Nowhere is the subject of peace and understanding, or more realistically, violence and misunderstanding, more evident than in discussions about the Holy Land, whether in synagogues, churches, mosques, political debates, university seminars, or on marches and demonstrations. Those with skin in the game tend to pursue partisan agendas deploying caricature as a rhetorical tool, ignoring what is a complex web of communities, beliefs and traditions to focus on the destructive clash between Israel and Palestine.

Hosted by Dr Ed Kessler, our series explores the ancient and unending complexities of a strip of land along the Mediterranean. Which term do you apply to a land that became the birthplace of the Hebrew Bible?

Come on a journey from biblical times to the modern day, exploring the connection between religion, history and politics and reflect on one of the most intractable conflicts in the last 100 years.

Browse podcasts

'A' for Arab

It may seem obvious to begin an A-Z of the Holy Land with 'A' for Arab but the term is more confusing than it may seem at first glance.

'B' for Balfour

In 67 words, the Foreign Secretary publicly declared the support of the British government for the Jewish claim to a ‘national home’ in Palestine in 1917. What happened next?

'C' for Christianity

Christians are a minority in the Holy Land and a minority within the Arab minority. Purely on the psychological level, the Church is under pressure.

'D' for Dome of the Rock

Although Muslims now pray towards Mecca, they once faced Jerusalem.

'E' for Environment

Nothing illustrates the environmental challenge facing the Holy Land better than the decline of the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret, to its lowest levels for 100 years.

'F' for Fanaticism

The argument is simple: "God gave us this land, it is Holy Land; it is ours and only ours".

'G' for God

In a quest to encounter the Almighty, where better to go than the Holy Land?

'H' for Humour

Don’t know whether to laugh or express anger? Is the joke iconoclastic? Insensitive? That's Holy Land humour.

'I' for Israel

The conflict will not be resolved in the long term by military means but only by compromise.

'J' for Jesus

The events that led to Jesus’ death have been vigorously debated over the centuries.

'K' for Kibbutz

The kibbutz, a collective community traditionally run on socialist principles, is portrayed in the Israeli narrative as one of the guardians of the Holy Land.

'L' for Language

Arabic and Hebrew have not always been dominant in the Holy Land.

'M' for Music

Did you know that the first accurate record of the melodies used for chanting the Torah was made by Christian scholars during the 15th century?

'N' for New Testament and Old Testament

You might expect the Old and New Testaments to contain conflicting views of the Holy Land. However, there is surprising consistency.

'O' for Ottoman

Should we conclude that Ottoman rule in the Holy Land was one of harmony between Muslims, Christians and Jews? That's one heavily debated question.

'P' for Palestine

Palestine is the focus of attention - and contention – around the world.

'Q' for Quran

The Holy Land as a whole and Jerusalem in particular are, according to the Qur’an, sacred and retain an important place in Islamic consciousness.

'R' for Refuge‪e‬

While the State of Israel will not agree to their return since it would effectively destroy Israel as a Jewish state, the Palestinians steadfastly refuse to abandon their claim.

'S' for Status Qu‪o‬

Whilst plurality and diversity are under threat on and between all sides, the repairs in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are an example of how sometimes religious leaders can transcend partisan elements.

'T' for Trialogue

Adherents of the Abrahamic faiths in the Holy Land have gained profound experience in polemic and apologetics but little in genuine dialogue.

'U' for United Nations

The rivalry of two nationalisms – Jewish and Palestinian – was set in motion well before then but despite the UN’s involvement, they have continued, unabated, to this day.

'V' for Violence

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict therefore is not just about solving disagreement but rather who has the God-given right to this land. Religious faith not only easily leads to exclusive claims but can also inspire self-sacrifice.

'W' for Words

Words have power. They can build or destroy, heal or harm.

'X' for X-ray Archaeology

Is the Jewish state’s right to exist legitimised – or illegitimated – by stones or pottery from 3000 years ago?

'Y' for Yerushalyim

For Jews, Christians and Muslims, Jerusalem represents the divine–human encounter, linking heaven and earth.

'Z' for Zion

Can Zion prove to itself and to the world that it is capable of being a holy site to all?

Introduction: A-Z of the Holy Land: from Arab to Zion

Come on a journey from biblical times to the modern day...
Back to Podcast Series