Let’s start with, 17th BCE, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, settled in the land now known as Israel. These three men are the patriarch of the Jewish people and are the founders of an entire nation. Abraham entered the land of Canaan and began to settle in the land. In this time, the Canaanites were still around and openly practicing his religion was very dangerous but he did it anyway. During his time in Canaan, a famine came and forced Abraham and his family to move to Egypt.
Egypt, being bountiful with food and supplies was of course the natural course for Abraham and his family to choose. The descendants of Abraham became slaves in Egypt and were enslaved for nearly 400 years. This enslavement is where many people’s understanding of the Jewish people comes in, usually from a Sunday school class or remembering from a church service hearing about it. There are ancient documents that have been unearthed from Mesopotamia that corroborate the stories of the nomadic nature of the early Jewish people.
Around the 13th Century BCE, the popular story of Moses comes to fruition. Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt and into the desert for 40 years. Their time in the desert is comparable to an individual’s formative years. These 40 years provided a time for the Israelites to find their identity as one nation of people and develop their culture and religion. After emerging from the desert, the now Israelites conquered much of the Canaanite land. After they settled the land and became more established, the Israelites were becoming a bountiful people. Instead of consistently hunting and being nomadic, they became sedentary and began establishing their societal rules.
As we see in the history given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the time following the Israelites settling in Canaan was followed by a time of tribal leadership spread throughout the land with “judges” ruling each tribe. The MFA continues on explaining that due to the growing power of the Philistines in the region and they danger they pose to the Israelites, they begin to beg G-d for a king and to unite their people.
Throughout history you don’t see people exactly begging to be ruled by a monarch, however, in this time, Saul was anointed the first king. Saul’s time was more of an intermediate period and the full kingdom period that Israel was to experience under the rule of King David. King David came to rule the first fully official Kingdom of Israel and was considered to be a great King. His son Solomon succeed him on the throne and helped build Israel up to be a great power comparable to others in the region.
With so many plans, Solomon’s rule affected Israel’s history forever. King Solomon’s rule was filled with extravagant projects -paid for with Israeli taxes- leaving the citizens feeling rather put off. After his death, the kingdom split into two, Israel and Judah. Israel lasted for around 200 years and Judah lasted for around 400 years before they were both invaded and exiled by the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively. When the Babylonians conquered Judah, they destroyed the Jewish temple and Jerusalem.
1. Fun fact, this is also the last time the ark of the covenant was ever recorded to be seen.
2. During this First Exile, the Jewish Diaspora was created. The diaspora formation helped the Jewish people maintain their connection to their land and their faith while being forced from both.
Under King Cyrus of Persia, the Jews were allowed to repatriate their homeland beginning in 538 BCE. The Israelites were experiencing a small degree of autonomy because of this and were able to form their own religious government to rule the Kingdom, all while operating still under their foreign rulers. However, fast forward to about 166 BCE and their foreign rulers were not allowing them to practice Judaism and they revolted. This revolt is now known as the Maccabee revolt and is the inspiration for the holiday Hanukkah.
After the fall of the Seleucid empire, Israel had sovereignty for about 80 years before the Roman Empire came. The beginning of the Roman Empire in the region is key to understanding the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After the revolt of Shimon Bar Kochba in 132 AD, there was another brief moment of sovereignty. Following this short period, the Roman’s recaptured Judah and Jerusalem and renamed the entire region the Roman Province of Palaestina. This is the first mention of a term even close to the modern term Palestine and it was done as a way to tear apart Jewish identity with the land.
The Romans were just the beginning of a terrible several centuries to follow. Although the sovereignty of the Jewish people ebbed and flowed, it was more often than not that they were oppressed under the rule of a foreign dictator. The Crusades from 1099 to 1291 hurt the state so severely and left the Jewish population at minuscule numbers. Under Mamluk Rule (1291-1516) and then Ottoman Rule (1517-1917) the Jewish population grew tremendously. The traditional notion of Zionism came about in this time as well and many Jews from around the world began making their way back to Israel to help rebuild their homeland.
Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, along with France, was tasked by the League of Nations to divvy up land in the Middle East as they saw fit. The British specifically oversaw the new British Mandate of Palestine. The name that the Romans gave the land back in 132 AD stuck as the world was still trying to deny Jewish ties to the region. The British Mandate of Palestine was declared to be a Jewish Homeland under the Balfour Declaration.
1. now, the land that was meant for the original Mandate of Palestine was split when the British decided to make the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan east of the Jordan River.
2. Leading up to World War 2, hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants made their way to the new Mandate of Palestine.
Arabs were unhappy that the Jews were getting their own land and rioted and attacked the Jewish people so many times it is unimaginable. When the British put forward a partition plan for the first Two-State Solution plan, the Jews accepted and the Arabs denied it. This is the first of many denials to come. The Arabs only wanted to wipe the Jewish people off the map. Many of these Arabs leaders even worked with Adolf Hitler during the Second World War. Following the end of the British Mandate and with a partition plan in place, the Jewish People declared themselves an independent state on May 14, 1948. In less than 24 hours after the declaration of the State of Israel, the armies of five surrounding Arab countries attack the newly formed State.
For decades starting in 1948, Arab countries surrounding Israel have been vocal in their opposition to having any Jews in the Middle East. These countries have launched multiple offensives on the State of Israel with hopes of wiping them off the map. Each time Israel has been engaged in a war, they have expanded their borders to expand safety. The boarders that the current State of Israel has now are a result of Israel giving up land to make a peace deal with the Arabs, yet nothing has come out of it.
As you can see, the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel runs thousands of years deep. This is contrary to the belief put forward by many people that Israel’s history began in 1948. Israel is a vibrant land filled with history, culture, technology and civil rights unparalleled in the Middle East. However, to truly feel how great this country is, you must go and experience it for yourself.
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