Palestine is an area located in southwest Asia. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. Previous names for the area include Canaan and Judea. The name Palestine was given to the area by the Romans in 135 AD. It is currently made up of two separate areas, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Human remains found in Palestinian areas have dated back as far as 1.5 million years ago. It was one of the first areas of civilization and the site of many of the holy events of the Christian Bible. The history of Palestine has been marked by thousands of years of political unrest. The people have been invaded and occupied by the Egyptian, Ottoman, Byzantine, and Roman empires, among others.
Religion has always been an important part of Palestinian life. The majority of Palestinians are Muslims, making up approximately 80 percent of the population; Sunni Muslims make up 78 percent and Shi'is Muslims, 2 percent. The remaining 20 percent of the population is Christian, Jewish, Baha'i, atheist, or participants in smaller, less-known religions.
Palestinians have been in conflict with Israel throughout most of Israel's history. Earlier fights were over land and perceived faults between the two. The most recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lasted more than 50 years, with occasional times of peace and times of violence interrupting the uneasy relationship. Both are fighting over the same land. Many attempts have been made to make a separate Palestinian state and a separate Israeli state, but the leaders of both have not been able to coexist peacefully without intervention.
The current conflict dates to 1948, when Israel and Palestinians were each given their own land. In 1967, during the Six Day War, Israel invaded Palestinian area, occupying almost half of their land. The almost constant fighting between the two countries since then has cost thousands of lives. Controversial walls and fences surround much of Palestinian land, reportedly as a way to reduce fighting. Palestine is not considered a country by most of the world, the United States included.
There have been several attempts to bring peace to Israel and Palestinians. One of these attempts has taken the form of summer camps where young Israelis and Palestinians work and play together. One camp, Seeds of Peace, located in Maine, in the United States, has received global recognition for the work it has done. The goal of peace programs involving youth is that the next generation of Palestinians and Israelis will be better equipped to negotiate peace.
It is hoped that Palestinian areas will one day be a safe place to live and visit. Although most tourists are able to safely visit Palestinian land, specifically the safer West Bank, travel to this area is not always recommended. Before visiting the area, tourists are encouraged to check current conditions in the area and plan their travel accordingly.