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Modern History > The Creation of Modern Israel > Creation of Modern Israel
THE CREATION OF ISRAEL - A CHRONOLOGICAL OUTLINE
[ As printed in "TEACHING HISTORY", Journal of the History Teachers\' Association of NSW]
70 CE  The Destruction of the Temple and the Jewish Dispersion
Jews have lived in the Land of Israel for nearly 4000 years, going back to the period of the Biblical patriarchs (c.1900 BCE). The story of Jewish life in ancient Israel is recorded in detail in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian "Old Testament").
The dispersion of the Jewish people is traditionally dated from the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, an event considered by the Romans to be a victory of such significance that they commemorated it by erecting the triumphal Arch of Titus, which still dominates the Roman Forum. The Roman historian Cassius Dio records that in a subsequent revolt in 135 CE some 580,000 Jewish soldiers were killed; and following that revolt the Emperor Hadrian decreed that the name "Judea"  should be replaced by "Syria Palestina" - Philistine Syria or "Palestine". 
In the ensuing years the greater part of the Jewish population went into exile as captives, slaves and refugees, although Galilee remained a centre of Jewish institutions and learning until the sixth century CE.
As strangers and outsiders in the countries of their dispersion, the Jews were subjected to discriminatory laws and taxes and, particularly with the rise of Christianity, to humiliation and active persecution. However, through the centuries of exile, the hope for redemption of the land of Israel remained a focal point of the Jewish religion and national identity.
Today there are about 14 million Jews in the world, of whom some five and a half million live in Israel.
622 The Birth of Islam
The Hijra, the "migration" of the Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina, marked the establishment of the Islamic religion in Arabia. At the height of its power during the next hundred years, Islamic rule extended from India to southern France.
638 The Arab conquest of Palestine
In the seventh century Palestine was predominantly Christian and Greek speaking, ruled from Constantinople ("Byzantium") as a part of the Byzantine Empire, the successor of the eastern Roman Empire.
In 638 the Islamic Caliph Omar I completed the Arab conquest of Palestine with the capture of Jerusalem from the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. Omar built the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Temple, and henceforth Jerusalem was proclaimed the third most holy site of Islam.
From 638 to 1099 Palestine was part of the empires successively ruled by the Arab dynasties centred in Damascus and Baghdad. The result was an entrenchment of the Arabic language and culture and the dominance of Islam, although a significant proportion of the population remained Christian. Like most of the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, the people of Palestine thus came to describe themselves as "Arabs".
1099 The Crusaders establish the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.
1187 Saladin, the Kurdish ruler of Egypt defeats the Crusaders.
1516 Suleiman the Magnificent of Turkey takes Jerusalem
Under Turkish Muslim rule Palestine was governed from Constantinople for the next four hundred years, ending with the defeat of Turkey as an ally of Germany in the First World War in 1917.
By the 19th century the population of Turkish Palestine had been reduced to less than 500,000, including about 25,000 Jews. The only fertile areas were in the narrow central plain. The north consisted of rocky hills and of valleys which had largely degenerated into swampland, while the south was mostly desert.
1882 The Jews of Russia and the origins of modern Zionism
Meanwhile, some five million Jews lived in Russia. Following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, and the succession of the more repressive Alexander III, anti- Jewish laws were re-introduced. Boys of twelve were conscripted for twenty-five years in the army; Jews were allowed to live only in restricted areas and "pogroms" (violent attacks on Jewish villages and neighbourhoods) swept through Russia.
The overwhelming response was emigration to America. Another was Zionism, the political movement aimed at restoring a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In 1882 the first of the modern Zionist waves of immigration began, with the establishment of agricultural settlements under conditions of severe hardship, and generally dependent on the support of Jewish philanthropists. A second wave of immigration in 1904 after another wave of persecution in Russia. By 1914 the Jewish population was approximately 85,000 in a total population of approximately 650,000.
1897 Theodore Herzl calls the First Zionist Congress
As a journalist in Paris representing a Viennese newspaper, Herzl witnessed the anti-semitic outbreaks at the beginning of the "Dreyfus Affair".
Shocked by the anti-semitism in France, the land of liberty and emancipation, he concluded that Jewish freedom and dignity required the restoration of a Jewish national homeland, and in 1896 he wrote "Der Judenstaat", a program for the establishment of a Jewish state. He forecast that a state would come into existence within 50 years. "If you will it", he said, "it is no dream".
