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This Hebrew term, meaning "The land of Israel" seems to be the cause of some confusion here.

The word "Eretz" is in the construct state, and means "land of". The Israel bit should be more or less self-explanatory (It's sometimes transliterated "Yisrael").

Now this isn't supposed to be a history lesson, but it's important to remember that for most of the world, the sovereign state is a relatively new thing. For most of the last few thousand years, there have been large Empires controlling chunks of the globe, rather than neat parcels of land with borders and governments and -- most importantly -- names.

There's an area of land that starts at the Mediterranean and carries on East until about the Jordan river, and then maybe on a bit -- maybe not -- but not as far as the Euphrates. It goes north as far as the Dan river, and south to the ancient city of Beer Sheva, and maybe all the way to the Gulf of Aqaba. For hundreds of years, this area was known to most people in the West as Palestine.

Most people? Well, not all. The Jews never adopted the term 'Palestine' when it was introduced by the Romans after the Jewish Revolt. They called the area 'Eretz Yisrael' instead.

This is the important bit: Both terms Palestine and Eretz Israel did not refer to discrete, bordered geographical areas. Rather, they referred vagually to 'that bit' of the Near East. The definition was important in the Jewish legal sense, as there are some agricultural laws that are only observed in Eretz Yisrael. But there were multiple Rabbinic opinions as to what land counted as Eretz Yisrael in different contexts. Most restricted it to West of the Jordan river.

So when people refer to Eretz Israel today, what do they mean? It depends. Normally, they mean little more than the State of Israel. It's just a nice flowery way of putting it, the sort of thing you learn at Kindergarten. Sometimes they are referring to the wider geographical area, especially back in pre-state days, in much the same way as the area is called Palestine when talking about, say, the 19th Century.

When people talk about the complete or whole Land of Israel, they are using a political term referring to an extension of the State of Israel to encompass any territory under the wider scopes of 'Eretz Israel', for example including the West Bank and Gaza, or even Jordan. But to claim that all uses of 'Eretz Israel' mean expansionism is as disingenuous as claiming every time a Palestinian uses the word 'Palestine' they mean Israel and Jordan too. They are just two different names for vague areas, like the Balkans or Scandinavia. The fact that there actually is a state called Israel and soon, in all probablilty, one called Palestine, confuses matters. But I hope it's clearer now.

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