Why does Israel—a country only the size of New Jersey—command such global attention? What should we, as Christians and Americans, know about Israel? 

Questions about the situation abound, and they are rarely answered by the secular media. Following are some answers in light of Biblical history and prophecy. 

Why are the Israelis and Palestinians in conflict?

There is strife between the Israeli government and the Palestinians over who will have ultimate control over the land we know as Israel. The heart of the issue basically boils down to two opposing ideas. For the Israelis, the issue is their right to exist as a nation. For the Palestinians, it is the desire to see Israel cease to exist as a nation. 

At the time of the first intifada, A.M. Rosenthal wrote an insightful article in the New York Times (3/8/88). Although written nearly 20 years ago, it aptly summarizes the heart of the ongoing conflict. 

"The cause is 40 years of Arab refusal to accept the existence of Israel, 40 years of furious hostility and military attempts to destroy her.... If the Arabs had accepted Israel in the beginning or for 20 years thereafter, all of the West Bank and Gaza and the other territory would today be part of a Palestinian state. ...some critics also act as if it were Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza which led to so many years of unrest and skirmishing there. This, too, is historic distortion. It was the Arab countries that seized Gaza and the West Bank, which were to be part of a Palestinian state under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, and occupied them for twenty years, not in peace but in constant harassment against Israel. Finally, Israel struck back. Her unhappy occupation of the West Bank is a result, not the cause of the aggression.… Israel is fighting for survival. The Arab states are fighting out of anti-Israel hatred and fear of the Palestinians.… If you believe the very existence of Israel is anathema, you are right to see her policies as the root cause of the Mid-East ugliness. Otherwise not."

The situation in Israel is part of a much wider conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims. Jews and Christians are defined in Islamic writings as the enemies of Islam, and, therefore, they must be eliminated.

What is the Intifada?

The term “intifada” is Arabic and means “shaking off” or “uprising.” The first Intifada began in 1987. Confrontations between Israeli soldiers and gangs of rock-throwing boys and young men developed into riots, strikes, demonstrations and violence. The 1993 Oslo Accord resulted from this.

The second Intifada began in 2000. Palestinian uprisings took place when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, which is administered by Muslims. It was later proved that these were not caused by the Prime Minister’s visit, but rather had been planned to coincide with it. In the minds of many Palestinians, the Intifada is a religious and geographical inevitability.

When did the problems in Israel start?

The trouble goes back much farther than the current conflict or previous uprisings and even farther than 1948. 

About 4,000 years ago, God called Abraham from his home far away to the east, probably somewhere in present day Iraq, and directed him to resettle in the land of Canaan, approximately the area of present day Israel and northeast to the Euphrates River. God promised Abraham that he would have descendents as numerous as the sand on the seashore. His purpose was to establish a new ethnic group—the Jewish people—that would provide a distinct lineage for the Messiah. They would be a blessing for all nations, and kind treatment of Abraham and his descendants would bring blessing, while unkind treatment would mean a curse (Gen. 12:1-9).

Many Arabs also revere Abraham as their father through Ishmael. The present situation is fulfillment of an astounding prophecy tucked away in Genesis 16. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, panicked and thought God’s promise of a child needed her human help. She gave Hagar, her Egyptian maid, to Abraham as a wife, and Ishmael was born. Hagar’s pride over her child-bearing accomplishment resulted in friction between the two women, and Hagar and Ishmael were sent away into the wilderness. There, God sustained them and gave a promise of relative greatness for Ishmael and his progeny. There would be a problem, however. “He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” (Gen. 16:12) 

The descendents of Isaac and Ishmael—today’s Jews and Arabs—would live together, but they would not get along together. This conflict may be mitigated from time to time, but it will not be eliminated until the millennial reign of Christ when Israel, Egypt and Assyria will join in worship of God “in the midst of the land” (Isaiah 19:24), or “center of the earth” as it is more properly translated.

The conflict also has roots in other ethnic troubles. Some believe that the Palestinians are also the remnants of the Philistines, whom the people of Israel under Joshua could not drive out of the Promised Land.  

