PALESTINE, or HOLY LAND, a country of southwestern Asia, compris ing the S. part of Syria, and forming before the World War the pashalics of Acre, Gaza, and the S. part of Damas cus; having N. the pashalic of Tripoli, S. E. and S. the Arabian Desert, and W. the Mediterranean; length, 193 miles; average breadth, 75 miles; area, 11,000 square miles. The surface is generally mountainous, interspersed from N. to S. by the mountain chain of Lebanon, Mount Hermon, the highest peak, attain ing an elevation of 10,000 feet. There are numerous other peaks famous in sacred history, viz.: Mount Carmel; Mount Tabor, the modern Jebel Toor; Gilead, and Nebo or Pisgah; and Zion, Moriah, and the Mount of Olives, in or near Jerusalem.
Judea proper, the ancient kingdom of Judah, comprises the territory extend ing from Lake Asphaltites to the sea, and consists of hills and valleys of great beauty and fertility. In proceeding E. to the shores of the Dead Sea the scene be comes more decidedly barren. To the N. of ancient Judisa was Samaria, a moun tainous district, but flourishing and well cultivated. To the N. of Samaria, but still communicating with Judam by the banks of the Jordan, is Galilee, distinguished by its natural beauty and fertility. The plain of Esdraelon is one vast meadow, covered with the richest pasture. The Lake of Tiberias, or Gennesareth, is sur rounded by lofty and picturesque hills. The regions beyond Jordan include many tracts once fertile and flourishing. Here are the Hauran and Dschaulan, a vast plain, not watered by any great river; yet the inhabitants contrive, by collect ing the torrents and rain water into ponds, to obtain a sufficient supply for agriculture; so that very extensive crops of grain are raised. The rivers are the Jordan, Jarmuth, Kishon, and the Nahr, Naman or Belus. The lakes Tiberias, Gennesareth, and the Dead Sea. The climate is very fine in the dry season.
Products, wheat, barley, millet, tobacco, and fruits.
Its most ancient name was Canaan, its inhabitants being descended from Ca naan, the fourth son of Ham and grand son of Noah. Under the reigns of David and Solomon it became one of the most flourishing kingdoms of Asia. It was conquered, however, by the kings of Nineveh and Babylon, who carried cap tive first Israel and then Judah, into the E. provinces of their empire. After the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, the Jews were allowed to return to their country. Palestine continued thus a province of Persia till after the conquest of Alexan der. The Jews were again exposed to oppression from some of the Ptolemies, who having attempted to enforce the adoption of the Grecian idolatry, were met with the most determined resistance by the Maccabees, and Juda now became an independent country. It subse quently fell under the dominion of Rome, who established the Herods as tributary kings. The country remained in the power of the Romans till the conversion of the empire to Christianity. In the 6th century it fell under the sway of the Mohammedans, which gave occasion to the Crusades. Jerusalem was taken by the European forces, and was under Godfrey of Bouillon erected into a Latin kingdom, which endured for above 80 years, during which the Holy Land streamed with Christian and Saracen blood. In 1187 Judzea was conquered by Saladin, on the decline of whose kingdom it passed through various hands, till, in 1517, it was finally added to the Turkish empire. A railroad connecting Jaffa with Jerusalem has been constructed, and a harbor made at Jaffa.
In the World War (1914-1918) the Anglo-Indian army captured Jerusalem (pop. 85,000) on March 11, 1917, and the whole of Palestine was occupied in the following year. The British con stituted it a Jewish state after the war, with General Allenby High Commission er (also of Egypt). The Rt. Honorable Herbert Samuel was appointed High Commissioner in 1920.