Land of Israel

The Land of Israel (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, Modern: Eretz Yisrael, Tiberian: ʼÉreṣ Yiśrāʼēl) is the traditional Jewish name for an area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant. Related biblical, religious and historical English terms include the Land of Canaan, the Promised Land, the Holy Land, and Palestine (see also Israel (disambiguation)). The definitions of the limits of this territory vary between passages in the Hebrew Bible, with specific mentions in Genesis 15, Exodus 23, Numbers 34 and Ezekiel 47. Nine times elsewhere in the Bible, the settled land is referred as "from Dan to Beersheba", and three times it is referred as "from the entrance of Hamath unto the brook of Egypt" (1 Kings 8:65, 1 Chronicles 13:5 and 2 Chronicles 7:8).

The Valley of Elah, near Adullam
A verdant hill near Moshav Tzafririm
Sunrise over the Elah Valley

These biblical limits for the land differ from the borders of established historical Israelite and later Jewish kingdoms, including the United Kingdom of Israel, the two kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah, the Hasmonean Kingdom, and the Herodian kingdom. At their heights, these realms ruled lands with similar but not identical boundaries.

Jewish religious belief defines the land as where Jewish religious law prevailed and excludes territory where it was not applied.[1] It holds that the area is a God-given inheritance of the Jewish people based on the Torah, particularly the books of Genesis and Exodus, as well as on the later Prophets.[2] According to the Book of Genesis, the land was first promised by God to Abram's descendants; the text is explicit that this is a covenant between God and Abram for his descendants.[3] Abram's name was later changed to Abraham, with the promise refined to pass through his son Isaac and to the Israelites, descendants of Jacob, Abraham's grandson. This belief is not shared by most adherents of replacement theology (or supersessionism), who hold the view that the Old Testament prophecies were superseded by the coming of Jesus,[4] a view often repudiated by Christian Zionists as a theological error.[5] Evangelical Zionists variously claim that Israel has title to the land by divine right,[6] or by a theological, historical and moral grounding of attachment to the land unique to Jews (James Parkes).[7] The idea that ancient religious texts can be warrant or divine right for a modern claim has often been challenged,[8][9] and Israeli courts have rejected land claims based on religious motivations.[10]

During the League of Nations mandatory period (19201948) the term "Eretz Yisrael" or the "Land of Israel" was part of the official Hebrew name of Mandatory Palestine. Official Hebrew documents used the Hebrew transliteration of the word "Palestine" פלשתינה (Palestina) followed always by the two initial letters of "Eretz Yisrael", א״י Aleph-Yod.[11][12]

The Land of Israel concept has been evoked by the founders of the State of Israel. It often surfaces in political debates on the status of the West Bank, referred to in official Israeli discourse as the Judea and Samaria Area, from the names of the two historical Jewish kingdoms.[13]