Newspaper article The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT)

Faith & Values: History of Middle East Is Complex

Newspaper article The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT)

Faith & Values: History of Middle East Is Complex

Article excerpt

Palestine had never existed as an autonomous entity. In the first century, it was ruled by the Romans who named the land Palestine. The Romans expelled the Jews from Jerusalem in 135 A.D., but many Jews remained in the land.

Christians dominated the land from the time Emperor Constantine became a Christian, in the fourth century, until the followers of Muhammad took over in the seventh century. Palestine was ruled by Muslims and Christians in the time of the Crusades (99 to 1399). The Ottoman Turks took over in the 14th century and remained until 1918.

The Ottoman Empire got its start in the late 13th century when a few states in Turkey banded together under a man called Osman. The empire expanded, and within a short time, had conquered much of the Middle East (which included the Holy Land) and parts of Europe.

In 1453, the Christian Byzantine Empire, centered at Constantinople, fell before the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople became its headquarters. The name of the city was changed to Istanbul and the official religion became Islam. The Sultan assumed the Caliphate and so became the political and religious leader of the Empire.

Under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the empire reached its "golden age." A man of great culture and learning, Suleiman went to Jerusalem in 1517 and renovated the old city walls and renovated mosques, churches and synagogues.

The Turks continued to conquer new territories, and by the mid-16th century, had spread into Egypt, Syria, Algiers, the Arabian Peninsula, Hungary, Romania and parts of Greece. The empire was the largest and longest lasting in the history of the world. It stretched from the Persian Gulf to Hungary and from Egypt to the Caucasus.

It began to deteriorate in the 18th and 19th centuries as nationalism, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution spread their wings. The Ottomans did not keep up with new developments and the Industrial Revolution bypassed them. In World War I they sided with Germany. The empire came to an end after its defeat by the Allies and was dismantled in 1918.

The war caused great disruption of territory and people. When it ended, the League of Nations ordered protectorates (mandates) to care for countries that the Ottoman Empire had encompassed. France was given the mandate over Syria and Lebanon. …

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