Pal'estine, Canaan, the Land of Israel, or the Holy Land, scene of most of the great events of sacred story, is a country in the SW. of Syria. Palestine proper (i.e. without the territory beyond Jordan) contains an area of about 6000 sq. m., or less than Yorkshire. The territory beyond Jordan may be reckoned at 2000-3000 sq. m. in addition. It is bounded N. by the river Kasim-iyeh, B. by the Jordan, and W. by the sea. At first sight the map shows ridge upon ridge of hills running east and west, sloping gradually to the west, and descending steeply to the east. On the west is a long strip of low seaboard varying in breadth, vanishing altogether at the foot of Carmel, and broadening southward into the Plain of Phil-istia. Palestine, as a whole, is physically divisible into four parts: (1) The maritime district, extending along the Mediterranean, and including Philistia; (2) the central tableland or 'hill-country' of JudAea, culminating in the Lebanon towards the north and spreading out into the great plain of the Badiet-et-Tih to the south; (3) the depression of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea, separating Eastern from Western Palestine; and (4) the tableland of Edom, Moab, and the region of Trachonitis to the east of the Jordan Valley, bounded by an abrupt and lofty escarpment, and stretching away towards the east into the Desert of Arabia. In North Galilee the watershed runs at an average height of 2800 feet above the sea, while the highest peak rises to a height of 3934 feet. In Samaria the hills are lower, not rising above 3000 feet, while south of Jerusalem the hills again rise to over 3300 feet. The north country contains the Plains of Buttauf and the rich plain of Esdraelon, 20 miles long and 9 miles broad, elevated, at its highest point, 250 feet above the sea. The principal elevations are Jebel Jermuk, 3934 feet; Carmel, 1740 feet (12 miles long); Mount Ebal, 3084 feet, and Mount Gerizim, 2849 feet; Tell Asur, 3318 feet; and Ras esh Sherifeh, 3258 feet. The Maritime Plain, formed partly by the denudation of the mountains and partly by accumulation of sand, possesses a fertile soil; deep gullies run across it, with, in some cases, perennial streams. The Jordan Valley begins with the rise of the stream 1000 feet above the Mediterranean, and in 100 miles falls to 1292 feet below it. This is a drop of nearly 2300 feet, or 23 feet in a mile. The valley itself varies in width from 5 miles, where it begins, to 13 miles in the Plain of Jericho. The country terminates southward with the Jeshi-mon, the 'solitude' of the Old Testament or the ' Wilderness of Judfea' of the New, a plateau of white chalk rising in cliffs 2000 feet high above the Dead Sea. Palestine is poorly supplied with rivers. Among the best known are the Kishon (Mukatta), flowing to the Mediterranean; the Jalud and the Farah flowing into the Jordan from the west; the Jabbok (Zerka)and the Arnon (Mojib) flowing into the Jordan from the east. There are the three lakes of Huleh (the ' Waters of Merom'), the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea, and plenty of springs.

The climate of Palestine is extremely hot in summer, when the temperature reaches 100° F., and in winter it is wet and cold, though frost does not occur on the plains. There are heavy dews. The 'former rain' and the 'latter rain' are those which occur at the autumnal and vernal equinoxes. The distinctive trees of the country are the terebinth, the olive, the cedar, and the sycamore. The shittim-wood is supposed to have been the acacia. The rose of Sharon is a white narcissus; and the lily of the valley is the blue iris. The crocodile is still found in one or two of the rivers. The wild-goat - ibex - is found in large herds in the southern wilderness; the lion is extinct; the bear lingers in the mountains; the hyaena is common; the wolf is rare; the dog is an unclean creature living in the outskirts of towns, and feeding on garbage. Of birds, all those mentioned in the Bible which can be identified may yet be found. The locust still devastates the crops, and the grasshopper serves for food.

