9 Things You Should Know About the Creation of Modern Israel

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On Wednesday and Thursday, the modern state of Israeli celebrated the 70th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence. Here are nine things you should know about the creation of the modern Israeli state.

1. In AD 138, the ancient nation of Israel ceased to exist when the Roman emperor Hadrian crushed the Bar Kochba revolt and banned all Jews from Palestine (i.e., the biblical regions known as the Land of Israel). The land was conquered by various nations until 1517, when it was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans retained control until 1917, when the British captured Jerusalem during World War I.

2. By 1850, only about 14,000 Jews remained in Palestine. But in 1881, in reaction to growing anti-Semitism in Europe and Russia, a number of Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) organizations were established with the aim of furthering Jewish settlement in the area. The Hovevei Zion groups were the forerunners of modern Zionism, the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel.

3. Theodore Herzl—officially referred to in the Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel as “the spiritual father of the Jewish State“—launched the modern Zionist movement in 1896. In his pamphlet Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), Herzl considers the “Jewish Question”:

Everything tends, in fact, to one and the same conclusion, which is clearly enunciated in that classic Berlin phrase: “Juden Raus!” (Out with the Jews!)

I shall now put the Question in the briefest possible form: Are we to “get out” now and where to?

Or, may we yet remain? And, how long?

Herzl answered that question by proposing a Jewish homeland:

The whole plan is in its essence perfectly simple, as it must necessarily be if it is to come within the comprehension of all.

Let the sovereignty be granted us over a portion of the globe large enough to satisfy the rightful requirements of a nation; the rest we shall manage for ourselves.

Herzl also proposed two possible locations for the homeland—Palestine and Argentinia. “We shall take what is given us, and what is selected by Jewish public opinion,” he said.

4. In 1897, Herzl began to put his plan into action by convening the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. At this symbolic congress—which was referred to as the Basel Congress—the group adopted the Basel Program with this stated goal: “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.” A few weeks after the event, Herzl wrote in his diary, “Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word—which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly—it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”

5. During World War I, the Allies drove the Turks out of Ottoman Syria. In 1917, the British government announced its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in the 67-word statement know as the Balfour Declaration:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

After the war the British controlled the area of Palestine and was given a mandate by the League of Nations to administer the territory. Under British rule, the land was sometimes referred to as Mandatory Palestine.

6. The Jewish population in Palestine grew between 1919 and 1923 as Jews began to flee persecution in Russia and Ukraine. This influx of Jews, along with the Balfour Declaration, led the Arab inhabitants of the land to develop their own political movement, known as Palestinian nationalism. A nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs led to the “Great Revolt” of 1936-1939. This insurrection led the British to propose a partition of the land into Jewish and Arab states. The Arabs rejected the proposal.

7. In 1939, the British began limiting Jewish immigration into Palestine. Even after the Holocaust began creating Jewish refugees in Europe, the UK refused to lift the immigration cap. Thousands of Jews died trying to flee to Palestine in small boats, and thousands more were caught and turned away. The American government supported a move to allow 100,000 new immigrants into the region, which prompted the British to abandon the Palestine Mandate and leave the issue to be resolved by the United Nations.

8. On May 15, 1947, the United Nations created UNSCOP (the UN Special Committee on Palestine), with representatives from 11 “neutral” countries: Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia. UNSCOP offered two proposals to solve the “Palestine Question.” The first plan, supported by the majority of the committee, recommended the land be divided between an Arab state and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem being under an international trusteeship. The second plan, supported by a minority of the committee, proposed a federal union of Arabs and Jews with Jerusalem as its capital. The Zionists accepted the two-state solution, but the Arabs rejected both. On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted the partition plan as Resolution 181 (II). Soon after, civil war broke out in Mandatory Palestine.

9. On May 14, 1948, the British mandate over Palestine expired, and the Jewish People’s Council issued a proclamation declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. This day is celebrated in Israel as Yom Ha’atzmaut (“Day of Independence”). Because Israel declared independence on a date that corresponded with the Hebrew date 5 Iyar, the date moves every year. In 2018 the anniversary fell on April 18–19.

Other posts in this series:

David Koresh and the Branch Davidians • Rajneeshees • Football • The Opioid Epidemic (Part II) • The Unification Church • Billy Graham • Frederick Douglass • Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 • Winter Olympics • The ‘Mississippi Burning’ Murders •  Events and Discoveries in 2017 • Christmas Traditions • Sexual Misconduct • Lutheranism • Jewish High Holy Days • Nation of Islam • Slave Trade • Solar Eclipses • Alcohol Abuse in America • History of the Homeschooling Movement • Eugenics • North Korea • Ramadan • Black Hebrew Israelites • Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court Confirmations • International Women’s Day • Health Effects of Marijuana • J. R. R. Tolkien • Aleppo and the Syrian Crisis • Fidel Castro • C.S. Lewis • ESV Bible • Alzheimer’s Disease •  Mother Teresa • The Opioid Epidemic • The Olympic Games • Physician-Assisted Suicide • Nuclear Weapons • China’s Cultural Revolution • Jehovah’s Witnesses • Harriet Tubman • Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State

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