How did present day Israel come to be?

Following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70, the majority of Jews were expelled from Israel and dispersed throughout the world, suffering terrible persecution over many centuries. The land eventually fell to Islamic armies, then to the Crusaders and then back to Muslims who held it for 400 years. In 1917, near the end of World War I, British forces took Jerusalem ending four centuries of Ottoman-Turk rule. 

As a result of treaties following World War I, the land in the Middle East was divided between the French and the British. The 1922 plan gave what was called Palestine to the British. This British Mandate included Transjordan (now Jordan) and an area west of the Jordan River that was designated for a Jewish homeland. The British government had already declared its favor of a homeland for the Jews in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. “His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done that may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in other countries.”

The British did not make good on their promise to make a homeland for the Jews and turned partitioning over to the United Nations. The 1947 United Nations partition plan of land west of the Jordan River allotted the Jewish people three sections joined together by mere pinpoints with Arab lands joined in a similar awkward fashion. Incredibly, the Jews were willing to accept this. On May 14, 1948, the new state of Israeli was proclaimed. However, the Arab League, consisting of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, refused to recognize the new state of Israel and attacked it on May 15 with the purpose of obliterating it. Israel was at war with the Arab countries until 1949. Israel prevailed and expanded its borders north, east and south.

In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan planned to again attack Israel. In a pre-emptive strike that became known as the Six Day War, Israel took Gaza, the Sinai, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem (although administration of the Temple Mount was ceded to Muslim leaders). Israel later annexed the Golan Heights. The Sinai, except for the Gaza Strip, was returned in 1982 to Egypt, which is the only Arab nation to recognize Israel. (Anwar Sadat paid for that with his life when he was assassinated in 1981 by Islamic radicals.)

The West Bank and Gaza, which became known as the “occupied territories,” were administered by Israel until the mid-1990s. As a result of the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Agreements, all of Gaza and much of the West Bank are under the administration of the Palestinian Authority. 

There is division in Israel over whether the occupied territories should have been given over to the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish extremist who believed none of the Promised Land should ever be given away. Israeli elections since then have alternately placed in office those against giving land to the Palestinians (Benjamin Netanyahu from the right-wing Likud party) and those who favor it (the left-wing Labor party). In 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formed a new centrist party (Kadima) in an effort to bring unity in dealing with the Palestinians.

Sharon expressed willingness to negotiate a peace agreement that could include a Palestinian state under certain conditions and believed a peaceable agreement could be reached. In 2004, he announced a disengagement plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and several settlements on the West Bank. By the fall of 2005, the Israeli government had completely withdrawn all soldiers and settlers from Gaza, with some settlers being forcibly removed. 

Why is the land of Israel so important to the Jewish people? 

The Jewish people believe the land was given to them by God in the promise made to Abraham. The land area is outlined in several Old Testament passages: Numbers 34, Joshua 13-24, Deut. 34 and Ezekiel 47 & 48. Texts covering a wider area, that is Egypt to the Euphrates River, include Gen. 15:18, Exodus 23:31, Deut. 1:7 and 11:24 and Joshua 1:4. If the broader range is from “the River of Egypt” (a small stream just south of the Egypt-Israeli border) and to Hamath in Lebanon and to the length of the Euphrates, then the area would be about 350 miles by 850 miles and triangular-shaped. This area has never been completely possessed by Israel, and its fulfillment would still be in the future. If the land grant is the more confined area, it corresponds roughly to what the Israelis have today, but moves more northward into Syria and Lebanon to the Euphrates.

Why do the Palestinians want the land of Israel?

They believe that the land was already theirs when Israel proclaimed independence even though there was no official Palestinian state at that time. Many Arabs fled the land due to the war against Israel in 1948-49. They were told by Arab leaders that they would be able to return following an Arab victory. Israel won, however, and many Arabs never returned. Those who remained lived in the West Bank and Gaza, which were not occupied by Israel until 1967. 

Basically, the Palestinians want the land of Israel because the Jews occupy it. The Palestinians simply do not want the state of Israel to exist.

