The name of this land is not Palestine, but Israel, given to the Hebrew nation by God, as recorded in the Bible.
Thousands of years ago, the prophet Ezekiel spoke of the restoration of Israel to its land in the last days. As it says:
Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, ‘thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of ISRAEL.'”
Notice that the name of that land is ISRAEL.
The name Palestine was a regional name imposed on the area by Roman Emperor Hadrian, who wanted to humiliate the Jews by denying their right to a homeland. The name Palaestina was originally an adjective derived from Philistia, the arch-enemies of the Israelites 1,000 years earlier. Hadrian also changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina after his own family name, Aelia. He forbade Jews from entering the city, except on the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, when they would mourn its destruction. To this day, the name Palestine flies in the face of Israel, and the entire issue can be boiled down to a religious (spiritual) battle over a land whose fate will be decided by the God of the Bible, since it is His land.
When the Jews began to return from the nations of the world at the end of the last century, the land was barren and sparsely inhabited. In the 1860s, Famous American author Mark Twain, visiting what was then known as “Palestine,” described the land as a “blistering, naked, treeless land.” Of the Galilee, he said, “There is no dew, nor flowers, nor birds, nor trees. There is a plain and an unshaded lake, and beyond them some barren mountains.” His summary of Palestine:
“Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land.”
A Prophecy Fulfilled
Twain’s description of the land matches the prophecy of the “barren mountains of Israel” in Ezekiel 36:1-7. However, Ezekiel continues:
“But you, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for My people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of men and animals upon you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then, you will know that I am the Lord.”
Truly, the return of the Jews from over 100 nations of the world is a modern-day miracle. Large waves of immigrants began to come in the 1880s. Since those early days, the deserts have been reforested, the rocky fields made fertile, the swamps drained and planted, the ancient terraces rebuilt, and the ruined cities of old re-established. Israel now has over six million Jews. It is a food-exporting nation that boasts high levels of literacy, health, education and welfare, high technology and agricultural development.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin
Rabbinic Director, United with Israel