Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE and served as the capital of Egypt until the Muslim conquest of the 7th century CE. As the intellectual and cultural hub of the ancient Mediterranean world, it became a major Jewish center of life and learning.
Descended from Lot, Ammon was a nation that dwelled east of Israel in present-day Jordan. As with Moab — and although they were frequently in conflict — the Israelites were specifically instructed by the Torah to neither attack nor absorb the Ammonites.
Located in ancient Mesopotamia, Babel was the capital city of the Babylonian empire and is notable as the location of the Tower of Babel. Although the Babylonian empire destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, the subsequent exile resulted in the creation of the Babylonian Talmud.
Beersheba, which translates as “well of the seven” or “well of the oath,” is a city located in southern Israel. The name likely comes from the oath that Abraham made there to the Philistine King Abimelech or to the seven wells dug in the area by Isaac.
Beit El, which means “house of God,” was a Biblical town located in central Israel. Also known as Bethel, this ancient city is where Jacob had a dream of angels going up and down a ladder. Jacob built an altar to God in Beit El, but it later became a hub for idolatry.
The Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) was built in Jerusalem by King Solomon to replace the Tabernacle and other altars, as well as to serve as the center of Jewish life and ritual sacrifice. The ultimate destruction of the Temple is discussed at length in the Jewish sources.
Beitar was an ancient city that was the final stronghold of the Jews during the Bar Kokhba revolt of the 2nd century CE in which Jews tried — unsuccessfully — to end Roman rule. The Romans captured and destroyed the fortress and massacred all of its inhabitants.
As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is mentioned many times in the Bible and other Jewish sources. Damascus is synonymous with Aram, an Aramean state, in the Jewish sources. Today, Damascus is the capital of Syria.
Edom, meaning “red,” is the name of the country founded by Jacob’s brother Esau, who the Bible says was born “red all over.” Edom was a rival of Israel and later became associated with the Romans and the West. Edom is located in present-day Jordan.
Egypt (Mitzrayim) plays a central role in the Bible, named both as a land of refuge and a land of danger and subjugation, particularly in the Passover narrative. Egypt is complex, both as the birthplace of the Jewish nation and as the one place a Jew may not live.
En Dor was a town thought to have been located in northern Israel. Its fame comes mainly from a Biblical story in which King Saul visits the Witch of Endor in order to learn his fate against the assembled Philistine army.
The Encampment of Israel (Machane Yisrael) refers to the layout of the Israelite camp on their way from Egypt to Israel. This encampment is often contrasted to the dwellings of the Levites, which the Israelite encampment surrounded, or to the area outside of it to where the impure were sent.
Ever HaYarden was a settlement on the eastern side of the Jordan River where the Israelite tribes of Gad and Reuven chose to reside. Because Ever HaYarden was not part of the land where the Israelites were meant to settle, it became a province with unique customs and laws.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Galil region of northern Israel served as the center of Jewish life and seat of the Great Sanhedrin (Jewish council). In the Middle Ages, the Galilee once again became a center of Jewish life, culture, and mysticism.
Jews first found refuge in Germany after escaping Roman persecution. Over time, Jews both suffered and flourished in the country, with the first Reform synagogue opening in Germany in 1810. Before World War II, Germany was home to Central Europe’s largest Jewish community.
The Heavens (Shamayim) appear in the first lines of Genesis and are mentioned frequently in the Jewish sources as representing everything above Earth. The Heavens are also understood as the place where God and the angels reside.
Named after the patriarch Jacob, whose name became Yisrael, Israel is both the name of the people and land of the Bible. The Jewish sources explain the Rabbis’ attachment to the land of Israel through discussions of the land’s borders, its laws, and more.
Jericho (Yericho) was a heavily fortified city immediately to the west of the Jordan River, and the first settlement encountered by Joshua and the Israelites when they entered Israel. Jericho is discussed later when there is an attempt to rebuild the city despite a curse on it.
Jerusalem (Yerushalayim) was a Jebusite city that was captured by King David and made into the capital of a united kingdom of Israel. Once the Temple was built in Jerusalem by King Solomon, the city became the indelible symbol of the Jewish people and their connection with God.
Kush was an ancient African kingdom located in the southern Nile Valley that is often understood in the Jewish sources to be Ethiopia. Sometimes, the term is used to refer to all of sub-Saharan Africa or dark-skinned people more generally.
The Levitical Cities (Arei HaLeviim) were 48 cities that were set aside for the Levites who were not given their own land in Israel. Of those 48 cities, six also served as cities of refuge as defined in the Bible.
Ma'arat Hamachpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs) is the area in Hebron bought by Abraham as a burial place for his wife Sarah. Considered an important holy place, it’s the burial location for all of the patriarchs and matriarchs, with the exception of Rachel.
Located between Israel and Egypt, Midian was inhabited by the descendents of Midian, who was a son of Abraham. Moses spent his exile from Egypt in Midian and married a Midianite woman. Later, Israel was persecuted by Midian on the final legs of their journey to Israel.
