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The Holy Land Hebrew: ארץ הקודש Erets HaQodesh; (Ancient Aramaic: ארעא קדישא Ar'a Qaddisha;Greek: Άγιοι Τόποι Agioi Topoi; Latin: Terrae Sanctae; Arabic: الأرض المقدسة, al-Arḍ ul-Muqaddasah), generally refers to the geographical region of the Levant called Land of Canaan or Land of Israel in the Bible, and constitutes the Promised land. This area, or sites within it, hold significant religious importance to at least four monotheistic Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith. Part of its sanctity stems from the religious significance of Jerusalem, the holiest city to Judaism, the third-holiest to Islam, and part of the proposed Christian Pentarchy.

The holiness of this land was the ideological driving force behind the Crusaders' re-conquest from the Muslim rulers who controlled it since the Islamic conquests. Numerous pilgrims visited that land throughout history.

Although the Zionism movement, the current State of Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict are largely political, the dispute around the control of the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem is based on religious beliefs. Some have proposed the founding of a Federal Republic of the Holy Land as a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[1]


The Holy Land, or Palestine, showing the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel in which the 12 Tribes have been distinguished, and their placement in different periods. Tobias Conrad Lotter, Geographer. Augsburg, Germany, 1759

In the Torah (Tanakh or Old Testament), the term Holy Land is not used. Instead, this area is called Land of Canaan, Land of Israel and Promised land.

Judaism's holiest cities are, at least according to the list of "Four Holy Cities", Jerusalem, Hebron, Tzfat and Tiberias. Jerusalem has, since Abraham, been the spiritual focus of the Jews.[2]

Israelite kingdoms and states existed intermittently in the region for over a millennium, with Jerusalem as their capital. Following foreign conquests, Israelite presence in the Holy Land dwindled. In particular, the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire resulted in widescale expulsion of Jerusalemites. The Romans renamed this land Syria Palaestina, the origin of the name Palestine. Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina. The Mishnah and Jerusalem Talmud, two of Judaism's most important religious texts, were written down in the region during this period.

Jerusalem appears 669 times in the Hebrew Bible. Zion, which usually means Jerusalem, sometimes the Land of Israel, appears 154 times. In the first sections, the area of Jerusalem is called Mount Moriah, the location of the binding of Isaac, now called the Temple Mount.

In the Hebrew Bible, Jerusalem and the Holy Land are considered a divine gift, part of several covenants. Jerusalem has long been embedded into Jewish religious consciousness. Jews have studied and personalized the struggle by King David to capture Jerusalem and his desire to build the Jewish temple there, as described in the Book of Samuel and the Book of Psalms. Many of King David's yearnings about Jerusalem have been adapted into popular prayers and songs. Jerusalem is mentioned in many Jewish prayers; the Passover seder prayer ends with Next year in Jerusalem. Jews turn towards Jerusalem to pray. The Western Wall of the Temple Mount, nicknamed the "wailing wall", is the holiest site to Jews and a site of pilgrimage for centuries.


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Christianity.

Sea of Galilee

For Christians, the concept of a Holy Land is derived from the renaming of the Land of Canaan as the Land of Israel (e.g. Genesis 15:18-21).

"The uniqueness of the Land of Israel is thus 'geo-theological' and not merely climatic. This is the land which faces the entrance of the spiritual world, that sphere of existence that lies beyond the physical world known to us through our senses. This is the key to the land's unique status with regard to prophecy and prayer, and also with regard to the commandments." [3]

The concept of the land being holy is especially prominent in the Book of Numbers. Horst Seebass argues that the book is "indeed pervaded by the theme of the holy land."[4] The land is also considered holy in the Hebrew Bible because God's "holy people" settle there.[5]

The Holy Land is also significant in Christianity because of the lands association as the place of birth, ministry, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who Christians regard as the Saviour or Messiah.

The holy cities for Christians of all denominations are:

  • Jerusalem is believed to be the site of some of Jesus's teaching, the Last Supper (believed to have occurred at the Cenacle), the subsequent institution of the Holy Eucharist as well as His entombment; Christians believe He was crucified on a nearby hill, Golgotha (sometimes called Calvary). It notably contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of All Nations, but many other Christian institutions as well.
  • Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus.
  • Nazareth is Jesus's hometown and the site of many holy places, including the Church of the Basilica of the Annunciation and Mary's Well.

