The Land of Israel (Hebrew: ארץ ישראל Eretz Yisrael) refers to the land making up the ancient Jewish Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The term has been used by Jews and Christians throughout history. Some modern Israelis see Eretz Yisrael symbolically represented in the Israeli national flag, with the blue stripes representing the Nile and the Euphrates, with everything in between as part of Eretz Yisrael. This territory includes the modern State of Israel, Yesha (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) as well as parts of the modern Kingdom of Jordan, south-western Syria, and southern Lebanon.
During the British mandate of Palestine, the name Eretz Yisrael (abbreviated אי Aleph-Yod), was part of the official name of the territory, when written in Hebrew. Consequently, in its modern usage, the term usually denotes only those parts of the land which came under the British mandate, i.e. the land currently occupied by Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and sometimes also Transjordan (now the Kingdom of Jordan).
The actual borders defined in God's covenant with the Israelites from Abraham on through Joshua is actually much larger than the current borders of the State of Israel. Several verses from the Torah, a verse from the Book of Joshua, and a sequence from the Book of Ezekiel define the borders of the Promised Land.
The size of the Promised Land of the Tanakh (or Hebrew Bible rferred to also as the "Old Testament" by Christians) encompasses a region that extends from the "Great River of Egypt" to the Euphrates. Area known to be included are the modern states of Israel, Lebanon, most of modern-day Syria, and Yesha. Also in this region would be the Sinai Peninsula, which is widely believed to encompass the route of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt.
However, it should be noted that the most exact definitions of the borders, the ones in Numbers and Ezekiel, describe a much smaller area, with the river Jordan as its eastern border and the Nile in the West. It encompasses most of modern Israel -- excluding however most of the Negev desert in the south -- the territories, a small part of modern Egypt, southern Lebanon, and the southwestern tip of Syria.
Another point of debate for some religious scholars is the consistent reference to the inclusion of "the Land of the Hittites" within the borders. Some view the Hittites as one of the tribes that had settled in Canaan and was conquered by Joshua, while others refer to a greater empire that encompassed most of Central Turkey.
Last updated: 05-06-2005 14:39:41