Moab’s residents were descended from Lot, and the Torah commands the Israelites to neither attack nor absorb the Moabites. Notably, King David is descended from a Moabite, the convert Ruth. Moab was located in modern-day Jordan.
Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal (Har Gerizim Vehar Eival) are two mountains in Samaria near the Jordan River. The former was fertile and the latter barren, which made them the ideal setting for announcing the blessings and curses in the Bible.
Mount Sinai (Har Sinai) is famously where Moses and the Israelites heard the Ten Commandments and received the Torah. Although it was the location of Israel's most important hour, the mountain in the middle of the Sinai Desert only had sanctity while God was upon it.
The Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting) was a temporary structure that Moses used to communicate with God from outside the Israelite camp after the incident of the Golden Calf. Most Jewish sources believe this tent was decommissioned once the Tabernacle (Mishkan) was set up in Exodus 40:17.
In Judaism, the language “outside of Israel” (chutz laaretz) is more than just a geographical construct — it’s also a legal and theological one. There are different laws for Jews living inside versus those living outside of the land of Israel.
A partition (mechitzah) is noted in Jewish law as a way to separate two domains. Partitions are discussed in the Talmud as a way to separate men from women during Sukkot celebrations in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Red Sea (Yam Suf) — often mistranslated as the Reed Sea — is located along Egypt's eastern border. In the Bible, the Israelites fled persecution in Egypt, passing the Red Sea, which God miraculously split.
As the nation responsible for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Rome has a prominent place in the Jewish literature. Although most sources are critical of the pride and viciousness of the Roman Empire, some sources are more apologetic about Rome.
After the First Temple (Beit Hamikdash) was destroyed by the Babylonians and the Jews went into exile, the Second Temple (Bayit Sheni) was built by returning exiles with the permission of the new Persian rulers. It was not nearly as elaborate as the First Temple.
Shechem was a Canaanite town north of Jerusalem that was first mentioned in Genesis after Abraham offers a sacrifice and builds an altar there. Shechem is most infamously known as the palace where Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is raped.
In the Bible, the city of Sodom became synonymous with evil in a story about Abraham’s nephew, Lot, his guests, and the mob of Sodomites that rose against them. Rabbinic sources elaborate on Sodom’s many evils, including using the death penalty to punish hospitality to strangers.
Because it was conquered by King David and temporarily belonged to the Jewish commonwealth, Syria is treated by the Jewish sources as a middle ground that is neither as holy as the land of Israel nor completely outside of it either.
The Tabernacle Courtyard (Hatzer Hamishkan) was the area surrounding the Tabernacle sanctuary and outwardly demarcated by curtains. The sacrificial altar, which stood outside of the sanctuary, was also in the courtyard.
Tarshish was an ancient city or region across the Mediterranean Sea from Israel, although its exact location is unknown. In the Bible, Tarshish was named as a source of King Solomon's great wealth in metals, and it was also the destination of Jonah’s boat when he fled from God.
The Temple Mount (Har Habayit) is the hill in Jerusalem where the Holy Temple once stood. Although the Temple is no longer standing, the Jewish sources discuss whether a Jew is allowed to even step foot on the Temple Mount because of its holiness.
The Four Kingdoms refers to the four empires — Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome — that ruled over the Land of Israel and resulted in the exile of the Jewish people. These four empires and exiles are represented by different creatures in a prophetic vision in the Book of Daniel.
The Four Rivers refer to the rivers that flow out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:10-14) and are generally understood in the Jewish sources to refer to the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile (or Ganges), and Blue Nile rivers.
As the main source of Egypt's water supply, the Nile River was central to life. The Nile River was worshiped by the Egyptians, and it was into this river that the Egyptians threw Jewish infants and that was turned into blood in the Passover story.
The Tabernacle in Shiloh (Mishkan Shiloh) was the main spiritual center for the Jews living in Israel before the Temple was built in Jerusalem. The Tabernacle was established in Shiloh after the conquest of Canaan and remained there until Shiloh was destroyed by the Philistines.
Located along the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias (Tiveria) has long been one of northern Israel’s most important cities. Founded by the Romans and known for its hot springs, Tiberias became a spiritual center with a large Jewish community and a thriving fishing industry.
Tyre (Tzur) was a Phoenician port city located in present-day Lebanon. Built on an island, it was secure from invading armies, which helped it become prosperous. Although Tyre was allied with Israel under King Hiram, it was more frequently viewed as a rival to Israel.
After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai moved the Sanhedrin to Yavne, which became an important center of Jewish learning, Rabbinic scholarship, and the development of modern Judaism as it is known today.
Zion (Tzion) is another name given for Jerusalem in the Bible, and it also can refer to the Jewish people or heaven itself. Zion is found most often in poetic references to Jerusalem, such as in the Book of Psalms.