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Israel - History

1921 BCE333 BCEEarly History
1921 BCE1655 BCEPatriarchal Age
1655 BCE1491 BCEBondage in Egypt
1451 BCE1095 BCEAge of the Judges
1095 BCE925 BCEDavidic Kingdom
925 BCE586 BCETwo Kingdoms
586 BCE536 BCEBabylonian Captivity
536 BCE333 BCEPersian Rule
333 BCE143 BCEGreek Rule
140 BCE37 BCEHasmonean Judah
63 BCECE 135Roman Judea
70 CE1948 CEJewish Diaspora
638 CE1918 CEUnder the Caliphs
1099 CE1300 CECrusader States
1897 CE1948 CEZionism
The Balfour Declaration laid the foundation for Jewish-Arab enmity. On 02 November 1917, UK Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, expressing the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Jews in Palestine were around ten percent of its entire population before the Balfour Declaration. UK Prime Minister Lloyd George had come to see British dominance in Palestine — a land bridge between the crucial territories of India and Egypt — as an essential post-war goal. The establishment of a Zionist state there — under British protection — would accomplish this

On May 14, 1948, in the city of Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. The introductory paragraph affirmed that "Eretz Ysrael (the Land of Israel) was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance, and gave the world the eternal Book of Books." The issuance of the proclamation was signaled by the ritual blowing of the shofar (ram's-horn trumpet) and was followed by the recitation of the biblical verse (Lev. 25:10): "Proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof." The same verse is inscribed on the American Liberty Bell in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

The reestablishment of the Jewish nation-state in Palestine has been the pivotal event in contemporary Jewish history. After nearly two millennia of exile, the Jewish people were brought together in their ancient homeland. Despite the ancient attachments of Jews to biblical Israel, the modern state of Israel is more deeply rooted in nineteenth- and twentieth- century European history than it is in the Bible. Thus, although Zionism -- the movement to establish a national Jewish entity -- is rooted in the messianic impulse of traditional Judaism and claims a right to Palestine based on God's promise to Abraham, the vast majority of Zionists are secularists.

For nearly 2,000 years following the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, the attachment of the Jewish Diaspora to the Holy Land was more spiritual then physical. The idea of an ingathering of the exiles and a wholesale return to the Holy Land, although frequently expressed in the liturgy, was never seriously considered or acted upon. Throughout most of the exilic experience, the Jewish nation connoted the world Jewish community that was bound by the powerful moral and ethical ethos of the Jewish religion. The lack of a state was seen by many as a virtue, for it ensured that Judaism would not be corrupted by the exigencies of statehood. Despite frequent outbreaks of anti- Semitism, Jewish communities survived and in many cases thrived as enclosed communities managed by a clerical elite in strict accordance with Jewish law.

Zionism called for a revolt against the old established order of religious orthodoxy. It repudiated nearly 2,000 years of Diaspora existence, claiming that the Judaism of the Exile, devoid of its national component, had rendered the Jews a defenseless pariah people. As such, Zionism is the most radical attempt in Jewish history to escape the confines of traditional Judaism. The new order from which Zionism sprang and to which the movement aspired was nineteenth-century liberalism: the age of reason, emancipation, and rising nationalism.

The June 1967 War was an important turning point in the history of Israel. The ease of victory and the reunification of Jerusalem spurred a growing religio- nationalist movement. Whereas Labor Zionism was a secular movement that sought to sow the land within the Green Line (see Glossary), the new Israeli nationalists, led by Gush Emunim and Rabbi Moshe Levinger, called for Jewish settlement in all of Eretz Yisrael. The June 1967 War also brought under Israel's control the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights (see Glossary), the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. From the beginning, control of Jerusalem was a nonnegotiable item for Israel. The Gaza Strip and especially the West Bank, however, posed a serious demographic problem that continued to fester in the late 1980s.

In contrast to the euphoria that erupted in June 1967, the heavy losses suffered in the October 1973 War ushered in a period of uncertainty. Israel's unpreparedness in the early stages of the war discredited the ruling Labor Party, which also suffered from a rash of corruption charges. Moreover, the demographic growth of Oriental Jews (Jews of African or Asian origin), a large number of whom felt alienated from Labor's blend of socialist Zionism, tilted the electoral balance for the first time in Israel's history away from the Labor Party. In the May 1977 elections Menachem Begin's Likud Bloc unseated Labor.

The early years of the Begin era were dominated by the historic peace initiative of President Anwar as Sadat of Egypt. His trip to Jerusalem in November 1977 and the subsequent signing of the Camp David Accords and the Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel ended hostilities between Israel and the largest and militarily strongest Arab country. The proposed Palestinian autonomy laid out in the Camp David Accords never came to fruition because of a combination of Begin's limited view of autonomy--he viewed the West Bank as an integral part of the State of Israel--and because of the refusal of the other Arab states and the Palestinians to participate in the peace process. As a result, violence in the occupied territories increased dramatically in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Following Likud's victory in the 1981 elections, Begin and his new minister of defense, Ariel Sharon, pursued a harder line toward the Arabs in the territories. After numerous attempts to quell the rising tide of Palestinian nationalism failed, Begin, on the advice of Sharon and Chief of Staff General Raphael Eitan, decided to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) major base of operations in Lebanon. On June 6, 1982, Israeli troops crossed the border into Lebanon initiating Operation Peace for Galilee. This was the first war in Israel's history that lacked wide public support.

By the 21st Century it seemed to many tha the paths of the State of Israel and the American Jewish community were diverging. The American Jewish community in all its affiliations and forms, is far stronger and more vibrant than any European Jewish community in the more than one thousand years that Jews have lived and thrived on that continent. The State of Israel was dependent on the Jews of North America for its creation and sustenance for most of the twentieth century, and the political support and pressure of the Jewish community in the United States is important to the aims of the State of Israel (for better and worse). But the agenda of the Jewish community in the United States is no longer the agenda of the State of Israel. This divergence is exacerbated by the stranglehold that the Chief Rabbinate has over the religious affairs of the State, leading to the dismissal of and contempt for every branch and expression of Judaism except Orthodoxy.

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Page last modified: 20-11-2015 20:03:49 ZULU