Abaya - a long over garment, often of high fashion and most popular in the Gulf region and Saudi Arabia.

Abraham - from whom the three major Middle Eastern religions trace their origin, was born in the city of Ur in Babylonia (today’s Iraq).

Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham. The three major Abrahamic religions are, historically, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

AD - is short for the Latin phrase Anno Domini, or ‘in the year of our Lord’ (Jesus Christ), and counts forward from the year zero. CE - is short for Common Era and is a non-religious alternative to AD to which it has an identical value.

Alawite - a minority sect of Shiite Muslims living chiefly in Syria.

Allah - the Arabic word for God. Allah is not regarded as male nor female.

allies - people or groups that give support to one another.

Arab League or League of Arab States, a voluntary association of 22 independent countries whose peoples are mainly Arabic speaking.

Arabs - the majority of the people of the Middle East - generally identified as those who speak Arabic. (The people of Iran are not Arabs.)

Arabic - a major Semitic language originating from the Arabian peninsula and now spoken throughout large sections of the Middle East and North Africa but not in Iran.

Assyria - an empire in ancient Mesopotamia. It was located in what is now northern Iraq, Iran, southeastern Turkey and Syria.

Assyrians or Assyrian people are an ethnic group. They are a people and a nation but are stateless. Their origin is in ancient Mesopotamia in an area that today is part of modern Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Over the last one hundred years many have migrated far from their homeland, even to Australia and New Zealand.

Asylum seekers are individuals who are seeking refugee status and  protection in another country from persecution in their own country. Their right to do so is protected by Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 1 of the Refugee Convention. (Amnesty International definition)

ayatollah - a high-ranking Shiite religious leader who is regarded as an authority on religious law and its interpretation and who has political power as well.

Babylonia -an ancient  civilization in southeastern Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (modern southern Iraq, from around Baghdad to the Persian Gulf) that had its roots in the earlier Sumerian civilization about 3,500 BCE and rose to political prominence about 1,850 BCE. The city of Babylon was the capital and influenced the culture of this area for many centuries so that the term Babylonia has come to refer to the entire culture that developed in the area. Before the rise of Babylon, the area was divided into two regions: Sumer in the southeast and Akkad in the northwest. Babylonia adopted the written Semitic Akkadian language for official use, and retained the Sumerian language for religious use, which by that time was no longer a spoken language.

badgir - Iranian term for wind tower. Tall chimney-like structure which projects above the roof of a building to expel warm air in the day and trap cooler breezes at night.

barjeel - an Arabic term for wind tower.

bazaar - a market (see souq).

BC - is short for ‘Before Christ’ in historical dates and counts backwards from the year zero which is actually non-existent.

BCE - ‘Before the Common Era’ is a non-religious alternative to BC. It has an identical value.

burqa is a veil and dress covering the entire body, concealing the eyes behind a mesh screen.

calligraphy  - means beautiful writing.

CE - is short for Common Era and is a non-religious alternative to AD to which it has an identical value.

chador - a loose, usually black, head to toe robe worn by many Iranian women.

Christianity - a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus, recorded in the New Testament of the Bible.

Christian church - the term for the worldwide body of Christians.

church - a place where Christians meet to pray and worship.

cistern -  a cistern is a large vessel which is used to hold a reserve of water. Cisterns can be either above or below ground, and they come in a range of sizes and shapes, with varying features.

colony - a colony is aterritory under the immediate political control of a state and settled by people of that state. New Zealand was once a colony of Great Britain.

country - a country is ageographical region. A country may be the territory of asovereign state or a region associated with a certainpeople, or with certain characteristics.

diaspora - is the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from their ancestral homeland.

Druze - a religious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, which emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism, a sect of Shi`a Islam. They have a belief in reincarnation. Druze celebrate most Muslim festivals but do not observe Ramadan or make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

eid (Eid al-Fitr) -  a three-day celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.

emir - a ruler in parts of the Arab Middle East.

entity - something that has a distinct, separate existence.

Farsi (or Persian) - is spoken today primarily in Iran and Afghanistan, but historically was understood in an area ranging from the Middle East to India.

Fatah - a major Palestinian political party.

