There are different accounts about the origin of the word “Israel”, the name chosen by David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the state. Some say that the word means “wrestling with God” or “God wrestling”, while others say that it was originally the name of the prophet Jacob, because he wrestled with the angel that the Lord had sent him, according to the Jewish holy books. His sons were therefore called “the children of Israel”. There are also accounts that state that the word Israel means “Servant of God” or “God is strong”, because the origin of the word is Syriac, and it consists of two parts, the first “Isr” meaning the servant, and the second “Ael”, meaning “God”.
The word has its origin in the Torah, it was mentioned in the Book of Genesis as the name of the prophet Jacob, and in the Talmud, but it is also mentioned in the Merneptah inscription which dates back to ancient Egypt, towards the end of the 13th century B.C., as well as in the “Misha” inscription and in Himyarite inscriptions. However, many historians refer to the period when the land of Canaan was under the control of the Egyptian pharaohs, while others believe that it appeared before the Torah appeared. At the same time, many deny its existence in the “Tanakh” (Hebrew Bible) and speak of “the land of Canaan”.
The Qur’an, which mentions Israel in several of its verses, attributed the name to the Prophet Yacoub, and addressed his descendants as “Bani Israel”, considering them to be Hanafi, whereas many Islamic sources indicate that they are an ancient people who became extinct and dispersed, and their lineage is no longer known.
The word Israel is mentioned in the Qur’an 43 times, 41 of which are accompanied by the word “Bani”, and it is in the singular in three verses. As for the Jewish holy book, the name of Israel is mentioned 2319 times, since the historical experiences of the nation of Israel were the focus of most of the book.