Peaceful Palestine

Bedouin musicians

Ecee Home Arch Jerusalem, 1898

Dabarath Palestine, 1900

North Palestine, 1898

Olive Picking, 1880

Western Tourists with Locals, 1860

A native school in Palestine, 1903

Palestine Jordan River, 1880

Jewish people have had a continuous connection to the holy land for thousands of years. In fact, this connection dates back 4,000 years when God told Abraham to leave his homeland, Ur Kasdim, and go “to a land that I will show thee.” 

Abraham listened. He had an amazing faith and trust in God, and so he left his home. He was comforted by the divine promise, “I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)

Palestinian Jews Lived Peacefully Alongside Christians and Muslims for Years

The word “Palestine” has historically been used to refer to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. However, perhaps what the land was called is less significant than the interactions between the people who lived there together for centuries.

The first moving picture featuring Palestine was captured by the Lumière brothers in 1896. The video shows the following:

      • Successful businesses operating peacefully 
      • A bustling train station 
      • Jews, Christians, and Muslims living and praying in the same community

Palestine had been under the control of the Muslim Ottoman Turks since the 1800s. Before 1917, residents of multiple faiths lived together in peace. In contrast to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, violence between faith groups was rare.

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Map: Palestina 1759

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Map: Palestina 1782

In his book Righteous Victims, Israeli-Jewish historian Benny Morris documents that in the 27 years ending in 1908 there had been 13 Jews killed by Arabs. All but four were robberies or similar crimes. Even the distinction between “Jew” and “Arab” was difficult to make. Palestinian Jews were Arabs too. 

A 1922 League of Nations report on Palestine provides census data and shows “a total population of 757,182, of whom 78% were Moslems, 11% Jews, and 9.6% Christians.” This was probably the first census ever taken in Palestine on a scientific basis.

Who Are Palestinians?

The 1931 Almanac includes a section titled, “Palestine,” and recognizes it as a territory with an estimated area of 9,000 square miles. Its capital, Jerusalem, is noted as having a population of 62,678 based on the 1922 census. The Almanac also notes the policy of Great Britain, who held authority of the land at the time, was to “provide a national home for the Jews, permitting them to return to Palestine only as the development of that country guarantees the normal absorption of immigrants for rising industries and reclaimed agricultural lands.”

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The 1931 Almanac goes into aspects of Palestine’s economy and population.

The 1931 Almanac goes further into aspects of Palestine’s economy and population. The Almanac notes “600 miles of new roads built, 200 schools opened, and that Palestine had nearly 150 industries with an investment of £E1,200,000, of which all but £E100,000 is Jewish.” Well before the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state, an influx of the Jewish population was recognized. 

Between “Sept. 1, 1920 and March 1, 1925 the total number of immigrants into Palestine were 46,225 Jews and 2,027 non-Jews. In 1925, 35,641 immigrants, of whom 33,801 were Jews, were admitted compared with 13,553 (12,856) Jews in 1924. 90% came from Europe, 47% from Poland alone; 594 came from the United States.”

During the next few years from 1926 to 1929, a number of Jews arrived and a number of Jews also left. Not including the mostly Jewish new immigrants, others coming to Palestine included American tourists of non-Jewish descent. More than 63,000 tourists arrived in 1927, with 75% of them traveling from the United States. 

Historic photos from the Library of Congress show images of Palestine in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Black-and-white photographs show the idyllic villages and farms in Palestine. People are going about their day-to-day activities, tending to the land, playing music, attending school, and picking olives in peace. 

Dabarath, Palestine 1900

The First Moving Picture of Palestine

The moving picture captured in 1896 by the Lumière Brothers describes Palestine as a place with a population of 600,000 with a majority of Sunni Muslims. Yet, in the video, people of different religions live and pray together in peace, whether it be a Jew at the Western Wall or an Armenian pope walking in the holy streets. While Jews made up half the population of Jerusalem at the time, they made up five percent of the population of Palestine as a whole. Christians accounted for 10% and Muslims for 85%.

This evidence shows a peaceful Palestine – where Palestinian Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived together – before the year 1900. So how is it that many have come to understand the region as one with constant discord? What happened to generate decades of conflict that continues to this day? People of multiple faiths lived and worshipped together in peace 100 years ago. Does it make sense for 700,000 Muslims, Palestinians, and Christian Palestinians to have simply left their homes in the later creation of Israel? These are questions we hope to answer in the next exhibits.

Interested in learning more about Palestinian Jews and the next 30 years leading up the creation of Israel in 1948? Check out our next exhibit, Creation of State, and visit The Promised Land Museum to find out how you can host an exhibit.


Such evidence shows a peaceful Palestine before the 1900, so how is it that we have come to understand the region as one with constant discord? What happened to generated decades of conflict that continues to this day? With people of multiple faiths living and worshiping together in peace one hundred years ago, does it make sense for 700,000 Muslim and Christian Palestinian men, women and children to have simply left their homes in the later creation of Israel?

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