Understanding the Past While Studying History and Developing a Deeper Understanding of Current Events

Studying history not only helps us to understand the past; it also allows us to develop a deeper understanding of current events. Understanding what links the past and present is essential to a good understanding of the human condition. All people have some sort of historical background; people live in societies with complex traditions, cultures, and religions that were not created overnight.

All of these things alongside many others, including language, were inherited from the past. When looking at history in the context of Israel and Palestine the importance of history becomes accentuated.

Everyone has heard of the current conflict in the region, but most are far less clear on why there is a conflict. Without the study of history so many important questions would be left in the dark, including what are the origins of Israel and Palestine, why are the Israelis and Palestinians fighting, and how did the conflict begin in the first place.

Throughout history countless groups of people have laid claim to the region and waged wars in order to capture the land; these groups include the Israelites, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans, just to name a few.

As these various groups of people have come and gone, the region has taken on many different names and boundaries to reflect stages in history (course website, #4). So what exactly makes this region so sought after? In the Bronze and Iron ages, Mesopotamia and Egypt served as the two major cradles of civilization. It was in these regions that many aspects of civilization began, including writing.

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People needed a way of getting between these two civilizations and traveling in a straight line was not an option due to the Sinai Desert. Instead people followed a path, known as the Fertile Crescent, which goes right through Israel and Palestine The crescent goes up through the fertile regions of the land known as the Sea Shore plains (slides, Coastal Plain) and the Jezreel Valley (slides, Lower Galilee). Consequently, the region came to be a sort of bottleneck because you need to pass through it to go between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Historically, the most powerful group in the region has controlled these fertile regions. As well as being able to control access to the great roads running through the region, which include the Via Maris and the Kings highway, they also have access to the Mediterranean Sea. Access to the sea allows for trading throughout the Mediterranean, which explains why so many different groups of people built ports in the region.

The Philistines built their Pentapolis on the seashore plains, which included the port of Gaza, and they built Tel Qasile, which served as an inland port on the Yarkon River (course site, video #2). Herod the Great built the port of Caesarea, which served as a commercial hub (slides, Caesarea). In the time of the crusaders, Acre served as the crusaders main trading port and way of communicating with their homelands. (course site, video #5). Consistent with the past, today the more powerful country of Israel controls the seashore plains, while the Palestinian Authority is left to reside on the central hill.

As well as being sought after for its strategic position, the land is also central to many monotheistic religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In the book of Joshua, the Israelites return to a land they believe is rightfully theirs, as promised by God (course site, #12). It was under King Saul that these people were finally united. When his son David took over as king, he made his capital the city of Jebus and renamed it the City of David or Jerusalem. David understood that to get the tribes to work together he needed to unite them under one religion. Solomon continued this effort when he built a temple to the God of Israel, starting the first temple period of Judaism in 925 BCE.

In 586 BCE, the Babylonians destroyed the first temple, but a second temple was opened in 516 BCE with permission from Cyrus the Great. This second temple period lasted until 70 CE when it was destroyed by the Romans as they crushed the Great Revolt. It was around this time that Christianity was beginning to emerge under the leadership of Saint Peter. These Christians faced persecution for many years until the Emperor Constantine took charge. With the help of his mother, Helena, he built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around 325 CE, which remains one of the holiest sites for Christians (slides, Church of the Holy Sepulchre).

Then in 632 CE Muhammed, Islam’s founder, died. The Muslims wanted to establish a powerful empire under the first caliphs, which required a change from Christian to Muslim dominance (course site #70). Eventually, the Muslims built their own shrine in Jerusalem on the site of Muhammed’s ascension to Heaven (slides, Dome of the Rock). These examples of constant turnover are meant to illustrate how important the region is to various religions and explain why religions are still fighting over the region. These religious tensions even caused the crusades in the 11th through 13th centuries when the Christians wanted to regain a land they consider holy.

All of these events of the distant past played a role in establishing the ethnic and religious tensions that currently exist. However, understanding the direct causes of the situation requires looking at more recent history. Most notably the British Mandate of 1922, which had the goal of helping the Jews establish a new homeland in Palestine (course site #98). However, the Arabs also lay claim to the region. While both sides claim that they should be the majority and govern the region, the establishment of an Arab and Jewish state will be very difficult (course site, #99).

In conclusion, the current conflict in Israel and Palestine is an incredibly complex issue with many causes, but by looking at the past we can attempt to gain an understanding of not only what is happening, but why it is happening. Looking at recent history serves to give us an indicator of the direct causes of the current situation. However, it is also important to look even further back in history. Without understanding the centuries long tensions between the various ethnic groups and religions that have inhabited the region it is impossible to fully grasp the more indirect causes of the current situation.

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Understanding the Past While Studying History and Developing a Deeper Understanding of Current Events. (2022, Dec 13). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/understanding-the-past-while-studying-history-and-developing-a-deeper-understanding-of-current-events/

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