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About Israel History of Israel

History of Israel

The columnist Charles Krauthammer once said about the history of Israel, "Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago." Indeed, the history of Israel is unparalleled both in its length and in its richness. Find out more about the history of Israel both ancient and modern here.

Here are a few quick facts about the history of Israel:

Israel was founded on May 14, 1948 after nearly 2000 years of Jewish dispersal

At present 40% of the world's Jewish population are Israeli residents

Israel is about 290 mils long and 85 miles wide


The Biblical Period: A Condensed History of Israel

Jewish history begins with the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Both Abraham and Isaac had two sons; in both cases, God chose one son over the other—Isaac over Ishmael (Genesis 17), Jacob over Esau (Genesis 27)—to become the leader and eventual father of the Israelites (the Jewish people.) Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes, from whom all Jewish people are descended. Read more »


A Kingly Time

The reign of the Kings of Israel followed the era of the Judges. In fact, the last judge, the prophet Samuel, anointed the first King of Israel, King Saul. (Although it is disputed if Samuel is counted as one of the judges, he was certainly the last leader of the Jewish people prior to King Saul.) Saul straddled the era of Judges and Kings, because, although he was called melech ("king"), it was not until King David's reign that the nation was truly strong and united. Read more »


The Davidic Kingdom

The Davidic Dynasty began approximately 1,000 years before the Common Era, with the anointing of its founder, King David. David's rule followed the era of King Saul, the first king of Israel. After Saul was killed in battle against the Philistines, during which the Israelites suffered a terrible defeat, David was anointed. His reign was a golden age for the ancient Israelites, with the territory under his rule extending to the Euphrates river in north to the Gulf of Aqaba in the south. Read more »


The Era of King Solomon

King Solomon was the second ruler in the Davidic dynasty, taking over as king after the death of his father, King David. Solomon built on his father's accomplishments, and the "golden age" of the Israelites peaked during his forty-year reign. Solomon continued making alliances, and developed ancient Israel into a regional economic power, building up infrastructure and industry. Read more »


The Divided Kingdoms

King Saul, King David, and King Solomon were the first three kings of Israel. King Saul was anointed by the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 10). After his death, King David became king (2 Samuel 2), beginning the "Davidic dynasty," which lasted for three centuries. King Solomon was the last to rule over a united kingdom. God warned him that because of his sins, the kingdom would be torn in two after his death (I Kings 11.) Read more »


The Judges: Leaders of the People

Although Moses was the Israelite's first true "shofet"—judge—the historical period of "Judges" begins after the death of Joshua, the student of Moses and the leader who brought the Israelites into Canaan. Read more »


The Hasmonean Dynasty

The Hasmonean Dynasty begins with the famous story of Hanukkah. Following Alexander the Great's conquest of much of the ancient world, the Holy Land was placed under control of the Seleucid Greek rulers, a Hellenstic empire. The Seleucids restricted Torah study and desecrated the Holy Temple, in an attempt to eradicate "backward" Jewish religion and culture; the Greeks wanted the Jews to dress, eat, and think like they did, and rooted out Jews still practicing their beliefs. Read more »


The First Exile

Only a few generations after the period of glory and prosperity under King Solomon, the Israelites suffered defeat at the hands of the Assyrians, and then 200 years later, the Babylonians, two hostile countries neighboring to the north in what are today Syria and Iraq, respectively. Read more »


The Bar Kokhba Rebellion

Simon Bar Kokhba is synonymous with tragedy. His surname "Bar Kokhba" means "son of a star," and refers to the passage in Numbers 24 which speaks of a "star shooting out of Jacob." Rabbi Akiva, a contemporary of Bar Kokhba, gave him this name, which has Messianic undertones. Read more »


The Ottoman Empire

The rule of the Ottoman Empire in the Holy Land, which began in the early 16th century following their defeat of the Mamluks, lasted until 1922 (the end of World World I) after which Great Britain gained control of Palestine. Read more »


The Roman Empire

The Roman Empire was an outgrowth of the ancient Roman Republic, which had roots back as far as 500 BCE. In the first century BCE, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus formed the First Triumvirate in an attempt to gain control of the Republic. Caesar emerged as the victor, but was later assassinated. Read more »


The Second Temple

The great and powerful Babylonian empire came to an abrupt end in the 6th century BCE. Infamous in Jewish history for destroying the First Temple and exiling the Jews from their homeland, the Babylonian's reign was usurped by Cyrus the Great of Persia. Read more »


The Byzantine Empire

In the year 313 BCE, the emperor Constantine I adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire, and moved the capital to Byzantium, which became known as Constantinople, effectively ushering in the new, Byzantine age of the Roman Empire. Read more »


Crusades

Tensions in the Byzantine Empire had been building since the 7th century, when the Seljuk Turk armies took control of Palestine, beginning the weakening and crumbling of the empire. Read more »


Rebirth

Jews are indigenous to the Palestine region and have lived there continuously for over 3,000 years. Even after the Roman conquest in the first century, Jewish communities remained and periodically flourished, and exiled Jews returned in waves of immigration. Read more »


Zionism, Part I

"Zionism" has existed as a concept, if not by name, since Biblical times, when the Jews, suffering during their first exile in the land of Egypt, were brought out by Moses and began their journey home—to the land of Israel. Read more »


The British Mandate

After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, Israel—then called Palestine—became a mandate of the British Empire. The Ottomans were initially defeated at the onset of World War I, and Palestine was brought under British military control for the duration of the war. Read more »