THE GREEK DESCENT OF THE PALESTINIANS AND THE ARAB SPEAKING RUM ORTHODOX (ROMANS OF THE EAST)
The origins of the name Palestine is very old, in fact over three thousand years old. The name Palestine comes from the Philistines who were Greek and Greek-speaking Mediterranean people originating from Asia Minor and the islands of the Aegean sea. They reached the southern coast of Palestine in several waves. One group arrived in the early historic period and settled in Gaza. Another group, coming from Crete after being repulsed from an attempted invasion of Egypt by Ramses III in 1194 B.C. seized the southern coastal area, where they founded five settlements. Settling the coastal plain, the Philistines established these five cities, each ruled by a king as was the custom of city-states amongst the Greek world. These cities were called Gath (home of Goliath), Ashdod, Ekron, Gaza, and Askalon. This area of the Philistines was called by the Jews “nege’v Hereji”, a phrase which means “the south of the Cretans” precisely because of the Cretan presence of the Philistines in the region. According to the few signs that have remained, by 630 B.C. the Philistines had lost their Greek language and they spoke Aramaic. However with the Hellenistic period, the Greek presence and language re-appear in Palestine. The Hellenistic period in Palestine lasted in the Palestine from 332-63 B.C. The province of Galelie, as the neighbouring provinces of Decapolis and Peraias, were at that time completely Hellenized. The Hellenized cities of Galilie and more widely of Palestine remained prosperous up until the time of Christ. Even if the cities were under Roman administration, the Greek element continued being present and a big part of population of was Greek origin. The Philistines who were renamed Palestinians by now, had become Hellenized as well. With the coming of Christianity, the Greeks of Palestine, as well as the Palestinians, and the residents of Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, became Christians. When the Roman Empire was divided up between East and West, Palestine, as well as all the other countries of region, became part of Byzantium. As a result, the Palestinians and big parts of the population of Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan became Greek Orthodox Christians. With the appearance of Islam, and the raids of Arabs who came from the Arabian desert, Byzantium lost these regions to the Muslim Arabs. The Arabs imposed their religion and their language on the countries which they conquered. Thus with the Muslim religion, this region adopted also and the Arabic language, and in very small period, the populations were Arabized. However, not all the people of Palestine and the surrounding countries became Muslim. Many remained Orthodox Christians even if they lost their language and spoke only Arabic. During the Ottoman period, all the Arabic-speaking, Greek Orthodox Christians were named by the Turks, Rum Orthodox, the same name given also to the Greeks. From then on, the Arabic-speaking Greek Orthodox population of Palestine, but also in all Middle East, are called and call themselves Rum Orthodox, and don’t have just an Arab identity. Surely “Rum Orthodox” are not only the Greeks and the Greek Cypriots, the Arabic-speaking Rum Orthodox, are the last remaining Byzantines in the Middle East.
Palestinian Greek Orthodox Community