The True "Palestinians"

Biblical-era Israel was comprised of twelve Jewish tribes, who formed a cohesive unit by accepting a monotheistic religious belief and creating unique customs and traditions. But Jews are not a religion. Jews are an ethno-religious tribe, meaning one can be a Jew and not be religious. Judaism is the religion which Jews practice; true religions aim to spread across borders and convert as many non-believers as possible.

The tribes geographically were located in what is now Northern Israel, Southern Israel, in parts of today’s Jordan, and in the Judea & Samaria region of today’s Israel. This is important to note as the 1920 Mandate of Palestine map of the Jewish homeland included the entire region of Palestine to reflect the Jewish tribes’ provenance. All modern Jews trace back to three tribes: Judah (the Jews who lived in Judea), Levi, and Benjamin. The very name ‘Jews’ stems from Judea. The Judean tribes in particular were warriors and fought against the northern Israelite tribes, in addition to outside adversaries.

Enemies were numerous; not only regionally, but also ruthless empires who wished to utilize Israel as a crucial crossroad point into other regions. Jews withstood many who wanted to subjugate them, but one enemy in particular proved to be too mighty to withstand: the Roman Empire. Many falsely believe that the Romans were antisemitic, but they were not. True antisemitism did not emerge until the rise of Christianity.

Jews of Pekin
A group photo of Jewish villagers in Peki'in. During the 19th and 20th centuries, many Jews were expelled by the Arabs and Ottomans. Due to the mountainaous landscape, many of the Priestly class hid out in this location during Roman times.

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The Romans punished any group which stood in their way, and the Jews, who cost the Romans more men and money to fight than any other people, were punished viciously. Many Jews were taken as slaves after the Romans destroyed the second Temple in 70 CE. But the Romans were not finished punishing Jews; the final retribution was that after the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE, the Romans dealt one ‘final’ or so they thought, blow to Jews and renamed the land of Israel, Syria Palestina after one of the Jews’ most bitter rivals, the Philistines, who were a seafaring people living in today’s Gaza. The Greeks at the time also used the word Palestina to describe Israel.

  • There were no Arabs in Israel at the time, as Arabs lived in the Arabian Peninsula and had not made their way to Israel as of yet. That migration came later as Islam began to spread.

Though Jews remained in Israel and were subjects of the Roman Empire, numerous Jews were now in the Diaspora and it was in the Diaspora that Jews were referred to, for thousands of years, as Palestinians, the people from Palestine. However, many Jewish priestly class members ended up as farmers in the Northern Israel town of Peki’in, while others hid in the mountains and hills of Judea & Samaria. Therefore, there was always a continual presence of Jews in the land of Israel. Not one year saw Israel Jew-free. Jews were living in Israel under every single conqueror: from the Romans to the British.
Ancient map of Palestine
Map of ancient Palestine; printed in 1845

Photo source: ISTOCK photo

Margalit Zinati last living Jew in Pekiiin
Margalit Zinati: last living member of the Zinati family of Peki'in, who were direct descendants of one of the three priestly families who came from the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem to Peki’in.

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Jews draining swamps in Israel
Jews draining swamps In Israel; 1920s

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Gaza Synagogue
Picture of King David in a 6th century synagogue in Gaza; By the time the Arabs arrived in Gaza in the 7th century CE, Jews had been living in Gaza for over 2,000 years. During Roman times, Gaza was where Jewsih slaves were sold to the Roman Empire. By the 4th century CE, Jews had returned to Gaza and the area had become the center of commerce for Palestine. During the British Mandate, the Brits evacuated Jews from Gaza after the Arab Revolts in other parts of Palestine.

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Pekiin Cave
The entrance to the cave where the Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai) hid from the Romans

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Jews at the Kotel in 1859
Jews at the Kotel in 1859

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