During the Crusades, Christian pilgrims often sought out the Holy Places in the Outremer, especially in early 12th century immediately after the capture of Jerusalem.[6] Besides the sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Christian holy places also included:


See also: Religious significance of Jerusalem in Islam.
See also: Holiest sites in Islam.

Sharing similar religious beliefs with Jews and Christians, Muslims consider the land west of (but not limited to) the Jordan River to be sacred, as mentioned in the Qur'an.

" Moses said unto his people, 'O my people, enter the Holy Land, which Allah hath decreed you.' " - (Qur'an 5:21)

The first few months of Islamic history considered Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to be the first Qibla (direction of prayer), as opposed to the Kaaba in Mecca. Both Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, are considered to be the third holiest places for all denominations of Islam. In Arabic, the city of Jerusalem is commonly known as "Al-Quds", meaning "the Holy".

Muslims believe that Muhammad journeyed from Masjidul Haram in Makkah, to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and back, all in a single night. It was at the Al-Aqsa Mosque that Muhammad performed Salah (the prayers) with all of the Prophets of Islam, and thereafter ascended to heaven, called Mi'raj.

Muslims also consider the depression below Mount Sinai, known as "Tuwa", to be sacred as mentioned in the Qur'an as the "Holy Valley" (الوادي المقدس):

" Has not there come to you the story of Moses? How his Lord called him in the the holy valley of Tuwa " - (Qur'an 79:15-16)

There are other mentions of "Holy" or "Blessed" land in the Qur'an, however there is much dispute amongst scholars as to the exact whereabouts of those places. For instance, the "Blessed Land" referred to in verse [21:71] has been interpreted very differently by various scholars: Abdullah Yusuf Ali likens it to a wide land range including, Syria, Palestine and the cities of Tyre and Sidon; Az-Zujaj describes it as, "Damascus, Palestine, and a bit of Jordan"; Qatada claims it to be, "the Levant"; Muadh ibn Jabal as, "the area between al-Arish and the Euphrates"; and Ibn Abbas as, "the land of Jericho".[7]

The term "Holy Land" is also often used by Muslims (although not in the Qur'an) in reference to the Hijaz - the land of the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Shi'a Muslims also include the land of Karbala under the high status of a "Holy Land" based on narrations from the archangel Gabriel to Muhammad[8].

See also


  1. Al Gathafi, Muammar (2003). White Book (ISRATIN). Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  2. Since the 10th century BCE:
    • "The centrality of Jerusalem to Judaism is so strong that even secular Jews express their devotion and attachment to the city and cannot conceive of a modern State of Israel without it... For Jews Jerusalem is sacred simply because it exists." Leslie J. Hoppe. The Holy City: Jerusalem in the theology of the Old Testament, Liturgical Press, 2000, p. 6. ISBN 0814650813
    • "For Jews the city has been the pre-eminent focus of their spiritual, cultural, and national life throughout three millennia." Yossi Feintuch, U.S. Policy on Jerusalem, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987, p. 1. ISBN 0313257000
  3. The Land of Israel: National Home Or Land of Destiny, By Eliezer Schweid, Translated by Deborah Greniman, Published 1985 Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, ISBN 0838632343, p.56.
  4. Horst Seebass, "Holy Land in the Old Testament: Numbers and Joshua," VT 56 (2006), 95. One perspective represented in Numbers is that the land becomes holy if it is the result of holy war, or Cherem. Seebass postulates that land taken in holy war is always holy. (ibid.)
  5. "At the end of Joshua, the land has been distributed among the tribes, the patriarchal promise is fulfilled and the land becomes the holy land." John Goldingay, Theological Diversity and the Authority of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 68.
  6. Sean Martin, The Knights Templar: The History & Myths of the Legendary Military Order, 2005. ISBN 1-56025-645-1
  7. Ali (1991), p.934
  8. al-Qummi, Ja'far ibn Qūlawayh (2008). Kāmil al-Ziyārāt. trans. Sayyid Mohsen al-Husaini al-Mīlāni. Press. p. 545. 

External links

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