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Palestine / Philistia; 'The Pale'

Posted by GPP on August 12, 2003

In Reply to: But why, Camel are you so incoherent? posted by Word Camel on August 11, 2003

: : : : : : I have found references to "Pale" with a capital P referring to Ireland. But "..Russian Jews from the Pale.." struck me as being curious (Source was a book review in a magazine in a waiting room. Perhaps boredom had me seeing things.) Were/are there Russian Jews in Ireland.

: : : : : I too thought that the "Pale" meant the area around Dublin under English control, but our forum friends have shown that it was used elesewhere. Search for 'Pale' in the archives for more.

: : : : I think that "pale" is short for "pallisade" - the pale surrounding an encampment was a wooden fence of rough-hewn timber. I think it served two purposes - to keep livestock in and to keep predators out. "Beyond the pale" meaning outside society appears to have a particular historical meaning, but there is no reason why "the pale" should be limited to one particularly famous pale. I was recently informed that locally one could still see the pale of an ancient deer park (I think the enclosure was 500+ years ago).

: : : : Anybody consider that the Pale in question might be the area of Palestine? Just a thought.

: : : The original meaning of 'pale" is a long stake or stick... think Vlad the Impaler. It also came to mean a fence or fortification made up of stakes. 'Palisade' is not an abreviation of pale but a word that comes from the same root. It's an interesting question about whether the world 'palestine' has its root in the word 'pale'. For some reason I thought this expression did have a specific connection with Jewish history but I can't find any reference to it now.

: : So I didn't mention that the fence-posts were sharpened like stakes.

: : As for Palestine - I've just done a quick bit of research and it appears that the name is fairly modern - modern Palestine covers an area that was previously in the historic areas of Judah and Israel. It was difficult to find anything because of the heated politics - but it appears that the area has always been ruled by whoever was the biggest cheese in the region - Babylon, Egypt, you name a middle-eastern empire and they stomped all over it. Difficult to get a simple fact such as where the name came from without getting Zionist conspiracy theories rammed down your throat. Mind you, I haven't forgiven the Normans for conquering us, nor the Vikings. I think we should have compensation from them - oh, and the Romans. Where does it end?

: Sorry, I didn't mean that the way it sounds... it was a pre-coffee post... you're right on base. I'll be sticking my nose in the tent if anyone wants me...

Without having bothered to look anything up, I'm quite positive that "Palestine" is a variant of Philistia, which, again not checking the facts, I understand to have been west of Judah and Israel, along the coast, in the general area of Gaza.

Yes--The Times Atlas of World History, 1979, p.67: "Some forty years later [than 1232 B.C.], Ramesses III overthrew another coalition of Sea Peoples, but some of them, notably the Philistines, afterwards settled on the coast of Palestine, which still bears their name." The borders kept changing, but Judah and Israel were both essentially inland states, Judah to the south between Philistia and the Dead Sea, and Israel to the north. Partridge gives the root as Hebrew "Pelesheth". M-W2 gives for "pale" meaning stake, fence, enclosure, etc, "4. A territory or district within certain bounds or under a particular jurisdiction." In this sense it includes English-held areas in Ireland around Dublin, in France around Calais, and in Scotland. The same sense is meant in the expression 'beyond the pale', as beyond the limits, privileges or protection of the Church.

Also from M-W2: "Jewish Pale. In Russia, a region with boundaries frequently changing, established in 1786 by ukase of Catherine II, in which Jews were compelled to live. In general it comprised certain towns in southwestern Russia and Poland."