The first non-Biblical reference to Israel, meanwhile, is Egyptian and originates from around 1230 B.C. Then, by approximately 1000 B.C., it seems that an Israelite kingdom had been united under King David. And it was David’s son King Solomon who apparently constructed the temple that helped solidify Jerusalem as a religious hub – although the kingdom again became divided after Solomon’s death.
Since that time, the area that we now call Israel has been ruled over by a succession of different powers. Initially, the region was a Roman province – before it fell under the Byzantine Empire; and after that, it was conquered by the expanding Muslim caliphate. There then ensued hundreds of years of conflict in the Middle East between European Christians and Muslims, both of whom claimed that the “Holy Land” belonged to them.
Finally, in 1948 the independent state of Israel – the only majority Jewish country in the world – was created. Yet the country’s birth also displaced the Palestinians who lived in the area – many of whom were Muslim. And Israel is still a place where religion fuels ongoing conflicts.