Has Israel always been so important?

Israel is called “the glory of all lands” in Ezek. 20:15. Deut. 32:8, one of the many special Israeli land grant passages, notes that God assigned all the nations of earth their locations in view of Israel’s place. The prophet Ezekiel declared that Israel is the center of the world making Jerusalem the center of the center. “Thus saith the Lord God; This is Jerusalem: I have set her in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.” (Ezek. 5:5) A restored Israel would dwell in a land called “the midst of the land,” or the center or navel of the earth (Ezek. 38:12). This prophecy was officially accomplished in 1948. 

The land has also been strategically important. Over the centuries, the land has been invaded and dominated by some thirty-seven different conquerors. Since it is the natural land bridge between Africa and Europe and Asia, whenever a commander wanted to move an army any distance, he had to march through Israel. One great road was the Via Maris, or Sea Road, which passed by the biblically famous place Armageddon (“the hill of Megiddo”). Whoever held this strategic site had a grip on a major highway. The hill of Megiddo periodically changed hands. The remnants of some twenty-four civilizations still lie stacked atop one another at Megiddo.

Why is there such special significance to the city of Jerusalem?

Jerusalem is the ancient capitol of Israel. The site where the Temple once stood, now known as the Temple Mount, is sacred to the Jewish people. The Temple Mount is the site of Mount Moriah, where Abraham was instructed to offer Isaac, his old-age son of promise, as a sacrifice (Gen. 22). A substitute ram was ultimately provided. Years later, David purchased the spot from Ornan the Jebusite and selected it as the site of the Temple (I Chron. 21:18-30), which his son, Solomon, later built. Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. It was later rebuilt when some Jews returned home from the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 5 & 6). Herod rebuilt this Second Temple and enlarged the Temple Mount. Herod’s penchant for gorgeous structures made the Temple a wonder of the world. This temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

The Western Wall, formerly known as the Wailing Wall, is actually a retaining wall of the Temple platform and is also a landmark for Jews. At the base of the wall, enormous stones from the Herodian period (Jesus’ day) can be seen. When Jerusalem was in foreign hands, Jews were allowed in only periodically to pray at the wall, which represented the hopes of the Jewish people. Since 1967, when Israel took Jerusalem, Jews have been able to pray freely at the wall. 

The Temple Mount is administered by Muslims, who also revere the site. They believe it was from there that Mohammed ascended into the heavens and then went to Mecca during a miraculous nighttime visit to Jerusalem. (There is no historical evidence that Mohammed was ever in Jerusalem, nor does the Koran specifically mention the city.) Muslims have memorialized this event in the impressive Dome of the Rock, also called the Mosque of Omar, which was completed about 691 AD. The Al-Aksa Mosque is also located on the Temple Mount and often hosts thousands of praying Muslims. It was completed in about 700 AD and stands immediately south of the Dome of the Rock, near where King David’s palace probably stood.

Jews believe the Temple will be rebuilt, which will be a cause of great conflict since two Muslim structures currently occupy much of the Temple Mount. The Temple Institute, a Jewish organization dedicated to seeing the Third Temple built, has already begun to restore and construct the sacred vessels for use in the Temple. There are several theories as to where the Temple actually stood. Some believe it stood where the Dome of the Rock is located. Others believe it was located to the north where there is a huge open space. A number of years ago, an Israeli tour guide indicated to us that low-level, informal talks had been conducted between Arab and Israeli professors regarding purchasing that empty space from the Arabs who own it. Whether these talks have continued is not known. 

Jerusalem is also significant for Christians. On the eastern side of the Temple Mount, part of the ancient retaining wall of Solomon’s day is still visible. This would have been almost underneath the pinnacle of the Temple and is likely where part of the temptation of Christ occurred when He was urged to throw himself down and enjoy the protection of the angels (Matt. 4:5). Jerusalem is where Christ was crucified, buried and rose again. One can still see the actual stones on which Jesus walked. In fulfillment of prophecy, Antichrist will declare himself god in a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem (II Thess. 2:4). During the Millennium, Christ and a resurrected King David will enter the Temple (Ezek. 43 & 44).

