As the book explains, and explores in detail in the Appendix,

“The Holy Land” refers to a region in the Middle East with Jerusalem at its center, considered sacred in the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions. Other common names for this region are “Land of the Bible,” and “Land of Israel” (Eretz Yisrael in Hebrew). During the late Ottoman era, the Holy Land was usually referred to as “Syria,” “Palestine,” or “Southern Syria” by Westerners; “Bilad al-Sham,” “Esh-Sham” or “Suriya” (the Arabic name of Syria) by the inhabitants of the region; and the “Mutasarrifiya of Jerusalem” (Governorate of Jerusalem) by the Ottoman authorities who ruled this district, which like dozens of others, was part of the Turkish Empire. Christian Europeans and Americans maintained the name “Palestine” due to the region’s connection to the Bible, even though there had never been a country with this name, and neither the Ottomans nor the inhabitants of the region regularly used the term.


The Romans coined the name Palestine or “Palaestina” in 135 CE to refer to the province within their empire that comprised the Holy Land, replacing the prior name of “Judea.” “Palaestina” was derived from “Philistia” (Pleshet in Hebrew), the land of the Philistines, a nation that once inhabited the coastal region of the Holy Land. The Roman conquerors effected this name change as part of their goal to eliminate all elements of Jewish culture in the region, following an unsuccessful Jewish uprising against their rule. “Palestine” came back into official use only many centuries later, after World War I, when Great Britain and France gained control of the Middle East and created new countries and boundaries, including “Palestine.” It would be more accurate to refer to the Holy Land during the Ottoman era by the actual names given to the territory by the Turkish authorities, or by the contemporary names for the region, but most scholars defer to convention and use the Western Christian name for the Holy Land used during the Ottoman era: Palestine.


The map below shows what the Holy Land / Palestine actually was during the Ottoman period: simply a province of Turkey, no different than any of its many other provinces. The region shown in the map was typically referred to as “Turkey-In-Asia” as opposed to “Turkey-In-Europe.” The close-up shows the actual provincial boundaries of the Holy Land era as they were divided by Turkey. The later British and French borders of the Palestine Mandate and other territories after World War I had no relationship to the earlier Turkish geographical divisions.