What You Don’t Know About Israel

Every time I hear the song “King” by Beckah Shae on Kinship Christian Radio, I think of Israel.

This is obviously because it contains the line, “Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam.” (Hebrew for, ” Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the universe.”)

Regular readers of this blog know that I went to Israel in May and fell in love with the nation and it’s people.


As a natural outflow of my affection for the land that is the apple of God’s eye, I read up on some of Israel’s history and discovered that I knew almost nothing about how Israel came to be the Israel that it is today.


I think most Americans believe that the United Nations pretty much gave the country to the Jewish people after World War II because of Hitler and the Holocaust.


That’s not what happened at all. 


Israel has a very long and complicated history, much of which you can read about in your Bible. 

Abraham and his descendants first populated what would become Israel about 1800 BC. Moses led the children of Israel back to the Promised Land about 1300 BC. In 587 BC, Babylon invaded Israel and destroyed the first temple, which had been built by Solomon. The Persians conquered the Babylonians in 538 BC, and were in turn conquered by the Greeks in 333 BC. The Romans conquered the Greeks in 63 BC and destroyed the temple in 70 AD during a rebellion by the Jewish people which resulted in the Romans kicking the Jews out of Israel. A second revolt against the Romans took place in 132 AD, which the Romans put down. They then decimated the Jewish population. They renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina and Judea as Palaestina to obliterate Jewish identification with the Land of Israel. 


When the Roman empire fell in 313 AD, Palestine came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire until 636 AD when it was conquered by Arabs, who ruled until 1099 when the Crusaders from Europe took over the region. Jewish immigration from Europe to Palestine increased greatly under European rule until 1291 when Egyptian and Syrian mercenary slaves called Mamluks ruled the land. They were defeated in 1516 by the Ottoman Empire (the Turks) which ruled Palestine for over 400 years, until 1918.  


During the First World War (1914-1918) the British reached an agreement with Arabs in the region to help them drive the Turks out of Palestine. In exchange for their cooperation in driving the Turks out, the British agreed to Arab independence of the region. However, once this had been accomplished, the British claimed the two sides had “different interpretations of the agreement” and they ended up sharing control of the area with the French. The Arabs considered this an act of betrayal.


This was further complicated by the “Balfour Declaration” of 1917 which promised British support for a Jewish “national home” in Palestine and a mandate the British achieved from the League of Nations in June of 1922 to continue control of the region. Palestine became “Mandatory Palestine.”


Meanwhile, a Jewish Zionist movement had been building in many areas around the world. Jews in Arab countries and Europe resurrected their native language, rededicated themselves to their national culture and prayer, and began moving back to the land of Israel in significant numbers in the 1920s.


In the 1930’s, Arab resistance to the Zionist movement and British rule began to build, culminating in the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939. By the time the revolt concluded in March 1939, more than 5,000 Arabs, 400 Jews, and 200 British had been killed and at least 15,000 Arabs were wounded. The revolt led to the formation of Israeli underground militias, primarily the Haganah. It also resulted in the belief that Jews and Arabs could never be reconciled, which gave rise to the idea of a partitioned country. The British also, in response to Arab opposition, issued the White Paper of 1939 which severely restricted Jewish land acquisition and immigration. The White Paper also convinced some parts of the Jewish community that the British were not to be trusted.


On June 10, 1940, Italy sided with Nazi Germany and declared war on the British Commonwealth. Within a month, Italy bombed Tel Aviv and Haifa in Mandatory Palestine, inflicting many casualties. 


Not surprisingly, Nazi Germany encouraged Arab leadership in Palestine to join them in their planned eradication of the Jews. Different factions of Jews within Palestine both aided and fought against the British during World War II.


Many Jews tried to flee Europe during WWII and immigrate to Palestine via ships and small boats. Many were successful, but their were also many who died as a result of Soviet torpedoes. The Royal Navy stopped many vessels and detained their passengers. When the war ended, their were 250,000 Jews stranded in “Displaced Persons” camps in Europe. President Harry Truman repeatedly requested that 100,000 Jews be granted immediate entry to Palestine, but the British maintained their ban on immigration.


At the end of WWII, there was strong Jewish resistance against continued British Rule of Mandatory Palestine. There were bombing, assassinations, and so much violence that 100,000 British troops were stationed there. The United States Congress delayed granting loans to the United Kingdom for reconstruction as a result of its policies. The situation became politically untenable and the British announced their desire to withdraw from Mandatory Palestine no later than the beginning of August, 1948.


On November 29, 1947, the United Nations approved a “Partition Plan” which divided Palestine up into an Arab state and a Jewish state. The resulting map had the two separate states intertwining and dividing each other into an incomprehensibly divisive and unworkable patchwork. Jerusalem would be a separate entity under UN control.


Nonetheless, Jews in Palestine accepted the plan with great rejoicing.


Arabs in Palestine utterly rejected the plan.


The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Britain accepted the plan, but the British announced they would not enforce it because the Arabs had rejected it. The UN resolution was a recommendation only and carried no force of law.


Immediately after the UN passed the resolution, civil war broke out in Mandatory Palestine and the British began to withdraw from the country. Fighting escalated and, early in 1948, the British announced that they were moving up the date of complete withdraw from Mandatory Palestine from August 1 to May 14, 1948. 


On March 25, 1948, President Harry S Truman urged the UN to take trusteeship of the area rather than partition it, saying “unfortunately, it has become clear that the partition plan cannot be carried out at this time by peaceful means… unless emergency action is taken, there will be no public authority in Palestine on that date capable of preserving law and order. Violence and bloodshed will descend upon the Holy Land. Large-scale fighting among the people of that country will be the inevitable result.”


British forces did withdraw on May 14, 1948 and future Jewish Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The Provisional Government of the State of Israel asked the United States for recognition and the US immediately replied, recognizing the provisional government as “the de facto authority.”


The following day, Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq marched their forces into the newly-formed State of Israel, starting the first Arab-Iraeli war. Israel had no heavy fighting equipment as they had not been a nation prior to that day. On May 29, 1948, Britain initiated an arms embargo via a United Nations resolution, but Czechoslovakia violated the resolution and supplied military hardware to Israel. 


Eventually, and against overwhelming odds, the Israeli army beat back the Arab forces. No peace agreements were ever signed, but permanent cease-fires were agreed to with the combative forces between February and July of 1949. 


Since then, there have been numerous battles over the land held by Israel, notably the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six Day War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. 


In every instance, Israel has prevailed against overwhelming odds. 


Some would say “miraculously.”



Today’s Praise

I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. Ezekiel 34:13 (NIV)


(Photo above is the valley of Jezreel, near Megiddo, where the Bible says the final battle of this world’s history will be fought. Taken by author.)







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