Not far from the Temple Mount, outside the Damascus Gate to the north, are Skull Hill and the Garden Tomb. Most Protestants believe this is where Jesus died, was buried and rose again. There is evidence that early Christians built a church over the site indicating their special reverence for it. The garden is owned by Christians and is one of the few religious sites in Jerusalem not built over by ornate and often gloomy buildings. 

Catholics and several other denominations including Eastern Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic, Syrian and Abyssinian, believe that the place of the crucifixion and resurrection was at the spot marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside present-day Jerusalem. (After carefully considering the alignment of the city wall as it would have been in Jesus’ day, I have concluded the spot would have been inside the wall and thus not the true site according to Heb. 13:12. Many do believe this to be the correct site, however, and there is a marker there designating it the center of the world.)

Where is Palestine?

All of modern Israel and Jordan were called Palestine in the division of lands conquered by the British in World War I. The name Palestine actually comes from Philistia, “the land of the Philistines,” which is present-day Gaza (Ex. 15:14). In Roman times, the land area of the Philistines and modern Israel and Jordan was designated Palestina. 

Who are the Palestinians?

Since there is no state or country of Palestine, the term “Palestinian” is a description of one’s geographical location rather than one’s citizenship. We have been led to believe, however, that Palestinians are only those Arabs who fled their lands when Israel became a nation in 1948 or who were somehow displaced in 1967 and now have no homeland. 

There has never been a single ethnic group called Palestinians. Those who now call themselves Palestinians are Arabs whose families were living in Palestine in 1948 when Israel declared itself a nation. Arab people, which would include Palestinians, are descended from several different groups. 

As outlined previously, many Arabs would say they are descended from Abraham through Ishmael, the son of Sarah’s Egyptian maid Hagar. Ishmael married an Egyptian wife and had many children, one of whom was Kedar, who settled in what is now Kuwait. Mohammed was descended from the tribe of Kedar. But Arabs are also descended from Abraham through his other sons. After Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah and had six more children. Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac and sent his other children away to the east (Gen. 25:6), which likely included modern-day Saudi Arabia. The descendents of these children include the Midianites, with whom the children of Israel fought under Gideon, and also Sheba and Dedan, who are prophetically significant (Ezek. 38:13). 

Arabs are also possibly descended through Abraham’s nephew, Lot, who fathered two sons in incestuous relationships with his daughters after Sodom was destroyed (Gen. 19:37-38). Moab and Ammon became the progenitors of the Moabites and the Ammonites, who fought against the Israelites when they came into Canaan. Moab and Ammon are modern-day Jordan. The Ammonites’ capitol is modern Amman, the capitol of Jordan. 

Jacob’s brother, Esau, might also be an ancestor of Arab people. Esau settled in Edom, which is today southern Jordan. King Herod, who tried to kill the infant Jesus, was an Idumean, or Edomite. As also previously stated, one authority believes that the Arabs are also the remnants of the Philistines, who lived in what is now Gaza.

In studying the ancestral history of Arab people, one can see that the tensions between them and the Jews have been festering for centuries.

Has there ever been a Palestinian state?

There has never been an independent Palestinian state even prior to Israel becoming a nation. The intention of the 1947 United Nations partition of the land was to make the West Bank, Gaza and a small area in the north a Palestinian state. As stated previously, the Jews were willing to go along with that partition, but the Arabs were not. The attack against Israel by the Arabs in 1948 and Israel’s pre-emptive strike in 1967 resulted in Israel occupying the West Bank and Gaza. 

The Palestinians call themselves “refugees” because they claim to have no homeland and no Arab state except Jordan will allow them to become citizens. The term “refugee” is actually a misnomer. A refugee is one who has fled his country, but the refugee camps are not only located in what was called Palestine, they are in the West Bank and Gaza, which were under Arab rule until 1967 and are now administered by Palestinians. The people who live in these refugee camps have been kept there largely by the Arab nations who will not take them in. The camps have become a hotbed of frustration and hatred. 

