Erets Israel/Palestine, 1800–1948
RUTH KARK AND JOSEPH B. GLASS
Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel, consists of four geographical regions: the Negev in the south, the coastal plain in the west, the hill regions, and the Jordan Rift Valley in the east. The coastal plain along the Mediterranean Sea, sparsely populated in the early nineteenth century, became the focus of new Jewish settlement activity of the twentieth century. The hill regions were the most densely populated areas in the nineteenth century. The climate is Mediterranean, distinguished by cool rainy winters and dry hot summers. Ottoman rule, which began in 1517, divided Palestine longitudinally, between the vilayets (provinces) of Damascus and Sidon (later the vilayet of Beirut). In 1864 the Ottomans created a new autonomous administrative unit, the mutasariflik of Jerusalem, and a few years later ruled it directly from Istanbul. After World War I and the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the whole of Palestine was placed under a single administrative unit by the League of Nations, and in 1920 the Conference of San Remo conferred the mandate over Palestine on Great Britain. The British divided the territory, creating the protectorate of Transjordan in 1923, which became the kingdom of Jordan in 1946. When the British mandate ended in May 1948, the State of Israel was established and recognized by the United Nations.
Until the British conducted a census in 1922, information about the size and composition of Palestine's population was incomplete. In 1800 the region had 250,000 to 300,000 inhabitants (including 5,500 Jews). In the early 1870s the total population was estimated at about 350,000 (including 18,000 Jews), with an additional 25,000 Bedouins; a conflicting estimate