Since the 2d century, Palestine has been a land of pilgrimage, and many early Christian writers describe the country. After the Moslem conquest, Mohammedans wrote largely of it. The Crusaders left accounts of their wars. Modern exploration began in the 19th century with Seetzen, Burckhardt, Buckingham, Irby and Mangles, Tobler, De Saulcy, Van de Velde, and Williams. The researches of Robinson in the years 1838-52, forced upon the world the necessity for an exhaustive survey of the country, which was carried out (1865-77 as regards Western Palestine) for the Palestine Exploration Fund (1865), chiefly by Major Conder, R.E. The whole of Western Palestine was (1880-81) mapped on a scale which includes every ruin as well as every spring, every watercourse, every wood, and every hillock. At least 150 lost Biblical sites have been recovered; by means of these the boundaries of the tribes can now be laid down; one-fourth only of the Bible names remain to be identified. The topography of Josephus, of the Talmud, of the pilgrims, and of the chroniclers has also been illustrated and recovered. All important heights have been ascertained; the levels of the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee are laid down; all the remaining ruins have been planned and drawn. The survey of Eastern Palestine was begun under the same auspices in 1881.

The present condition of the country shows the beginning of rapid changes in every direction. There is a railway from Jaffa to Jerusalem; other railways, from Acre and Haifa to Damascus, and from Beyrout to Damascus, are in progress; there are many practicable roads; and there is even an hotel at Jericho. As regards Jerusalem, a new town has sprung up outside the walls; it is said that there are close upon 50,000 Jews in and about the Holy City; the Mount of Olives is being covered with buildings. There are Jewish colonies between Ramleh, Lydda, and Jaffa; there are German colonies in the same region; Circassians occupy Amman, and are settling in the Hauran; the people from the Lebanon are coming down and covering the country east of the Jordan.

The name Palestine originally belonged merely to the coast strip occupied by the Philistines. The rest of the country west of the Jordan was, prior to the Jewish Conquest (1274 b.c.), occupied by some six or seven Canaanitish nations, all except the Hittites apparently of Semitic stock. East of the Jordan were the peoples of Moab, Amnion, Edom, and Midian, also Semitic, like the Israelites themselves. Jerusalem became the capital of a southern kingdom of Judah; the northern Israelite kingdom of the Ten Tribes had its capital at Shechem, Tirzah, and Samaria in succession. The Ten Tribes mostly disappeared during the captivity in Assyria (after 720 b.c.), a small remnant mixed with Assyrian colonists forming the Samaritan people. After the people of the southern kingdom returned from the great captivity in Babylon (538 b.c.), they occupied most of the country formerly belonging to the whole people of Israel, and are henceforward known to history as the Jews. The kingdom of Herod the Great (37-4 b.c.) covered most of the land divided by Joshua among the twelve tribes, but was now divided into Galilee, Samaria and Judaea, IdumAea and east of Jordan, PerAea, Gaul-onitis, Auranitis, and Trachonitis. A period of prosperity ended with the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Romans (70 a.d.), whereupon the Jews were scattered to the four winds; and Palestine, held by Persians, Saracens, Latin Crusaders, Turks, has never since been the home of a nation. In its palmiest days Palestine may have had from 2 to 3 millions of inhabitants; the present pop., estimated at 650,000, is very mixed in origin, but consists mainly of Syro-Arabian fellahin, speaking the Syrian dialect of Arabic.

See the Survey of Western Palestine (8 vols. 1881 et. seq.; discussing excavations, fauna, flora, geology, etc, by Conder, Kitchener, Warren, Tristram, Hull, etc.); The Survey of Eastern Palestine; Tristram, The Land of Israel (2d ed. 1872); Conder, Palestine (1889), and Tent Work in Palestine (1878); Thomson, The Land and the Book (1859; new ed. 1880-86); Guy le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems (1892); G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land (1894); Baedeker's guide by Socin, and Cook's; books by Temple (1888), Henderson (1893), A. W. Cooke (1901), Kelman and Fulleylove (illustrated, 1902); and works cited under Jerusalem.