Five Pillars of Islam: belief that Allah is the only God and that Mohammed is his prophet, praying five times a day, giving money to charity, fasting at certain times (especially during Ramadan), making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one’s lifetime.

haj - pilgrimage to Mecca.

Hamas - a major Palestinian political party.

Hannukah - also known as the Festival of Lights is an eight-day Jewish holiday of special
religious importance.

hijab - headscarf worn by some Muslim women.

Imam - an Islamic leader, often the worship leader of a mosque and an Islamic community.

internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people forced to flee their homes but who, unlike refugees, remain within their country's borders.

intifada - commonly translated as ‘uprising’, this is the name given to two periods of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation, 1987 - 1993 and 2000 - 2005.

immigrant - a person who leaves one country to settle permanently in another.

irrigation - the supplyto dry land with water artificially - by means of sprinklers, hoses, ditches, pipes, or streams.

Islam - the religion began in Mecca, Arabia, fourteen hundred years ago. Muslims believe that Islam was revealed by God or Allah to the prophet Mohammed. Muslims believe in only one God and that God sent a number of prophets to teach people how to live according to his law. Abraham, Moses, and Jesus are all prophets. Muslims believe that Mohammed was the final prophet.

Israeli - a citizen of Israel. The majority of Israelis are Jews but there are Muslim and Christian minorities. Around twenty per cent of Israelis are Palestinian Arabs who in 1948 remained in their homeland of Palestine and became citizens of the new state of Israel.

Israeli Hebrew or Modern Israeli Hebrew, is the language spoken in Israel and in some Zionist Jewish communities worldwide, since the early 20th century.  Modern Hebrew was developed in the late 19th century and early 20th century in a process often referred to as the Revival of the Hebrew Language when Hebrew was changed from a sacred, religious language to an official language in the State of Israel. Modern Hebrew is also used by about half a million Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who mostly use the language for communication with Israeli officials.

Israeli outpost - refers to a Jewish community built within the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem) that was constructed between 1991 and 2004 without the authorization of the Israeli government. In comparison, Israeli settlements, without the authorization of international law, have been given legal status by the Israeli government.

Israeli settlement - a community inhabited by Israeli Jews in territory that came under Israel's control as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War - illegal under international law.

Jews or Jewish people - the Jews are a nation who share religion, ethnicity and culture. Jewish ancestry is traced through a person’s mother to the Biblical patriarch Abraham (but some Jews are converts to Judaism.)

Jihad - an Arabic word meaning struggle.

Judaism - is the religion, faith and way of life of the Jewish people. Jews regard themselves as the descendants of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham.

keffiyeh - a traditional Arab headdress or square scarf.

kibbutz - Jewish communal settlement run co-operatively by its members.

kibbutnik - member of a kibbutz.

kippa or yarmulke - the cloth skullcap often worn by Jewish men, particularly Orthodox Jews.

Knesset - Israeli parliament. MK is a member of the Knesset.

Koran - see Quran

Kurdish people, or Kurds, are not Arabs.They live mainly in the mountains and uplands of the region known as Kurdistan, which includes neighbouring parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. They speak the Kurdish language and share a cultural, and historical identity. Kurdistan is the world’s largest non-state nation.

Maronite - an Eastern Catholic Church which is part of the Roman Catholic Church). Maronites remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon.

Mesopotamia - The land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, now part of Iraq. The civilizations of Sumer and Babylon flourished here. The Sumerian civilization (3500 BCE) may have been the earliest urban civilization. Prior to World War I the area was part of the Turkish Empire, but the British drove the Turks out in October 1918. In 1932 Mesopotamia became part of the newly-established state of Iraq.

migrant - a person who moves from one place to another to live, and usually to work, either temporarily or permanently. They may be forced to leave because they do not have access to adequate food, water or shelter, or in order to ensure the safety and security of themselves and their families.

minaret - a distinctive architectural feature of a mosque, generally a tall spire with an onion-shaped or conical crown. The call to prayer takes place five times a day from the minaret.

