Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Boundaries of Israel, Then and Now

Nadene Goldfoot
Modern Israel has not had permanent boundaries.  Before 1967, boundaries were just temporary armistice lines, agreed on in 1949.  The armistice lines bisected Jerusalem and were 20 minutes away from Tel Aviv.

Since 1967, and pending a peace settlement, cease-fire lines demarcate the area under Israeli control.  The cease fire lines are 523 miles long.  The armistice lines were 570 miles long.  Most of the urban areas of Israel are less than 2 hours away from the nearest cease fire lines. 

Original boundaries found in the Bible were; the Mediterranean Sea on the West and on the East the Syrian Desert.  To the South the Brook of Egypt (Wadi El-Arish) to Kadesh Barnea, and to the Brook of Zin as far as the Valley of Zoar south of the Dead Sea, and in Transjordan from the river Arnon to Mt. Hermon, and to the Valley of Iyon.  This made up 17,500 sq. miles of which 45% is in Transjordan. 

The extent of the Promised Land reached an arm of the Nile Delta, the Gulf of Elath, and the Euphrates River opposite Aleppo in the East.  It included most of Syria and altogether covered 58,000 sq. miles. 

This entire area was occupied by the Israelites under Kings David and Solomon.  There were many gentile enclaves with the Jewish territory.  The Jewish National Home promised by the British was only the area west of the Jordan and excluded part of the Upper Gallilee north of the ladder of Tyre which was given to Lebanon.  The southern Negev past the Rafiah-Gulf of Elath line was given to Egypt for administration in 1906 by the Turks. 

The UN Resolution of Nov 29, 1947 recommended the Jewish state have the larger part of the mandated area of Western Palestine.  The armistice agreements of 1949 left Israel with 8,000 sq miles with complicated borders. 

The attack of all the Arab nations surrounding Israel was a mistake on their part, for they lost, the outcome meaning that Israel gained all of Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights, Gaza Strip  and the Sinai up to the Suez Canal.  Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt in the early 1980's.  In 1967 there were 352,260 living in the Gaza Strip, of which 172,520 were classified as refugees. 

The Ottoman Empire had done nothing with the land, neither inhabited it or built on it.  Jews coming back found at the end of the 19th century large parts, mainly the Coastal Plain, was barren and in ruins.  Swamps and malaria were widespread.  During the last century more than 800 villages were establied; the moshava, kibbutz and moshav.  This is because the return to the land has been one of the central efforts of modern Israel.  Like the Amish say, working the land makes one closer to G-d. 

It's only 94 miles from Jerusalem to Haifa
               5 miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem
             59 miles from Tel Aviv to Haifa
              48 miles from Tel Aviv to Gaza

The land is small.  It requires defensible borders.  It's very hot in the lowlands but you can ski on the 3,692 high Mt. Hermon near Safed in the winter.  The Dead Sea is 1,286 feet below sea level, and that's a very hot place.  Israel is on the edge of the desert.  A large part of Israel is the Negev, which is mostly desert.  Jerusalem is on the edge of the Judaean Desert.  The Sinai Desert separates the Land of Israel from Egypt. 

Resource: The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Facts About Israel-Division of Information, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem
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