Abraham, the first patriarch, left his home town of Ur in Mesopotamia (currently Iraq) and went with his family and followers to Canaan. From there his grandson Jacob, who was later called Israel, and his sons, who became the ancestors of the twelve tribes, migrated to Egypt to escape a drought. They settled in the Nile delta.
During the imperial days of the Eighteenth Dynasty in Egypt, the Israelites were enslaved and forced to labor on building projects.
Exodus. The Israelites under Moses’ leadership left Egypt and went into Sinai. They received the Ten Commandments and other laws (Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Moses’ successor Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan and conquered most of it. The land was distributed among the different tribes who lived in a loose federation under the leadership of the judges (Deborah, Gideon, Samuel) who united them in times of crisis. The invasions of the Philistines, who came from the Greek Islands, made it necessary for the Israelites to unite under a strong leadership.
Samuel, the last judge, anointed Saul from the tribe of Benjamin to be the first king of the United Israelites. He was successful in numerous battles against the Philistines, but in the battle at Mt. Gilboa he and his son Jonathan were killed.
David, from the tribe of Judah, became Saul’s successor. He was anointed in Hebron. He expanded his kingdom greatly. After defending Jerusalem from the Jebusites, he made it the capitol of the unified kingdom.
David’s son Solomon followed him on the throne. Under his leadership Israel achieved its greatest power and wealth.He built many cities and fortresses, but the peak of his achievement was the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem.
After Solomon’s death his kingdom became divided into the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. The ten northern tribes formed Israel, while the two southern tribes became Judah (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles).
The Assyrians conquered Israel. They exiled and dispersed the ten tribes–they became the “ten lost tribes.” (Prophets, Amos, Hosea)
Nebuchadnessar, the King of Babylon, conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and exiled large numbers of the population of Judah to Babylon. Most of the exiled lived together in Babylon. Ezekial prophetized the return and rebirth of Judah. (Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah)
Cyrus, King of Persia, defeated Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Under the leadership of Zerubabel and Ezra, the temple was built. This Second Temple was more modest than Solomon’s temple. The walls around Jerusalem were rebuilt by Nehemiah. Judah remained under Persian rule. (Prophecy of Haggai, Zachariah)
Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, defeated the Hellenistic Persians and took over the entire Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia, Syria, Israel, Egypt). He was considered to be a “liberator” by the Jews and many Jewish children were named after him. In 323 BC Alexander died childless and his empire was divided among his generals. Palestine (the Roman name for the land of Israel) became a bone of contention between the Hellenistic dynasties of Egypt and Syria. Antiochus IV, King of Syria, decided to root out the Jewish religion. He desecrated the Temple and tried to compel the Jews to worship him as God.
A Jewish priestly family, the Hasmoneans, under Hasmonean Judah “Maccabee” (“hammer”) organized a revolt against Antiochus. They succeeded in driving his troops from the Temple and rededicated the Temple to God. This occasion is celebrated on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (dedication).(1 Maccabees 1-4) Judah remained an independent state under kings from the Hasmorean family.
The Essenes, a small sect, was founded in the second century BC as a protest movement against the Greek influence. As the scrolls found at Qumran show, they considered contemporary Judean society to be degenerate and led an ascetic existence in the Judean desert. They believed that by remaining pure and faithful to God’s precepts they were preserving a nucleus of his elect for the Messianic Kingdom of God.
Jerusalem was conquered by the Roman army under the command of Pompey. The Romans ruled Judea for several centuries.
In 37 BC Herod was appointed King by the Romans. His reign was characterized by great cruelty against his internal opponents and enemies (even against his own family) while trying to please the Romans. Among the major building projects that Herod completed were the fort of Herodian (Southeast of Jerusalem), rebuilding parts of the Temple in Jerusalem, a royal palace added to Massada, and large parts of Caesarea. After his death his kingdom was divided among his sons, but because of continuous unrest the Romans turned Judea into a Roman province under the rule of an appointed “procurator.”
Jesus was born in Bethlehem. At thirty years of age he was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. During the Roman Occupation there was a strong apocalyptic sentiment–the belief that the coming of the Messiah was near and that Judea would be liberated from the oppressive Roman rule. Jesus preached about the love of God and the eternal happiness after death. He had a group of followers. However, there were others who disliked his teachings and wanted to get rid of him. Pontius Pilate, the Roman “procurator,” considered him a troublemaker and condemned him to death.
Jesus was crucified, died, and rose again on the third day.
Paul, who spread Jesus’ teachings and taught that Jesus was the Son of God, spent two years under arrest in Jerusalem before he finally appealed to be heard by Caesar (his right as a Roman citizen) and left for Rome.
Jewish rebellion against the Roman occupation. In 70 the Romans retook Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple.
The last Jewish zealots at Massada fell.
