Land of Israel

The Valley of Elah, near Adullam
A verdant green hill near Moshav Tzafririm
Sunrise over the Elah Valley

The Land of Israel (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, Modern: Eretz Yisrael, Tiberian: ʼÉreṣ Yiśrāʼēl) is the traditional Jewish name for an area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant. Related biblical, religious and historical English terms include the Land of Canaan, the Promised Land, the Holy Land, and Palestine (see also Israel (disambiguation)). The definitions of the limits of this territory vary between passages in the Hebrew Bible, with specific mentions in Genesis 15, Exodus 23, Numbers 34 and Ezekiel 47. Nine times elsewhere in the Bible, the settled land is referred as "from Dan to Beersheba", and three times it is referred as "from the entrance of Hamath unto the brook of Egypt” (1 Kings 8:65, 1 Chronicles 13:5 and 2 Chronicles 7:8).

These biblical limits for the land differ from the borders of established historical Israelite and later Jewish kingdoms; over time these have included the United Kingdom of Israel, the two separated kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah, the Hasmonean Kingdom, and the Herodian Kingdom, which at their heights ruled lands with similar but not identical boundaries.

Jewish religious belief defines the land as where Jewish religious law prevailed and excludes territory where it was not applied.[1] It holds that the area is a God-given inheritance of the Jewish people based on the Torah, particularly the books of Genesis and Exodus, as well as on the later Prophets.[2] According to the Book of Genesis, the land was first promised by God to the descendants of Abram; the text is explicit that this is a covenant between God and Abram for his descendants.[3] Abram's name was later changed to Abraham, with the promise refined to pass through his son Isaac and to the Israelites, descendants of Jacob, Abraham's grandson. This belief is not shared by most adherents of replacement theology (or supersessionism), who hold the view that the Old Testament prophecies were superseded by the coming of Jesus,[4] a view often repudiated by Christian Zionists as a theological error.[5] Evangelical Zionists variously claim that Israel has title to the land by divine right,[6] or by a theological, historical and moral grounding of attachment to the land unique to Jews (James Parkes).[7] The idea that ancient religious texts can be warrant or divine right for a modern claim has often been challenged,[8][9] and Israeli courts have rejected land claims based on religious motivations.[10]

During the League of Nations mandatory period (1920–1948) the term "Eretz Yisrael" or the "Land of Israel" was part of the official Hebrew name of Mandatory Palestine. Official Hebrew documents used the Hebrew transliteration of the word “Palestine” פלשתינה (Palestina) followed always by the two initial letters of "Eretz Yisrael", א״י Aleph-Yod.[11][12]

The Land of Israel concept has been evoked by the founders of the State of Israel. It often surfaces in political debates on the status of the West Bank, which is referred to in official Israeli discourse as the Judea and Samaria Area, from the names of the two historical Jewish kingdoms.[13]

Etymology and biblical roots

1916 map of the Fertile Crescent by James Henry Breasted. The names used for the land are "Canaan" "Judah" "Palestine" and "Israel"
Map of Eretz Israel in 1695 Amsterdam Haggada by Abraham Bar-Jacob.

The term "Land of Israel" is a direct translation of the Hebrew phrase ארץ ישראל (Eretz Yisrael), which occasionally occurs in the Bible,[14] and is first mentioned in the 1 Samuel 13:19, following the Exodus, when the Israelite tribes were already in the Land of Canaan.[15] The words are used sparsely in the Bible: King 1 Chronicles 22:2), and the same phrasing is used in reference to 2 Chronicles 2:17). Ezekiel 47:18.[16]

According to Martin Noth, the term is not an "authentic and original name for this land", but instead serves as "a somewhat flexible description of the area which the Israelite tribes had their settlements".[17] According to Anita Shapira, the term "Eretz Yisrael" was a holy term, vague as far as the exact boundaries of the territories are concerned but clearly defining ownership.[18] The sanctity of the land (kedushat ha-aretz) developed rich associations in rabbinical thought,[19] where it assumes a highly symbolic and mythological status infused with promise, though always connected to a geographical location.[20] Nur Masalha argues that the biblical boundaries are "entirely fictitious", and bore simply religious connotations in Diaspora Judaism, with the term only coming into ascendency with the rise of Zionism.[14]

The Hebrew Bible provides three specific sets of borders for the "Genesis 17:8[21] and Ezekiel 47:13–20 use the term "the land" (ha'aretz), as does Deuteronomy 1:8 in which it is promised explicitly to "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob... and to their descendants after them," whilst Numbers 34:1–15 describes the "Land of Canaan" (Eretz Kna'an) which is allocated to nine and half of the twelve Israelite tribes after 1 Samuel 13:19. It is defined in detail in the exilic Book of Ezekiel as a land where both the twelve tribes and the "strangers in (their) midst", can claim inheritance.[22] The name "Israel" first appears in the Hebrew Bible as the name given by God to the patriarch Genesis 32:28). Deriving from the name "Israel", other designations that came to be associated with the Jewish people have included the "Children of Israel" or "Israelite".

The term 'Land of Israel' (γῆ Ἰσραήλ) occurs in one episode in the New Testament (Matthew 2:20–21), where, according to Shlomo Sand, it bears the unusual sense of 'the area surrounding Jerusalem'.[21] The section in which it appears was written as a parallel to the earlier Book of Exodus.[23]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Eretz Israel
العربية: أرض إسرائيل
беларуская: Зямля Ізраільская
български: Ерец Израел
čeština: Země izraelská
Deutsch: Eretz Israel
Ελληνικά: Γη του Ισραήλ
Esperanto: Izraela Lando
français: Terre d'Israël
hrvatski: Eretz Yisrael
Bahasa Indonesia: Tanah Israel
עברית: ארץ ישראל
Nederlands: Land van Israël
português: Terra de Israel
română: Țara Israel
Simple English: Land of Israel
српски / srpski: Ерец Израел
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Zemlja Izrael
svenska: Israels land
українська: Земля Ізраїльська
ייִדיש: ארץ ישראל
中文: 以色列地