As the world awaits the next eruption of violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the prospects of a lasting settlement in the Holy Land appear remarkably faint. Questions over statehood, territory and security remain unsolved and the map of the Middle East remains a permanent state of flux.
Things were not always so complicated…at least the holy books would have you believe. The below map comes from Martin Waldseemüller’s pioneering first modern atlas, published in 1513. It shows the Holy Land divided neatly between the Twelve Tribes of Israel, as described in scripture.
Each one of the Twelve Tribes is said to have descended from one of the sons of Jacob, the patriarch of the Israelites. They inhabited the three kingdoms of Galilee, Samaria and Judea between the 10th and 8th centuries BCE.
Whilst the map suggests equality and stability, in reality (or at least Biblical reality) it was not so straightforward. Surrounded by Assyrians, Philistines and countless other tribes, the Israelites always faced a struggle for survival.
Yet the status quo lasted for some three centuries, despite territorial encroachment, religious disagreement and ambitious outsiders. With a situation not too dissimilar today, one can only dream of such longevity.