A Jewish rebellion under the leadership of Bar-Kochba was put down by the Romans. Hadrian, the Roman Emperor, rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city, renamed it Aelia Capitolina, and banished all Jews from the city. Most of the Jews were dispersed and went into exile.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Palestine became Byzantine under Byzantine rule. The Byzantine Empire helped spread Christianity as the major religion of the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. In 614 Persia invaded Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. Jerusalem was captured. Its inhabitants were slain, and many Christian churches were destroyed.
The Arabs completed the occupation of Syria and Palestine.
The Caliph Omar built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Jerusalem became the third sacred city of the Islamic religion.
The Crusaders coming from Europe conquered Palestine and established crusader kingdoms in Jerusalem: Edessa, Tripoli, and Antioch. The first Crusader King of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Godfrey of Bouillon, was crowned in 1099. Jews were forbidden to live in Jerusalem. In 1187 Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt, defeated the Crusader army at the Horns of Hittin. The Crusaders withdrew to Acco, which became the capitol of a much smaller Crusader kingdom than before.
The Mamelukes, who were originally mercenaries and slaves in the service of the Egyptian caliphs, took over Egypt and later conquered Syria and Palestine. The Crusader fortresses of Jaffa, Atlit, and the capitol Acco fell in 1291, putting an end to the Crusader Kingdom. The Mameluke regime focused on spreading and strengthening Islam in the region.
Sultan Selim I conquered Jerusalem, and Palestine Ottoman became a part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire Period
Sultan Suleiman rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.
Safed in the Galilee emerged as a major economic and Jewish spiritual center. It became particularly famous as a center for the study of Jewish mysticism–the Cabbala.
Napolean invaded Egypt and from there led a campaign to take over Palestine. He laid seige on Acco but was not successful in his attempt to take the city.
Petach Tikvah, the first “modern” Jewish agricultural settlement, was established by Jewish settlers from Jerusalem.
The first “aliyah” (immigration) of Bilu (a Jewish student organization) in Russia, arrived and established three agricultural settlements: Rishon Le-Zion, Zichron Ya’akov, and Rosh Pina.
The first Zionist Congress under the leadership of Theodore Herzl was held in Basel, Switzerland.
The first “modern” Jewish city, Tel Aviv, started as a suburb of Jaffa.
The first kibbutz (collective cooperative settlement) Deganya (God’s corn) was established.
First World War
The British Army defeated the Turkish forces and captured Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine.
On November 2, the British Foreign Minister, Lord Balfour made the famous declaration which included the following phrases: “His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…..it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.
Arab attacks on Jewish settlements. The massacre in Hebron.
The rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime forced many German Jews to immigrate to Palestine.
Arab uprising against Jewish immigration. Establishment of the “Haganah,” a Jewish self-defense force.
The British government restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine.
After World War II in which 6 million Jews were exterminated, a large scale immigration of Eastern European Jews took place and was fought against with varying success.
November 29 the U.N. decided to end the British mandate of Palestine and to divide the country between Jews and Arabs.
May 14 the British troops left and the State of Israel was established. On the same day five Arab armies invaded the newy born state. In July a U.N. brokered armistice is declared. The territories held by the Arabs came under Jordanian rule. Jerusalem was divided, the Old City held by Jordanians, the New City by Jews.
Jerusalem was declared to be the capitol of Israel.
Continuous Arab raids into Israel from the Egyptian controlled Gaza Strip and from the Jordanian West Bank. President Nasser of Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal and closed its access to Israel.
Israeli forces invaded the Sinai Peninsula in order to open the Suez Canal. They defeat the Egyptian army but retreated under U.N. pressure. The canal remains closed to Israel.
June 5-11. Nasser tried to blockade the Straits of Eilat. The U.N. peace-keeping forces pulled out of Sinai under Egyptian pressure. The Six-Day War broke out. Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, the Old City of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights from Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
October 24. The Yom Kippur War. Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal, and the Syrians attacked the Golan Heights on the holiest day of the year for the Jews. The U.N. negotiated a cease fire after a few days of fighting.
Camp David Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel. Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. The other Arab countries and the PLO (established in 1964) continue their objection to Israel.
Continuous attacks by the PLO.
Lebanon campaigned to dislodge the PLO from its strongholds close to the Israeli border. In 1985 the PLO moved its headquarters to Tunisia.
The “Intifada” uprising by West Bank and Gaza Strip Arabs started.
The first Middle East Peace Conference convened in Madrid.
Oslo peace agreement. PLO was allowed to return to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli withdrawal from the Lebanese security zone. Failure of the PLO to accept final peace agreement in Camp David. Start of the second Arab uprising.
2000 – 2005
Continued suicide attacks by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups against civilian targets.
Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians elect Hamas government that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
A 34 days’ war against Hizballah a Lebanese Shiite organization supported by Iran and Syria after the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and killing of six others.