An analyst once noted that in the last several decades, forty million refugees from many nations have been resettled in various parts of the world. But in the Arab world, six wars have been launched against Israel and many have died because of one and a half million Palestinian refugees. Many wonder why, if the Arab nations are so concerned about the Palestinians, they can’t simply absorb them.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1964, but not for the purpose of forming a Palestinian state. At the time, the West Bank was part of Jordan. In fact, Jordan occupied the West Bank for twenty years following Israel’s formation in 1948. During that time, Jordan never made it an independent Palestinian state, nor did Egypt or Syria do that for Gaza or the Golan Heights respectively, which causes many to doubt their sincerity regarding the creation of a Palestinian state. Ironically, the West Bank would probably still be part of Jordan had that country recognized Israel as a nation in 1948.

King Hussein of Jordan withdrew legal and administrative ties to the West Bank in late summer 1988. It was unclear whether Hussein’s motive was to actually dignify Yasser Arafat or prove him incapable of leadership. It was not until late that same year that the Palestine National Council and Arafat declared an independent Palestinian state.

The proclamation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank territories with Jerusalem as its capitol was probably one of the most significant matters prophetically speaking since 1948. If “the fig tree” in Luke 21:29 is Israel, then “all the trees” refers to the emergence of the surrounding nations. The nations around Israel are relatively young. Modern Egypt became a nation in 1922, Iraq in 1932, Lebanon in 1943 and Syria and Transjordan (Jordan) in 1946. Since the West Bank is in the heart of Israel, a Palestinian state would be a new budded tree within the budded fig tree. Some see an independent Palestinian state implied in Isaiah 11:14 when Israel re-captures the Gaza area (“the shoulder of the Philistines”).

Is there any hope of peace in Israel?

Many have attempted to work out peace agreements recently and in the past. Some have been successful and others have not. Former president Bill Clinton held unsuccessful talks with Arafat and Barak in 2000. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and others also tried to work out a resolution to the conflict. 

After Yassar Arafat’s death in 2004, a more moderate Fatah party leader assumed power of the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formed a moderate Israeli party, and, under his leadership, the Israel government withdrew from Gaza leaving the Palestinian Authority in full power to curb violence and restore a stable life for its citizens. In early 2006 parliamentary elections, Palestinians surprisingly voted the militant and violent Hamas party into majority power. Hamas holds the elimination of Israel as a core belief. At the same time, Ariel Sharon suffered a massive debilitating stroke leaving the Israeli political scene and peace process uncertain. 

A brief war with Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon was mishandled by the new Prime Minister leaving Israel without a victory and resulted in shaken Israeli confidence. In 2007, fighting in the Gaza Strip broke out between Hamas and Fatah. Rockets were launched into southern Israel and Israel retaliated in late 2008. In 2010, a flotilla of activists attempted to break Israel’s embargo of Gaza. Israeli forces intercepted the boats off the coast, and nine deaths resulted. International reaction initially condemned Israel.

Hamas and Fatah have since formed a unity Palestinian Authority government with Fatah chairman Mahmoud Abbas as president. Fatah controls the West Bank, and Hamas has control of the Gaza Strip and still calls for the destruction of Israel. 

The United States attempted to facilitate talks between the Palestinians and Israel in 2010 and 2013-14, but no progress was made. Israel suspended talks in 2014 after the new Palestinian Unity Government was formed.

Eventually, there will be peace in Israel, but it will be false peace. Antichrist will convince the Jews to accept his leadership. This charismatic man of European origin may very well be alive right now. He will confirm a previously made covenant likely among Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and, yes, the Palestinians (Dan. 9:24-27). This covenant may even be one of the existing or planned peace agreements floating around now. Antichrist will break this seven-year pact with a restored Israel after three and a half years, and then, literally, all hell will break loose (Rev. 6:8). 

Following the seven-year Great Tribulation, Christ will return to earth. His feet will touch the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount (Zech. 14:2-4). He will rule in Jerusalem after the world’s armies are destroyed there, and Satan will be bound for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). Only then will there be a true peace in Israel.

