The History

Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.

Charles Krauthammer, The Weekly Standard, May 11, 1998

The people of Israel (also called the "Jewish People") trace their origin to Abraham, who established the belief that there is only one God, the creator of the universe (see Torah). Abraham, his son Yitshak (Isaac), and grandson Jacob (Israel), are referred to as the patriarchs of the Israelites. All three patriarchs lived in the Land of Canaan, that later came to be known as the Land of Israel. They and their wives are buried in the Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in Hebron (Genesis Chapter 23).

The name Israel derives from the name given to Jacob (Genesis 32:29). His 12 sons were the kernels of 12 tribes that later developed into the Jewish nation. The name Jew derives from Yehuda (Judah) one of the 12 sons of Jacob (Reuben, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Yisachar, Zevulun, Yosef, Binyamin)(Exodus 1:1). So, the names Israel, Israeli or Jewish refer to people of the same origin.

The descendants of Abraham crystallized into a nation at about 1300 BCE after their Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses (Moshe in Hebrew). Soon after the Exodus, Moses transmitted to the people of this new emerging nation, the Torah, and the Ten Commandments (Exodus Chapter 20). After 40 years in the Sinai desert, Moses led them to the Land of Israel, that is cited in The Bible as the land promised by G-d to the descendants of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 17:8).

The people of modern day Israel share the same language and culture shaped by the Jewish heritage and religion passed through generations starting with the founding father Abraham (ca. 1800 BCE). Thus, Jews have had continuous presence in the land of Israel for the past 3,300 years.

The rule of Israelites in the land of Israel starts with the conquests of Joshua (ca. 1250 BCE). The period from 1000-587 BCE is known as the "Period of the Kings". The most noteworthy kings were King David (1010-970 BCE), who made Jerusalem the Capital of Israel, and his son Solomon (Shlomo, 970-931 BCE), who built the first Temple in Jerusalem as prescribed in the Tanach (Old Testament).

In 587 BCE, Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar's army captured Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the Jews to Babylon (modern day Iraq).

The year 587 BCE marks a turning point in the history of the region. From this year onwards, the region was ruled or controlled by a succession of superpower empires of the time in the following order: Babylonian, Persian, Greek Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Empires, Islamic and Christian crusaders, Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire.

After the exile by the Romans at 70 CE, the Jewish people migrated to Europe and North Africa. In the Diaspora (scattered outside of the Land of Israel), they established rich cultural and economic lives, and contributed greatly to the societies where they lived. Yet, they continued their national culture and prayed to return to Israel through centuries. In the first half of the 20th century there were major waves of immigration of Jews back to Israel from Arab countries and from Europe. During the British rule in Palestine, the Jewish people were subject to great violence and massacres directed by Arab civilians or forces of the neighboring Arab states. During World War II, the Nazi regime in Germany decimated about 6 million Jews creating the great tragedy of The Holocaust.


The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was preceded by more than 50 years of efforts to establish a sovereign state as a homeland for Jews. These efforts were initiated by Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, and were given added impetus by the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which asserted the British Government's support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

In the years following World War I, Palestine became a British Mandate and Jewish immigration steadily increased, as did violence between Palestine's Jewish and Arab communities. Mounting British efforts to restrict this immigration were countered by international support for Jewish national aspirations following the near-extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis during World War II. This support led to the 1947 UN partition plan, which would have divided Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem under UN administration.

On May 14, 1948, soon after the British quit Palestine, the State of Israel was proclaimed and was immediately invaded by armies from neighboring Arab states, which rejected the UN partition plan. This conflict, Israel's War of Independence, was concluded by armistice agreements between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria in 1949 and resulted in a 50% increase in Israeli territory.


Timeline of historical events in Israel

(17th-6th C. BCE - Before the Common Era)
17th century BCE Abraham, Isaac, Jacob - patriarchs of the Jewish people and bearers of a belief in one God - settle in the Land of Israel.
Famine forces Israelites to migrate to Egypt.
13th century BCE Exodus from Egypt: Moses leads Israelites from Egypt, followed by 40 years of wandering in the desert.
Torah, including the Ten Commandments, received at Mount Sinai.
13th-12th centuries BCE Israelites settle in the Land of Israel
1020 BCE Jewish monarchy established; Saul, first king.
1000 BCE Jerusalem made capital of David's kingdom.
960 BCE First Temple, the national and spiritual center of the Jewish people, built in Jerusalem by King Solomon.
930 BCE Divided kingdom: Judah and Israel
Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods
(732 ??? 539 BCE)
722 - 720 BCE Israel crushed by Assyrians; 10 tribes exiled (Ten Lost Tribes).
586 BCE Judah conquered by Babylonia; Jerusalem and First Temple destroyed; most Jews exiled.
(538 BCE - 136 CE)
538 - 515 BCE Many Jews return from Babylonia; Temple rebuilt.
332 BCE Land conquered by Alexander the Great; Hellenistic rule.
The Hellenistic period
(332 ??? 37 BCE)
166 - 160 BCE Maccabean (Hasmonean) revolt against restrictions on practice of Judaism and desecration of the Temple
142 - 129 BCE Jewish autonomy under Hasmoneans.
129 - 63 BCE Jewish independence under Hasmonean monarchy.
63 BCE Jerusalem captured by Roman general, Pompey.
63 BCE - 313 CE Roman rule
The Roman period
(37 BCE ??? 324 CE)
37 BCE Herod, Roman vassal king, rules the Land of Israel;
Temple in Jerusalem refurbished
4 BCE King Herod dies. Herodian Kingdom divided to Tetrarchies under Roman protection.

