Updated: Jan 30
As a Christian, I would be inclined to say that Israel was a tract of land that God gave to his chosen people, the Jews. I would say that they took ownership of this land, as a nation, after escaping the bondage of Egypt. I would say that they were lead there by Moses, and ultimately, led into it by Aaron. And, I would be inclined to point to the Bible as proof of this.
However, there are many who do not see the Bible as proof of anything. Even though everything in the Bible has been historically verified to one degree or another, there are those who demand proof of a more empirical nature, that is to say, proof from a document that was not written by a Jew to begin with.
The Jewish nation, that is to say, the people that received the Torah at Sinai and underwent the Exodus, was established well after Abraham. Yet, Abraham is considered the father of the Jewish nation, the first Jew. The Midrash, rabbinic literature from antiquity to the early mediaeval period, speaks of Abram, born in the year 1813 BCE during the reign of the mighty Nimrod, who ruled over almost all of civilisation. Abraham's father, Terach, was one of Nimrod's noblemen. Abram grew up in a society where everyone, including himself, worshipped idols.
We next meet Abram in the Bible after God commands him in Genesis 12: 1 – 3 to "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." However, as mentioned before, this was from the Bible and was, therefore, not considered proof of Abram's existence. Most historians, as it turns out, view the patriarchal age, along with the Exodus and the period of the biblical judges, as a late literary construct that does not relate to any particular historical era; and after a century of exhaustive archaeological investigation, no evidence has been found for a historical Abraham. It is interesting to note that those who would seek to discredit Israel's claim to the land they inhabit would do so by trying to cast doubt on the character of Abraham, yet claim him as their original forebear as well.
The earliest extra biblical reference to Israel is found in a victory stele (an inscribed stone commonly used to commemorate an historic event) set up by Pharaoh Merneptah in about 1230 BCE, shortly after the Exodus. The name Israel, written in hieroglyphic symbols, is used to designate a people living in Canaan. Canaan was the land situated in the territory of the southern Levant, which today encompasses Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, and the southern portions of Syria and Lebanon. Even if we discount the time prior to the Exodus, therefore, there is proof of a Jewish nation occupying the land of modern-day Israel back to antiquity.
So what about the people known as the Palestinians? What about their claim to the land of Israel? Palestine in the ancient world was part of the region known as Canaan where the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were located. The term "Palestine" was originally a designation of an area of land in southern Canaan which the people known as the Philistines occupied a very small part of. The Philistines are thought to have come to the area toward the end of the Bronze Age, at around 1276 BCE, and established themselves on the southern coastal plain of the Mediterranean Sea in an area afterwards known as Philistia. The term "Palestine" does not appear in any written records until the 5th century BCE in the Histories of Herodotus, after which it became the term used for the entirety of what was previously Canaan.
As the map from the time of Isaiah's ministry shows, the modern day descendants of the Philistines may have had a claim to a portion of Israel but also to a portion of Egypt which, interestingly enough, they have never pressed. Unless of course you include the Six-Day War which Israel won. The ancient kingdom of Judah and Samaria also encompasses all of modern day Jerusalem and, regardless of the fact that a mosque now occupies the site of the original Temple of Solomon, the Palestinian nation has no claim on any of this land.
Many peace treaties have been signed or attempted since 1948 when, most recently, Israel was declared a state. Apart from the Arab nations which surround it, most of the world has recognised the state of Israel subsequently. While this part of the world has had many rulers, Israel has endured all of them and risen again and again from the ashes of conquest. Today, some call Israel an Apartheid state predicated, ironically, on the fact that Israel recognises itself in terms of its Jewish culture and faith. Yet, it is surrounded by nations which identify as both Arab and Muslim but which are never chastised as being in any way bigoted.
Things to consider about Israel are that it is a democracy. Every other nation in the area is either a theocracy in practice, or one in name and identity. They are bound by a common faith yet none of the Palestinian neighbouring countries have offered to take them in and allow them to settle as a nation. Yet, many of these nations harbour terrorist organisations whose sole purpose for existence is the destruction of the Jewish state. Hamas is one of these terror groups yet, bizarrely, the Palestinian people in the area of Gaza chose them as their representative body within the Palestinian body politic.
Personally, until the Palestinian people denounce terror and violence as a means of "negotiation", I do not believe that there will ever be peace between Palestinians and the nation of Israel. I do not believe that radical Muslim fundamentalism can live side-by-side with people of the Jewish faith, or any other, for that matter. Yes, not every Muslim is a radical but as long as Hamas speaks for the men, women, and children of Gaza, Israel will defend its citizens by any means necessary. And rightly so. Any innocent blood spilled is then squarely on Hamas and its leaership.
When all has been said and done, I will always take my lead from God's word. I believe Numbers 24: 5 & 9 says it best:
“How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, and your dwelling places, O Israel!… Blessed is the one who blesses you, and cursed is the one who curses you!”