Mohammed - (born about 570 CE and died 632 CE), was the founder of the religion of Islam, and is considered by Muslims to be a messenger and the last prophet of God.

monotheism or monotheistic religion - the belief in the existence of one god as distinguished from polytheism, the belief in more than one god and atheism, the absence of a belief in any god. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are all monotheistic faiths.

mosque - a place of worship for followers of Islam.

mummy - a preserved body in an Egyptian tomb.

Muslims - followers of Islam.

nation(or people) - a nation is a cultural and ethnic entity.  A nation is not the same as a state or country. It is a group of people who historically share a common identity.

nation-state - a nation-state is astate that has both a political and a cultural and ethnic identity.

The Nakba (Arabic: "disaster", "catastrophe", or "cataclysm"), occurred when Israel was established in 1948 and approximately 750,000 Palestinian Arabs left, fled or were expelled from their homes in British mandate Palestine.

niqab - is a face veil that may leave the eyes uncovered.

nomads - a small group of people who have no fixed home and move according to the seasons from place to place in search of food, water, and grazing land.

noria - water-wheel

oasis - an area in the desert where there is vegetation because water reaches the surface naturally by pressure, or by man-made wells.

occupied territory - is a region that is under the military control of an outside power.

Orthodox Judaism believes that the Torah is of divine origin, containing the exact words of God without any human influence.

Oslo accords, signed in September 1993, under which the Palestinian Authority (PA) was created with responsibility for administering parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

Ottoman Empire - was anempire centered in what is now Turkey that lasted from 1299 to 1923.

Palestine - the pre 1948 name given to the area of the Middle East between the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. A territory of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the twentieth century, it came under British rule at the end of World War One.  Today, this area is divided into Israel, Jerusalem (east and west) and the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza. It is bordered by Syria and Lebanon to the north, Egypt to the south and Jordan to the east.

Palestinians - the name given to the inhabitants of Palestine prior to the 1948 partition and to their descendants wherever they live. Today, the majority of those who identify as Palestinians are Muslims but there is a significant Christian minority.

Palestinian Authority, created in 1993 with the responsibility for administering parts of the West Bank and Gaza while working towards developing the infrastructure for a viable independent state.

Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)  is an organisation created in 1964 composed of various groups and political factions that represent Palestinian people.

Palestinian National Authority - the renaming by Palestinians for the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian Right of Return - is a legal principle asserting that Palestinian refugees, both first-generation refugees and their descendants, have a right to return, and a right to the property they or their forebears left, or which they were forced to leave, in the former British Mandate of Palestine (currently Israel and the Palestinian territories), when the state of Israel was established in 1948 and later, due to the 1967 Six-Day War.

Passover - a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery and led out of Egypt by Moses.

pharaoh - a ruler of ancient Egypt.

polytheism or polytheistic religion -  a belief in many gods.

pyramid - a tomb for a dead pharoah. The first Pharaohs built simpler tombs, called mastabas. These mastabas were square buildings with a room inside for the coffin and the mummy          and some things to take with you to the afterlife. Then the Egyptian pharaohs began to build mounds of earth on top of their mastabas, to make them grander. Soon the Egyptians decided to fill in the steps of the pyramid.The first really pointed pyramids were built at Giza, near modern Cairo.

qanat - an ancient system of deep underground tunnels and wells built in the Middle East to channel water from a mountain to a dry lower region.

Quartet on the Middle East, sometimes just called the Quartet, is a foursome of nations involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Quartet nations are the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia.

quota - a proportional share of something - the number or amount agreed on eg the number of refugees the government has agreed to allow into NZ each year is 750; the import of NZ butter to the European Union is restricted by a quota.

Quran - the holy book of Islam (also Koran).

rabbi - is a teacher of the Jewish Torah.

ramadan - is the month in which Muslims should fast from dawn to sunset by not eating or drinking. While they are hungry and thirsty, Muslims are reminded of the suffering of the poor. Fasting is intended to teach people about patience, humility, and spirituality. They can eat and drink before dawn and after sunset.

refugee - an individual who has fled their country and has been found to be at serious risk of harm as a result of their political beliefs, race, religion, nationality or social group. (Amnesty International definition.) Sometimes confused with asylum seeker but not the same.

salaam - the word for peace in Arabic and Farsi, often used as a greeting.

