The Holy Land (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ הַקוֹדֵשׁ Eretz HaQodesh, Arabic: الأرض المقدسة Al-Arḍ Al-Muqaddasah) is a term which in Judaism refers to the Land of Israel (also known as Palestine). The term is also used by Muslims and Christians to refer to the area between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.
Part of the significance of the land stems from the religious significance of Jerusalem, the holiest city to Judaism, the assumed place of Jesus's ministry, and the Isra and Mi'raj event in Islam. The perceived holiness of the land to Christianity was one of the motivational factors behind the efforts of the Crusades, which sought to win the Holy Land back from the Muslim Suljuq Turks that had conquered it from the Muslim Arabs, who had in turn conquered it from the Christian Byzantine Empire.
Many sites in the Holy Land have long been pilgrimage destinations for adherents of the Abrahamic religions, including Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Bahá'ís. Pilgrims visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of their faith, confirm their beliefs in the holy context with collective excitation, and connect personally to the Holy Land.
The Land of Israel is explicitly referred in the Tanakh as "holy land" (ארץ הקודש) in only one passage, in Zechariah 2:16. The holiness of the Land is generally implied in the Tanakh by the Land being given to the Israelites by God, that is, it is the "promised land," an integral part of God's covenant. In the Torah many mitzvot commanded to the Israelites can only be performed in the Land of Israel, which serves to differentiate it from other lands. For example, in the Land of Israel, " no land shall be sold permanently." (Lev. 25:23). Shmita is only observed with respect to the land of Israel, and the observance of many holy days is different in that that an extra day is observed in the Jewish diaspora.
According to Eliezer Schweid:
- "The uniqueness of the Land of Israel is...'geo-theological' and not merely climatic. This is the land which faces the entrance of the spiritual world, that sphere of existence that lies beyond the physical world known to us through our senses. This is the key to the land's unique status with regard to prophecy and prayer, and also with regard to the commandments"
"Four Holy Cities" in Israel, Jerusalem, Hebron, Tzfat and Tiberias are regarded as Judaism's holiest cities. Jerusalem, as the site of the Temple, is considered especially significant. According to Jewish tradition, Jerusalem is Mount Moriah, the location of the binding of Isaac. Jerusalem is mentioned 669 times in the Hebrew Bible, in part because many mitzvot can only be performed within its environs. Zion, which usually refers to Jerusalem, but sometimes the Land of Israel, appears in the Hebrew Bible 154 times.
For Christians, the Land of Israel is considered holy because of its association with the birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians regard as the Savior or Messiah, as well as the Bible's mention of it being the land of his people, the Jews (according to the Bible). Outside of the places traditionally associated with Christian personalities, the territory or the land of the Holy Land bears no mention in Christianity.
In the Qur'an, the term الأرض المقدسة (Al-Ard Al-Muqaddasah, English: "Holy Land") is mentioned at least seven times, once when Moses proclaims to the Children of Israel: "O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin." (Surah 5:21)
Jerusalem (referred to as Al-Quds, meaning the "Holy") has particular significance in Islam. The Qur'an refers to Muhammad's experiencing the Isra and Mi'raj as "a Journey by night from the Sacred (Mecca) Mosque to the Farthest (al-Aqsa) Mosque, whose precincts We did bless" (17:1). Ahadith associate the "Farthest Mosque" as Al-Quds; for example, as narrated by Abu Huraira: "On the night journey of Allah's Apostle, two cups, one containing wine and the other containing milk, were presented to him at Al-Quds (Jerusalem). He looked at them and took the cup of milk. Angel Gabriel said, "Praise be to Allah, who guided you to Al-Fitrah (the right path); if you had taken (the cup of) wine, your Ummah would have gone astray". However, much modern scholarship argues that the 'Farthest Mosque' (al-Masjid al-Aqsa) was a building or prayer site just outside Medina. The present mosque of that name had not been built in Muhammad's day, nor does the Qur'an contain any reference to Jerusalem, apart from the reference to the change of the qibla from Jerusalem to Mecca. Jerusalem was Islam's first Qibla (direction of prayer), however, this was later changed to the Kaaba in Mecca following a revelation to the Prophet Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel.
The exact region referred to as "Blessed Land" in the Qur'an verse [21:71] has been interpreted differently by various scholars: Abdullah Yusuf Ali likens it to a wide land range including, Syria, Palestine and the cities of Tyre and Sidon; Az-Zujaj describes it as, "Damascus, Palestine, and a bit of Jordan"; Qatada claims it to be, "the Levant"; Muadh ibn Jabal as, "the area between al-Arish and the Euphrates"; and Ibn Abbas as, "the land of Jericho". The references to 'Palestine' here, instead of Syria are achronological.
See also 
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- Abrahamic religion
- Archaeological sites in Israel
- History of the Jews in the Land of Israel
- Holiest sites in Islam
- Holy places
- List of Christian holy sites in the Holy Land
- List of significant religious sites
- Laws and customs of the Land of Israel in Judaism
- Religious significance of Jerusalem in Islam
- Metti, Michael Sebastian (2011-06-01). "Jerusalem - the most powerful brand in history". Stockholm University School of Business. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
- Aharon Ziegler, Halakhic positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik: Volume 4, KTAV Publishing House, 2007, p.173
- The Land of Israel: National Home Or Land of Destiny, By Eliezer Schweid, Translated by Deborah Greniman, Published 1985 Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, ISBN 0-8386-3234-3, p.56.
- Since the 10th century BCE. "For Jews the city has been the pre-eminent focus of their spiritual, cultural, and national life throughout three millennia." Yossi Feintuch, U.S. Policy on Jerusalem, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987, p. 1. ISBN 0-313-25700-0
- Ali (1991), p.934
- American Travelers to the Holy Land in the 19th Century Shapell Manuscript Foundation
- Virtual tour of Holy Land
- "Description of the Holy Land" is a map from 1585 depicting the Holy Land at the time of Jesus