0 (CE - The Common Era)
20 - 33 CE Ministry of Jesus of Nazareth
66 CE Jewish revolt against the Romans
70 CE Destruction of Jerusalem and Second Temple.
73 CE Last stand of Jews at Masada.
132 - 135 CE Bar Kokhba uprising against Rome.
210 CE Codification of Jewish oral law (Mishna) completed.
Byzantine Period
(324 CE - 638 CE)
326-335 CE Church of the Nativity is built in Bethlehem and Eleona Basilica and Church of the Holy Sepulchre are built in Jerusalem
390 CE Commentary on the Mishna (Jerusalem Talmud) completed.
614 CE Persian invasion
628 CE The area restores to Byzantine rule.
629 CE Nearly 150,000 Jews are massacred and expelled by Byzantines from Jerusalem and the Galilee.
The Arab Caliphate Period
(636 CE - 1099 CE)
638 CE The conquest of Jerusalem by the armies of the Rashidun Caliphate (Islamic Empire) under Caliph Umar.
691 CE On site of First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock built by Caliph Abd el-Malik.
The Crusader period
(Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099 ??? 1291)
1099 First Crusade and the establishment of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem.
1147 - 1149 Second Crusade
1191 Third Crusade led by the armies of Richard the Lionhearted.
1260 Battle of Ain Jalut between the Egyptian Mamluks and the Mongols which took place in the Jezreel Valley.
The Mamluk period
(1260 - 1517)
1291 Fall of Acre which resulted in the Crusaders loss of their last major stronghold of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Ottoman period
(1517 - 1917)
1517 conquest of Palestine by the armies of the Turkish Sultan Selim I.
1538 ??? 1535 Suleiman the Magnificent restores the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Jerusalem city walls (which are the current walls of the Old City of Jerusalem).
1564 Code of Jewish law (Shulhan Arukh) published.
1860 First neighborhood (Yemin Moshe) built outside walls of Jerusalem's Old City.
1882 - 1903 First Aliya (large-scale immigration), mainly from Russia.
1897 First Zionist Congress convened by Theodor Herzl in Basel, Switzerland; Zionist Organization founded.
1904 - 1914 Second Aliya , mainly from Russia and Poland.
1909 First kibbutz , Degania, and first modern all-Jewish city, Tel Aviv, founded.
The British Mandate period
(1917 - 1948)
1917 400 years of Ottoman rule ended by British conquest; British Foreign Minister Balfour pledges support for establishment of a "Jewish national home in Palestine"
1919 - 1923 Third Aliya , mainly from Russia
1920 Histadrut (General Federation of Labor) and Haganah (Jewish defense organization) founded.
Vaad Leumi (National Council) set up by Jewish community (Yishuv) to conduct its affairs.
1921 First moshav (cooperative village), Nahalal, founded.
1922 Britain granted Mandate for Palestine (Land of Israel) by League of Nations; Transjordan set up on three-fourths of the area, leaving one fourth for the Jewish national home.
Jewish Agency representing Jewish community vis-a-vis Mandate authorities set up.
1924 Technion, first institute of technology, founded in Haifa.
1924 - 1932 Fourth Aliya, mainly from Poland.
1925 Hebrew University of Jerusalem opened on Mount Scopus.
1929 Hebron Jews massacred by Arab terrorists.
1931 Etzel, Jewish underground organization, founded.
1933-39 Fifth Aliya, mainly from Germany.
1936-39 Anti-Jewish riots instigated by Arab terrorists.
1939 Jewish immigration severely limited by British White Paper.
1939 - 1945 World War II; Holocaust in Europe.
1941 Lehi underground movement formed; Palmach, strike force of Haganah, set up.
1944 Jewish Brigade formed as part of British forces.
1947 UN proposes the establishment of Arab and Jewish states in the Land.
1948 End of British Mandate (14 May) State of Israel proclaimed (14 May).
Israel invaded by five Arab states (15 May).
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) established. War of Independence (May 1948-July 1949).
1949 Armistice agreements signed with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon.
Jerusalem divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule.
First Knesset (parliament) elected.
Israel admitted to United Nations as 59th member.
1948 - 1952 Mass immigration from Europe and Arab countries.
1956 Sinai Campaign
1962 Adolf Eichmann tried and executed in Israel for his part in the Holocaust.
1964 National Water Carrier completed, bringing water from Lake Kinneret in the north to the semi-arid south.
1967 Six-Day War; Jerusalem reunited.
1968 - 1970 Egypt's War of Attrition against Israel
1973 Yom Kippur War
1975 Israel becomes an associate member of the European Common Market.
1977 Likud forms government after Knesset elections, end of 30 years of Labor rule.
Visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem.
1978 Camp David Accords include framework for comprehensive peace in the Middle East and proposal for Palestinian self-government.