Semite -  the term Semite is applied to a group of peoples who speak one of the Semitic branch of languages. Both Arabic and Hebrew are Semitic languages. Turkish and Farsi are not.

Shalom - the word for peace in Hebrew, often used as a greeting.

sheikh - means means elder or leader for a man. Sheikha is used for a woman.

Shabbat - Jewish sabbath, observed from sundown on Friday to one hour after sundown on Saturday.

Sharia - Islamic law.

Shi’a - the branch of Islam that makes up the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain, and the largest of the many religious sects in Lebanon.

Six-Day War - was fought between June 5 and June 10, 1967, byIsrael and the neighboring states ofEgypt (known at the time as the United Arab Republic), Jordan, and Syria after which Israel took effective control of the Gaza strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

souq - a market or bazaar.

state (or sovereign state) - has a defined border, a stablepopulation, and agovernment that can enter intorelations with other sovereign states eg. New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Jordan.

A state is a political entity.  The term state is now used interchangeably with country.

State of Israel - was created in 1948 as a state for Jews. It is located in part of the territory that formerly made up Palestine.

Sumeria - an ancient civilization of Mesopotamia. The  people of Sumeria moved to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers about 3,500 BCE but it is not known where they came from. They were probably nomads who discovered the fertile land between the rivers and eventually settled there. They learned that by planting seeds they could grow crops. They learned to domesticate, or tame, animals to help them plough their lands. They learnt to use irrigation. They invented the wheel and that made it possible to pull heavy loads. Sumeria was made up of city states, or nations. Each city state was surrounded by a wall to protect the citizens from invaders. Beyond the wall was farmland.
The Sumerians were polytheistic, which means they believed in many gods. They worshiped their gods at huge temples they called ziggurats. Each ziggurat was dedicated to a specific god, whom the Sumerians were polytheistic, which means they believed in many gods. They worshiped their gods at huge temples they called ziggurats. Each ziggurat was dedicated to a specific god, whom the Sumerians believed ruled over their city. When one city was conquered, the invaders would force the conquered people to accept their gods.

Sunni - the largest branch of Islam. Over 80 per cent  of Muslims are Sunni and are a majority in  South East Asia, China, South Asia, Africa, and most of theArab world.

synagogue - Jewish house of prayer.

territory - a territory  (from the word 'terra', meaning 'land') is a defined area, including land and waters, considered to be a possession of a people or organization eg Palestinian Territory is the term used by the United Nations to refer to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — territories which were captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Torah - the Hebrew Bible and similar to the first five books of the Christian Bible. For religious Jews, it is the word of God.  For secular (non-religious) Jews, it is a history book.

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace. The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II to replace the League of Nations, to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue. It contains many subsidiary organizations to carry out its missions.

UAE - United Arab Emirates - is a federation situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia on the Persian Gulf. They are called emirates because they are ruled by emirs, they are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. The capital is Abu Dhabi.

UNESCO - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations. Its stated purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and the human rights along with fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter.

UNHCR - The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also known as The UN Refugee Agency is a United Nations agency mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.

UNRWA - United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency, providing education, health care, social services and emergency aid to over 4.8 million specifically Palestine refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is the only agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict. It is separate from UNHCR, which is the only other UN agency aiding refugees, dedicated to aiding all refugees in the world.
It was established following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War by the United Nations General Assembly.

ziggurat - unlike the pyramids which were tombs for dead Pharaohs, the Sumerian ziggurats were temples for the gods. A ziggurat was a very high building. You started by making a big flat platform of mud-brick, and then you made a slightly smaller platform on top of the first one, and another on top of that, until the platform was just a little bigger than a temple, and then you built the temple at the very top, rather like a sand-castle. Maybe the people thought it was better to pray to the gods from as close as possible, and so if the gods lived up in the sky you had to build great platforms to get near them. A ziggurat stayed up because it was solid all the way through. Because good building stone is hard to find in the river valley of the Euphrates River where the Sumerians lived, the Sumerians mostly did not build in stone. Instead, they built their ziggurats (and also their houses and city walls) out of mud-brick, or adobe.

Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. There are many interpretations of Zionism.