Israel is home to the world’s largest concentration of Jewish people. Its people trace their history to Abraham, who established Judaism, their monotheistic religion. The name Israel comes from the name given to Jacob in the Book of Genesis. The Jewish people grew into a nation around the year 1300 BC, following their exodus from Egypt. They were led by Moses through the Sinai desert for 40 years until they reached Israel. Jews have been living in the area continuously for a total of more than 3,000 years.
Their rule in the land began with the conquests of Joshua, which was followed by the Period of Kings. This included King David, who ruled from 1010 until 970 BC, and made Jerusalem the capital of Israel. David’s son Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem. The temple was destroyed in 587 BC by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army and the Jews were exiled to what is now the country of Iraq. From this point forward, the region was controlled by a variety of empires ranging from the Babylonians, to the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Christians, Ottomans, and the British.
Following the exile from Israel, Jews migrated to Europe and North Africa. Though they established lives throughout these regions, they still
prayed for return to Israel. During the first half of the 20th century, many Jews migrated back to Israel. Jewish people were often subjected to great violence through Europe and the Middle East, most notably during World War II with the Nazi Holocaust when six million Jews were exterminated.
Following the end of the war in 1948, Jews living in Israel were given sovereignty of their ancient land and their Declaration of Independence for the modern State of Israel was signed the day British forces left Israel that same year.
Israel’s sovereignty has not been without conflict. Beginning on the day following the declaration, five Arab armies from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, and Iraq invaded Israel. This was the beginning of the War of Independence, which was the first of four wars that took place between Muslims and Jews in the area from 1948 to 1973. Israel won each of the conflicts and withdrew from each of the areas it captured during the conflicts. Many believe these withdraws are a sign of Israels ultimate desire for peace in the area, despite their unwillingness to return the land they believe is rightfully theirs.
Modern Day Israel
To this day conflicts continue between Jews living in Israel and Muslim armies in the surrounding areas. The area is often on the center of the world stage due to conflict that often includes civilian casualties. Israel is frequently a target when other conflicts occur in the region, such as during the reign of Saddam Hussein and the Gulf War. Many enemies of Israel have vowed there will be no peace in the region until the land of sovereign Israel is returned to the Muslim community.