What was Israel Called Before 1948?

Which is the oldest nation between Israel and Palestine? Such questions often come up when talking about the conflict that has gripped the area for generations. In answering this question, one has to talk about the names by which the two countries went prior to the present day predicament. Most importantly, the focus normally tends to be on Israel for various reasons. For starters, it is the most developed nation of the two in terms of healthcare, economy, security, and quality of life. Nevertheless, what was its name prior to 1948?


In terms of land size, Israel is one of the smallest countries in Middle East. Some of its neighbors include Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan. To its west lies the magnificent Mediterranean Sea. Most of its population comprises Jews. For this reason, it’s no wonder that many people and commentators around the world refer to it as the Jewish Nation or State. However, that has not always been its name. Over the years, its name has changed depending on numerous circumstances.

One can’t talk about the history of Israel without mentioning its biblical foundations. As the Hebrew Bible tells us, its origins are traceable to Abraham, who is referred to as the ‘father of many nations.’ However, the name Israel would not emerge until Jacob, who was Abraham’s grandson, entered the scene. He was born Jacob. Much later, he would take the name Israel after God renamed him. For this reason, one would be right in concluding that Jacob is the father of Israel, the nation.

However, history also indicates that the nation never remained intact throughout its existence. For example, it fell into the hands of the Assyrians who not only invaded but destroyed its northern part in 722B.C. Over the years, different empires and armies have attacked and decimated the land. Interestingly, it always rises from the dead like a phoenix. A few examples of the armies and nations that have attacked Israel include Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Islamists, Arabs, and Mamelukes among others.

Apart from that, some of the wars that have taken place following its renaming to Israel are:

  1. Hamas Wars
  2. Second Lebanon War
  3. Second Palestinian Intifada
  4. First Palestinian Intifada
  5. Lebanon War
  6. Yom Kippur War
  7. Six-Day War
  8. Suez Crisis

Israel/Palestine under the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire ruled Israel for years between 1517 and 1917. Consequently, it didn’t exist as a nation. That situation would continue until World War 1. While the war was at its peak, James Balfour, who was the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom at the time, submitted a letter that requested setting aside a part of Palestine for the Jewish nation. At the time, there was no suggestion that the country reverts to its original name of Israel. Instead, the general feeling of The Balfour Declaration was that it remains Palestine.

In a way, one could surmise that The Ottoman Empire at the height of its powers killed Israel. Conversely, at its death it led to the creation of the state of Israel, which would be known as Palestine for several years. However, the creation of the Jewish state caused plenty of friction with the Arab countries around it. To them, the Jewish homeland would lead to the total annihilation of Arab Palestinians. Fortunately, Israelites would remain safe under the rule of the British until the creation of their separate state in 1947.

Without a doubt, Israel has been called many nations throughout its history. In this article, the focus was on the name it was known by before 1948 following The Balfour Declaration. As shown above, its name was Palestine. Since the renaming in 1948, Israel has suffered plenty of wars with its neighbors, especially the Arab states. It has a rich history in terms of name, establishment as a state, subjugation under foreign powers, and eventual independence. As history books show from the biblical days, it has gone through a full cycle of names.


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