In the aftermath of the Muslim Arab invasions of the 630s, the population of Palestine underwent a slow but profound demographic transformation that was expressed in the realms of language, religion and other facets of culture, as well as in economics and settlement patterns. This change was generally a gradual one, taking place over many centuries. During this time, a society that was mainly Aramaic-speaking and Christian, with significant Samarian and Jewish communities, became transformed into an overwhelmingly Arabic-speaking Muslim society, with a small, but not insignificant Christian population, and extremely little Jewish and Samarian groups, all of whom were also Arabic-speaking. This demographic development was accompanied by the changing built landscape: cities and towns dominated by mosques, minarets, madrasas (colleges) and other Muslim institutions; and, countryside dotted by Muslim shrines and other buildings. The landscape can be said to have been Islamized, reflecting and influencing demographic and cultural changes.
In order to fully grasp the fundamental making over of society in the region, we must look at a longue durée of almost 900 years, from the advent of Muslim rule until the end of the Mamluk period. This extended period can be divided into two main phases with an interesting interlude. The first phase is from the conquest to the coming of the Crusaders in 1099. The time of Crusader rule was the interlude during which there was probably a halt if not reversal in the twin processes of Arabization and Islamization, although this hypothesis must be confirmed. The second phase begins with the commencement of the Ayyubid reconquest of the country (1187), although in some areas it will only start in 1291 with the taking of Acre by the Mamluks.
This period sets the stage for many of the events and developments during the subsequent centuries when the country was under Ottoman rule, and its impact on developments in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries cannot be denied. To modern-day Jews, Muslims and Christians in the country and beyond, this is still a time of living history, seen by many as the formative period for today’s troubled political situation.
The primary aim of our project is to investigate some of the salient demographic and cultural developments in the history of Palestine. We hope to build on the important path-breaking work of our teachers and colleagues in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel and abroad to create a richer picture of the society that developed here under the aegis of a succession of Muslim states.
Programs and Working Teams
The program is based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, under the auspices of the Institute for Asian and African Studies and the Geography Department, but includes also researchers from other institutions. It includes four working teams dealing with the following general subjects:
- Administration and Political Elites, Muslim Scholars and Learning in Palestine during the Early Islamic Period (634-1099)
- The Islamization of the Architectural Landscape in Palestine from 700 to 1500
- The Formation of Islamic Life and Space in Palestine from the Arab Conquest until the Mamluk Period
- Conversion to Islam in Palestine in the Post-Crusading Period (1187-1516 C.E.)
The Israel Scientific Foundation.
We would like to thank Mr. Adi Ben-Nun, technical manager of the GIS Center at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Mrs. Tali Aviram from the Center for Computational Geography for developing and programming the Geographic-Historic database. We also would like to thank Mrs. Halely Elazar for designing and programming this website.
* Part of the pictures in this website were edited from the Institute of Archeology of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem collection; Ancient Maps of Jerusalem catalog; and Prof. Myriam Rosen-Ayalon publications.