Muslim conquests of the 7th century AD, the administrative center of Palestine was Ramle, not Jerusalem. Jerusalem has NEVER served as an Islamic capital.

Moreover, under Israeli rule, everyone from any religion is allowed free access to their holy sites in Jerusalem. In stark contrast to this, Jordanian rule over East Jerusalem (including the Old City and all the holy sites) between 1948 and 1967 led to the complete denial of access to Jews (from anywhere in the world) and Christians (from Israel) to the holy sites in Jerusalem. Indeed, after the fall of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem in 1948, its Jewish inhabitants were expelled, and fifty-eight of its synagogues were either destroyed or desecrated by being used as stables by the Palestinian Arabs.

Click "Next" for a crash course in Middle East history