Israel is a modernised and urbanised society with a highly developed economy. It’s a Middle Eastern country with a long coastline stretching along the Mediterranean Sea, with a small portion touching The Red Sea. Israel’s borders touch those of Egypt, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, while also sharing borders to the Dead Sea and the Jordan River with the West Bank and Jordan. The West Bank has been under Israeli rule since 1967, where the Israeli government has built many settlements. Other settlements can also be found in the Golan Heights.
Israel forms part of the Holy Land along with Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Territories and it was established as a state for Jewish people after World War 2. Israel’s modern history is a colourful one due to it being rooted in immigrants having returned from various areas where the Jewish Diaspora had spread out to. The 4 main religions practiced are Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Bahaism, and languages mainly spoken are Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, French, Spanish, Amharic, and Yiddish, with English being considered a 2nd language.
About 80% of Israelis identify themselves as Jewish. Despite the State of Israel having been founded only recently – 1948 – Israel has a long and complex history. Most of the Old World Empires including the Persians, Romans, Ottomans, the British, and the Mongols invaded Israel at one point or another. It is also the birthplace of both Judaism and Christianity, and is considered sacred land by followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This history of occupation springs from Israel’s geographical position being one that serves as a gateway between Asia, Egypt, and Africa.
Israel was established in May, 1948, and what followed was a surge of immigration of refugees from Europe who had survived the Holocaust as these had been previously denied repatriation by the British. Simultaneously, Surrounding Muslim countries expelled their Jews and Israel saw further influx from countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. The largest portion of Jews in Israel these days are second generation Jewish who fled primarily Arab countries. Influx into Israel was further increased after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, other points of departure included Asia and Africa to a lesser extent.
Conflict between Israelis and neighbouring Arab communities continued over the next few decades, with the Israelis winning 2 decisive wars – the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Then, a slow movement towards peaceful reconciliation started, with a peace treaty being signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979, and another 1 between Israel and Jordan in 1994. Unfortunately, the same attempt was made with Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine, which failed.
In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to take down the nationalist Palestinian group PLO, which triggered civil war. At around the same time, the First Intifada was launched on the West Bank, seeing Palestinians carrying out acts of terrorism in the area. This was forcefully brought to a halt by Israel. In 2000, after further failed peace talks, violence resurfaced as Palestinian Arabs launched attacks on Israel, known as the Second Intifada.
This was somewhat mitigated with the building of the wall on the West Bank. Subsequently, the Hamas, whose have control over the Gaza Strip which the Israelis left completely by 2005, started 3 wars with Israel. The Lebanon-based Hezbollah – an Iranian-backed terrorist group – waged a war against the Israelis. Again, the Israelis won, but they were pressured into not using excessive force on the Islamists as this would result in the death and expulsion of many civilians. A 3rd Intifada started in 2015 and is ongoing. This time, Palestinians are expressing an anti-semitic sentiment, mainly on the West Bank and Jerusalem, and is being carried out in the form of stabbings. So far, about 27 Israelis and 100 Palestinians have been killed.
A complex history of occupation, expulsion, and conflict along with some of the culturally and religiously rich heritage gives Israel a very prominent position in World History and Politics. In contrast, the highly developed economy reflected by the modern business quarters offers an interesting contrast, one which makes Israel an intriguing place to visit.
After the influence of the Egyptian civilisation, an independent Judean kingdom ruled by King Saul, the Assyrians, the Persians, and Alexander the Great, the Romans conquered a newly independent Jewish state. Most of the Israelites were expelled to Africa and Europe following a revolt against the Roman empire. While some natives remained, persecution gradually reduced their numbers. Following was the Muslim occupation, a short period of Christian occupation, known as the Crusades, and once again different empires of Muslims ruled, culminating in the Ottoman Empire. During this period, the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Palestine, as Israel was previously known, was captured by the British during WW1. 2/3 of Palestine became known as Transjordan (later to become Jordan). At the same time, The British assisted Jewish in Europe to repatriate at the remaining 1/3 of the country. European Jews had already been fleeing persecution by gravitating towards settlements in Palestine. This became a mass migration in an attempt to evade anti-semitic riots in Germany, later on culminating in the Holocaust. The Jewish population in Palestine grew quickly to 1/3, and after WW2, the British banned further entry into the country fearing revolt on the Arabs part.
Due to the events of WW2, the Jewish nationalist movement grew stronger. Their independence was further supported by the Americans and the French. The British insisted on stalling further, still due to the fear of Arab revolt. The Jewish finally grew tired of this and started armed uprisings against the British. IN 1947, the British finally withdrew their troops from the western 1/3 they had still been occupying. The UN suggested the plan to divide Palestine into 2 states – 1 part for the Jewish and one for the Arabs. While the Jewish accepted, the Arabs fiercely rejected this plan. Nonetheless, Jewish independence was declared, followed by military invasion by the Arabs. The Jewish won the War of Indepdendence, and approximately 600000 Arabs fled from the newly proclaimed Jewish state. This is possibly due to both forced expelling and a voluntary on the Arabs part.