Holy Land

Holy Land

The Holy Land (Arabic: الأرض المقدسة, "al-Arḍ ul-Muqaddasah";Ancient Aramaic: ארעא קדישא " Ar'a Qaddisha"; Hebrew: ארץ_הקודש "Arets HaQodesh"), 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, Baha'i, and Islam. Part of its sanctity stems from the religious significance of Jerusalem, the holiest city to Judaism and third-holiest to Islam.

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.


The origin of the Holy Land concept is found in 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." "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.]

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." [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.)] The land is also considered holy in the Hebrew Bible because God's "holy people" settle there. ["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.]

The Holy Land is significant in Christianity, mainly because it is the place of birth, ministry, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Saviour or Messiah to Christianity.

Holy cities for Christians of all denominations:
* Jerusalem is believed to be the site of some of Jesus's teaching, the Last Supper, 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 contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of All Nations.
* 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 early in the 12th century immediately after Jerusalem was captured. [Sean Martin, "The Knights Templar: The History & Myths of the Legendary Military Order", 2005. ISBN 1-56025-645-1] The Holy Places included sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem as well as:

* Sephoria, where the Virgin Mary was said to have spent her childhood
* The River Jordan, site of Christ's baptism
* Cave dwelling of John the Baptist
* Sea of Galilee
* Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration of Jesus
* Jericho, along the road to which was the location of the Good Samaritan's charity.


: "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.

The first few months of Islamic history saw the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to be the first Qibla (direction of prayer), as opposed to the Kaaba in Makkah. Both Jerusalem and the 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):

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". [ Ali (1991), p.934]

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".


ee also

* Land of Israel
* Most sacred sites
* Abrahamic religion
* Palestine
* Canaan
* History of the Jews in the Land of Israel

Books on the subject

* Hanan Isachar, Ceremonies in the Holy Land, Melzer 2005

External links

* [http://www.jesus-land.com Jesus in Holy Land Page]
* [http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1178724112365&pagename=Zone-English-Muslim_Affairs%2FMAELayout A Journey Through the Holy Lands (Photo Gallery)] "IslamOnline.net"


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