In 1897 he convened the first Zionist Congress at Basle in Switzerland, comprising 204 representatives of Jewish communities, which created the World Zionist Organisation. The official statement of the Zionist aims was adopted by the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, on August 1897 and is recorded in the Basle declaration of 1987.
After a series of pogroms in Russia, culminating in a massacre at Kishinev in 1903, there was great pressure in Britain to take Jewish immigration. The British government first offered the Zionist organisation the enclave of El Arish, on the coast of the Sinai desert, and then seriously offered Uganda (then known as "East Africa") as a Jewish homeland and place of refuge.
1914-1918 The First World War
In 1914 the Turkish Empire entered the First World War on the side of Germany. From the outset British control of the sea route to India (passing adjacent to Palestine and through the Suez Canal) was an essential strategic objective in the war.
In 1915 Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt, corresponded with the Sherif Hussein of Mecca, the head of the ancient ruling Hashemite clan, promising British support for an Arab revolt against the Turks, and British recognition of Arab independence after a successful uprising. The area of Arab rule was ambiguously described, and the British Government later denied any promise that Arab independence would extend to Palestine.  This correspondence is recorded in the McMahon-Hussein Letter of 1915.
The Arab uprising which occurred with the assistance of Colonel T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") took the form of a march of Bedouin tribes from the Arabian Peninsula to Damascus, and succeeded in disrupting the Turkish railway system in the region.Meanwhile, a number of the Jewish settlers who had been expelled from Palestine by the Turks, joined either the "Zion Mule Corps" which fought at Gallipoli, or the Jewish Legion, a regiment of the British Fusiliers, which fought with the Allied Forces in the Middle East.
Australian forces also fought in Palestine, and the famous charge of the Australian Light Horsemen which resulted in the capture of Beersheba, was a turning point in the campaign.
1917 The Balfour Declaration
On 2nd November 1917, one month before British troops under General Allenby entered Jerusalem, the British Government made the following declaration in a letter from Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, to Lord Rothschild, president of the British Zionist Federation:
"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."
Reasons for the Declaration
- The Zionist Idea:
Zionist aspirations were conveyed persuasively by the British Zionist leader Dr. Chaim Weizmann to Prime Minister Lloyd George and Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, both of whom were religious men with a knowledge of the Bible, and essentially in sympathy.
(Note: As a scientist working for the British Admiralty, Weizmann had invented a process for synthesizing acetone which played an important part in the British war effort, and this gave him some access to the political leadership. Weizmann later became the first President of the State of Israel.)- British Strategic Aims:
Palestine controlled the Eastern Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, which were part of the sea route to India, the Far East and Australia. The Balfour Declaration provided a basis for a British protectorate after the War.
(During the early stages of the negotiations, American Jewish support for U.S. entry into the war was considered important. There was also a need to counter the Russian Jewish expectation that Germany might liberate them from the Tsarist yoke.)There were two Jews in the British cabinet. Sir Herbert Samuel, who later became the first British High Commissioner under the Mandate, supported the Declaration. It was opposed by Sir Edwin Montague, who summarised his view with the words "I am His Majesty\'s Secretary of State for India, and you want to say that my national home is in Palestine!"
1919 The Paris Peace Conference
In 1918 Weizmann met the Emir Faisal, the leader of the Arab forces in the war and the son of the Hashemite ruler Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca, at Ma\'an in southern Transjordan. Weizmann and Faisal reached an agreement which was formalised at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, which discussed the drawing of new national boundaries which followed the conclusion of the First World War. Faisal conveyed the spirit of the agreement in a letter to United States Justice Frankfurter, leader of the American Zionist delegation:
"The Jewish movement is national and not imperialist, and there is room in Syria for us both ..... We shall welcome the Jews back home."
However in March 1920, a Syrian congress held in Damascus rejected the Balfour Declaration and elected Faisal King of a united Syria, including Palestine. The French then deposed Faisal in July 1920, and he later became King of Iraq under the British mandate.
1920 The Treaty of San Remo
At the allied conference at San Remo, in April 1920, at which the Allied Powers determined the fate of the former Turkish possessions, the Balfour Declaration was approved, and it was agreed that a mandate to Britain should be formally given by the League of Nations over the area which now comprises Israel, Jordan and the Golan Heights, which was to be called the "Mandate of Palestine". The Balfour Declaration was to apply to the whole of the mandated territory.
The British Mandate 1920 - 1948
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