Israeli history

The Jewish people

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. Abraham, his son Isaac (Isaac), and his grandson Jacob (Israel) are known as the patriarchs of the Israelites. All three patriarchs lived in the Land of Canaan, which later became 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).

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

Abraham’s descendants crystallized into a nation around 1300 BC after their exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Shortly after the Exodus, Moses transmitted to the people of this newly 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, which is cited in the Bible as the land promised by Gd to the descendants of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 17:8).

Kings period

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

The rule of the Israelites in the land of Israel begins with the conquests of Joshua (ca. 1250 BC). The period between 1000 and 587 BC is known as the “Period of the Kings”. The most notable kings were King David (1010-970 BC), who made Jerusalem the Capital of Israel, and his son Solomon (Shlomo, 970-931 BC), who built the first Jerusalem Temple as prescribed in the Tanakh. (Old Testament).

In 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army captured Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the Jews to Babylon (present-day Iraq). The year 587 BC marks a turning point in the history of the region. As of this year, the region was ruled or controlled by a succession of superpowered empires of the time in the following order: Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic Greek, Roman and Byzantine, Islamic and Christian Crusaders, the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire.

Foreign empires that ruled in Israel

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

In 1948, the Jewish Community of Israel, under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, reestablished sovereignty over their former homeland. The declaration of independence of the modern State of Israel was announced on the day the last British forces left Israel (May 14, 1948).

Arab-Israeli wars

One day after the declaration of independence of the State of Israel, the armies of five Arab countries, Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq, invaded Israel. This marked the beginning of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Civil war broke out throughout Israel, but a ceasefire agreement was reached in 1949. As part of the temporary armistice agreement, the West Bank became part of Jordan, and the Gaza Strip became Egyptian territory.

Numerous wars and acts of violence between Arabs and Jews have occurred since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Some of them include:

  • The Suez Crisis: Relations between Israel and Egypt were rocky in the years after the 1948 war. In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser overcame and nationalized the Suez Canal, the major shipping lane connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. With the help of British and French forces, Israel attacked the Sinai Peninsula and retook the Suez Canal.
  • Six-Day War: In what began as a surprise attack, Israel in 1967 defeated Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in six days. After this brief war, Israel took control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. These areas were considered “occupied” by Israel.
  • Yom Kippur War: Hoping to catch the Israeli army off guard, in 1973 Egypt and Syria launched airstrikes against Israel on the holy day of Yom Kippur. The fighting continued for two weeks, until the UN adopted a resolution to stop the war. Syria hoped to recapture the Golan Heights during this battle, but was unsuccessful. In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, but Syria continued to claim it as territory.
  • Lebanon War: In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and expelled the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This group, which began in 1964 and declared that all Arab citizens living in Palestine until 1947 were called “Palestinians,” focused on creating a Palestinian state within Israel.
  • First Palestinian Intifada: The Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank led to a Palestinian uprising in 1987 and hundreds of deaths. A peace process, known as the Oslo Peace Accords, ended the Intifada (an Arabic word meaning “to shake off”). After this, the Palestinian Authority was formed and took over some territories in Israel. In 1997, the Israeli army withdrew from parts of the West Bank.
  • Second Palestinian Intifada: Palestinians launched suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis in 2000. The resulting violence lasted for years, until a ceasefire was reached. Israel announced a plan to withdraw all Jewish troops and settlements from the Gaza Strip by the end of 2005.
  • Second Lebanon War: Israel went to war with Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamic militant group in Lebanon, in 2006. A UN-brokered ceasefire ended the conflict a couple of months after it began.
  • Hamas Wars: Israel has been embroiled in repeated violence with Hamas, a Sunni Islamist militant group that took over Palestinian power in 2006. Some of the biggest conflicts took place from 2008, 2012 and 2014.

Israel today

Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians remain common. Key territories of the land are divided, but some are claimed by both groups. For example, they both cite Jerusalem as their capital.

Both groups blame each other for terrorist attacks that kill civilians. While Israel does not officially recognize Palestine as a state, more than 135 UN member nations do.

The Two-State Solution

Several countries have pushed for more peace agreements in recent years. Many have suggested a two-state solution, but acknowledge that Israelis and Palestinians are unlikely to settle on borders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has supported the two-state solution but has felt pressure to change his position. Netanyahu has also been accused of encouraging Jewish settlement in Palestinian areas, but continues to support the two-state solution.

The United States is one of Israel’s closest allies. On a visit to Israel in May 2017, US President Donald Trump urged Netanyahu to embrace peace agreements with the Palestinians.

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