Palestine is an area rich in history that is considered the home of both Judaism and Christianity. It is a history that begins more than 1.5 million years ago where remains found have indicated it started as a migration route. The earliest settlements re-reported to have existed more than 100,000 years ago when homo sapiens lived side by side with Neanderthals. To understand the rich and complex culture of this region you must first understand its extensive history.
Palestine in the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages marked a period of time from the 5th century to the 15th century A.D. In this region it marks the end of Byzantine rule and the beginning of Islamic rule. The Middle Ages would be a tumultuous period as the majority of the history in this region. This time is often divided into sections, the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates, the time of the Kingdom of Jerusalem Crusades, and the time of the Anubis, Mameluke, Bahri, and Mameluke Burji dynasties.
Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates
Rashidun Caliphate(638-661AD)- This Caliphate would mark the end of the Byzantine era and the beginning of Islamic rule. Caliph Umar would be the first ruler to reclaim the site of the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif. The site had fallen into ruins under Byzantine rule. The Rashidun Caliphate should see its end with the assignation of Caliph Ali ending the first Fitna. During this time both Jews and Christians were considered “people of the book” and were given freedoms and rights not extended to other religions outside of Muslims.
Umayyad Caliphate (661- 744) -This period would mark the beginning of the second Fitna. Caliph Muawiyah would be one of the standout Caliphs in the Umayyad Caliphate. He would commission the building of the Dome of the Rock built on the Temple Mount. Caliph Al-Walid constructed the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount during his rule. The status of Christians and Jews as the “people of the book” would be made official during this period. The Umayyad Caliphate would reopen trading channels between Jerusalem and Europe.
Abbasid Caliphate (744-969 AD) – In 744 the Umayyad army would be defeated and the Abbasid Caliphate moved the capital from Jerusalem to Baghdad. This period would become known as the Islamic Golden Age. During this time several coastal regions and port cities would be fortified, including the rebuilding of the Dome of the Rock after an earthquake. Relations with the Europeans would also be fortified with new connections to King of Charlemagne. The relocation of the capital would be the downfall of the Caliphate as they lost control of the western regions.
Fatimid Caliphate (969 – 1073) – This is the last Caliphate to rule in the region before Seljuk occupation and the first of the Christian Crusades. Notable events during this time include the attempt to expand into the Byzantine Empire unsuccessfully. The Fatimid Caliphate moved the capital to Cairo during this time. After the region would fall into Seljuk control.
Kingdom of Jerusalem or Crusades (1099-1180)
The Seljuk control of the region would prompt the Byzantine emperor, Alexis I Komnenos, to try to end the divide between the eastern and western orthodox churches. He would seek help from Pope Urban II to take control from the Seljuks and so would begin the Christian Crusades.
Ayyubid, Mamluk, Bahri, and Mamluk Burji Dynasties (1187 – 1486)
The first two Crusades and the Kingdom of Jerusalem would see its end at the hands of the Ayyubid General Saladin. Saladin would retake Jerusalem only to destroy the fortified city rather than letting a fortified stronghold from being taken in the third, fourth, or fifth Crusades. The region was once again returned to Ayyubid control at the end of the sixth Crusade.
Sultan Turanshah was an Ayyubid with a Mamluk army. In a complicated turn of events, the Mamluk people would gain control from the Ayyubid dynasty who would then be overtaken by the Mamluk Burji dynasty. The Mamluk Burji would later be defeated by the Ottoman, in 1486, at the Battle of Mark Dabiq.