1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty signed.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
1981 Israel Air Force destroys Iraqi nuclear reactor just before it is to become operative.
1982 Israel's three-stage withdrawal from Sinai Peninsula completed.
Operation Peace for Galilee removes  Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists from Lebanon.
1984 National unity government (Likud and Labor) formed after elections.
Operation Moses, immigration of Jews from Ethiopia.
1985 Free Trade Agreement signed with United States.
1987 Widespread violence (Intifada) starts in Israeli-administered areas.
1988 Likud government wins elections.
1989 Four-point peace initiative proposed by Israel.
Start of mass immigration of Jews from former Soviet Union.
1991 Israel attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles during Gulf war.
Middle East peace conference convened in Madrid;
Operation Solomon, airlift of Jews from Ethiopia
1992 Diplomatic relations established with China and India.
New government headed by Yitzhak Rabin of Labor Party.
1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements for the Palestinians signed by Israel and PLO, as representative of the Palestinian people (Oslo Accords).
1994 Implementation of Palestinian self-government in Gaza Strip and Jericho area.
Full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
Morocco and Tunisia interest offices
 set up.
Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty signed.
Rabin, Peres, Arafat awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
1995 Broadened Palestinian self-government implemented in West Bank and Gaza Strip; Palestinian Council elected.
Prime Minister Rabin assassinated at peace rally.
Shimon Peres becomes prime minister.
1996 Fundamentalist Arab terrorism against Israel escalates.
Operation Grapes of Wrath, retaliation for Hizbullah terrorists' attacks on northern Israel.
Trade representation offices set up in Oman and Qatar.
Likud forms government after Knesset elections.
Binyamin Netanyahu elected prime minister.
Omani trade representation office opened in Tel Aviv.
1997 Hebron Protocol signed by Israel and the PA.
Israel celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Israel and the PLO sign the Wye River Memorandum to facilitate implementation of the Interim Agreement.
1999 Ehud Barak (left-wing One Israel party) elected prime minister; forms coalition government.
Israel and the PLO sign the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum.
2000 Visit of Pope Paul II.
Israel withdraws from the Security Zone in southern Lebanon.
Israel admitted to UN Western European and Others Group.
Renewed violence (Second Intifada). Prime Minister Barak resigns.
2001 Ariel Sharon (Likud) elected Prime Minister; forms broad-based unity government.
The Sharm-el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee report (Mitchell Report) issued.
Palestinian-Israeli Security Implementation Work Plan (Tenet ceasefire plan) proposed.
Rechavam Ze'evy, Minister of Tourism, assassinated by Palestinian terrorists.
2002 Israel launches Operation Defensive Shield in response to massive Palestinian terrorist attacks.
Israel begins building the anti-terrorist fence to stop West Bank terrorists from killing Israeli citizens.
Prime Minister Sharon disperses the Knesset, calling for new elections to be held on 28 January 2003.
2003 Right-of-center coalition government formed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Israel accepts the Roadmap.
2005 Israel carries out the Disengagement Plan, ending Israel's presence in the Gaza Strip. 
2006 After Prime Minister Sharon suffers a stroke, Ehud Olmert becomes acting prime minister.
Following elections on 28 March, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert forms new government led by the Kadima Party.
Israel carried out military operations against Palestinian terrorists in Gaza after kidnapping of Israeli soldier.
The Second War in Lebanon, during which Israel carried out military operations against Hizbullah terrorism from southern Lebanon, following missile attacks and kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.
2007 Shimon Peres elected President by the Knesset.
Israel declares Gaza "hostile territory" following Hamas violent takeover of Gaza Strip.
2008 Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary.
Israel launches its Gaza Operation (Operation Cast Lead) in response to the barrage of over 10,000 rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip.
2009 Benjamin Netanyahu is elected Prime Minister in national elections held in February 2009, and forms a broad-based coalition government
The city of Tel Aviv celebrates its 100th anniversary.
2010 Israel joins the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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