May 13, 2016: Understanding the Middle East: West Bank or Judea and Samaria?
By Carol Rushton
The world knows it as the West Bank. Israel calls it Judea and Samaria.
Which is right?
In all fairness, Israeli newspapers, including The Jerusalem Post newspaper, have used the term, “West Bank,” for decades. But why? Which name is correct?
History of the “West Bank”
In 1947, Jews in the Holy Land faced an agonizing decision. Should they accept a UN partition plan that would create two countries – one for the Jews and one for the Arabs out of the historic lands of Israel? Or should they attempt to claim the entire land of Israel?
Jews knew that the surrounding Arab nations would attack a new Jewish state. They also knew that they did not have the military might to claim the entire land of Israel. Although they weren’t very happy with having to concede so much land to the Arabs, including Jerusalem, the Jews decided that any state, however small, was better than none at all.
So the decision was made by members of the elected Jewish assembly, the Jews’ government authority at that time, to accept the 1947 U.N. partition plan: the Holy Land divided into two countries, one Jewish state and one Arab state. The Arabs rejected the plan. The Jews accepted it.
On May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion, the head of the Jewish government, announced the establishment of the modern State of Israel. The Arabs attacked four hours later.
In the end, Israel gained more land through their war with the Arabs than if the Arabs had simply accepted the U.N. partition plan.
After Israel’s War of Independence, the Arabs turned over administration of their area to Jordan. According to Wikipedia, the term West Bank comes from an Arab phrase that was meant to distinguish the East and West banks of the Jordan River and was eventually adopted to describe the territory between Israel and Jordan. Even though Israel gained that entire land area as a result of the 1967 Six Day War, the world continued to call the land west of Jordan the West Bank, as it does to this day.
Biblical History of Judea and Samaria
What most people don’t realize, and probably don’t care about to be honest, is that the area known as the West Bank is where many events in the Bible occurred. Jews call this area after the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria. Below is a list of just some of the cities and events in Judea and Samaria that are connected with the Jews’ biblical history.
- Hebron is where the Cave of the Patriarchs is located. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebeca, Jacob and Leah are buried there. The Jewish Virtual library calls this the Jews’ most ancient site because it was purchased by Abraham over 3,700 years ago (Genesis 23). When the Islamic Mamelukes conquered the Holy Land 700 years ago, they turned the Cave of the Patriarchs into a mosque. Since the 1967 Six Day War, both Jews and Muslims are allowed to pray there. David made Hebron his capital city until he was accepted by all the twelve tribes and moved the country’s capital to Jerusalem (I Samuel 3-5).
- Bethlehem is the birthplace of both King David and Jesus Christ (I Samuel 16, Luke 2). Naomi and Ruth settled in Bethlehem and this is where Ruth met and married Boaz (Ruth 1-4). Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem is where Jacob’s wife, Rachel, is buried (Genesis 35).
- Shechem, now called Nablus by Arabs, is where Abraham and Sarah first entered the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:6). When Jacob returned to Isaac and Rebecca from his uncle’s house, he settled his family Shechem (Genesis 33-34). Joseph was buried in Shechem (Joshua 24:32). His tomb is periodically burned and ransacked by Arabs.
- Bethel or Beit El means House of God. Both Abraham and Jacob built altars to the Lord in Bethel (Genesis 12, 35). Bethel was also the scene of Jacob’s ladder dream when he was fleeing from his brother Esau (Genesis 28).
- Anata or Anatot is most famous for being the hometown of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1).
- East Jerusalem was held by Jordan after the Israel’s War of Independence. Jews could not visit the Temple Mount or any parts of the Old City because of Jordan’s refusal to allow Jews visiting rights. Jews took over East Jerusalem, including the Old City, following their victory in the 1967 Six Day War. East Jerusalem contains the Temple Mount, the site of the first two Jewish temples, the Western or Wailing Wall, Gordon’s Tomb where Christians believe Jesus was buried after His crucifixion, and Golgotha.
- The books of I and II Kings are filled with verses about Samaria, including the biblical characters of the Prophet Elijah, King Ahab, and the Prophet Elisha. Isaiah 7:9 confirms that Samaria was part of the land given to the tribe of Ephraim. “And the head of Ephraim is Samaria. . .” Jesus in John 4 talked to a woman in a city of Samaria, who when Jesus told her that He knew everything about her, went and called all of her friends and neighbors to see Him. Jeremiah 31:5-6 prophesies what will happen to Samaria in the future during the Kingdom Age. “Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things. For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.”
If you look toward the east from Israel, you are looking in the direction of Judea and Samaria. Only in looking toward the west from Jordan will you look in the direction of the so-called West Bank.
The vast majority of the world opposes the Jews having Israel as a homeland in the Middle East. Most countries demonize the Jewish settlers who have moved into Judea and Samaria, calling them a provocation and a problem. They side with the Arabs who call Judea and Samaria theirs, supporting the uprooting of all Jewish settlements, and even participating in the BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). They do not recognize the Jews’ historical, biblical right to the land of Israel. They never will.
The term “West Bank” was specifically designed to deny and erase the Jews’ biblical, historic ties to the land of Israel. It has been very successful. Even conservatives and conservative news outlets use West Bank instead of the correct Judea and Samaria.
If you want to side with Arabs and anti-Semites, then use West Bank. If you want to side with Israel and the Jews and their right to that land, you should use Judea and Samaria. It’s that simple.