What does God’s Word say about the future of Israel?

All these outbreaks are a harbinger of terrible times to come. Peace agreements may be signed, but they will not be kept. Satan hates the Jews for their spiritual heritage. They were the people that God used to give us Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Satan hates the land. It was there that God became flesh and dwelt among us and where Christ died and rose again to provide our salvation. Satan wants to rule as an imposter. As mentioned previously, Antichrist will convince the Jewish people to accept him as their leader, and he will rule in a rebuilt Temple (II Thess. 2).

The horrible attacks on Israel and the general terror toward the West are anticipated in Psalm 83, Ezekiel 38 and Revelation 6. The Bible declares, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) This trampling has continued over the centuries. In the future, it will include the brutal rule of Antichrist during the seven-year Great Tribulation. 

Psalm 83 prophetically describes a plan for encirclement and liquidation of Israel. Verses 6–8 of Psalm 83 list the co-conspirators. To the north, the inhabitants of Tyre correspond to present-day Lebanon. To the east, Edom, Moab, the Ishmaelites and Ammon are easily construed to be western Jordan. The Philistines and Amalekites correspond to forces from the south. 

Ezekiel 38 describes the first of two major attacks on Israel, this one from a northern confederacy. The second will take place when all nations stage a massive attack at Megiddo (Rev. 16:16) and then attack Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2). One third of the Jews will be killed (Zech. 13:8). The remnant will find refuge, likely at Petra (Rev. 12: 6, 14). There will be a national Jewish repentance (Zech. 12:10-14), and the glorious millennial reign of Christ will follow (Ezek. 43-48, Rev. 20:4-6).

What should our response be to the Middle East conflict?

God told Abraham, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee.” (Gen. 12:3) Israel has a unique place in the plan of God, and many evangelical organizations in the United States have this concept as a basic plank in their denominational outlook. We in America have likely been blessed because of our country’s position as Israel’s ally. Pray for wisdom for our government’s leaders that they not abandon that view and our blessing be lost. 

The events in the Middle East clearly indicate that the stage is being set for the rapture of the Church (I Thess. 4:16 & 17) and subsequent seven-year Tribulation. We must be ready to meet the Lord at any moment, and we must be diligently about the business of winning lost souls for Christ. 

Psalm 122 enjoins us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Verses 6-8 say, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good.” 

Admittedly, many are frustrated trying to reconcile the exhortation to pray for Jerusalem’s peace with the obvious absence of peace in that significant city. We do hope and pray that relative calm can be restored in Israel. If that does not happen, then we are likely moving into the last drama of God’s divine plan. 

Real peace in Israel will come only through her Messiah—our Savior, Jesus Christ. Rejecting the Messiah meant a missed peace for the people of Israel. Until our prayer for the peace of Jerusalem is fully answered in the Millennial rule of Christ, personal peace is available to any individual by receiving Him as Savior. Trusting Christ gives us the “peace of God, which passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7). When people respond to Christ inwardly, they can promote peace outwardly. “For He Himself is our peace, who…has broken down the middle wall of separation…that He might reconcile…both to God in one body through the cross….” (Eph. 2:14, 16)

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, do so today! In a world where peace is often temporary, elusive or even impossible, you can have lasting personal peace with God and the peace of God.

Scripture quotations are from The Scofield Reference Bible, King James Version © 1967 Oxford University Press, Inc.

A Timeline of Israel’s History

2100 BC - God calls Abraham to leave his home (present-day Iraq) and settle in Canaan (present day Israel). God promises Abraham many descendents.

2000 BC - Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, is born. His name is later changed to Israel. The twelve tribes of Israel are named for the sons of Jacob.

1910 BC - Joseph, Jacob’s son, is sold into slavery and ends up in Egypt where he eventually becomes a high-ranking assistant to pharaoh. His father and brothers later move to Egypt due to a famine at home.

1446 BC - The Israelites leave Egypt under the leadership of Moses after being enslaved for 400 years. 

1406 BC - Joshua leads the Israelites into Canaan and begins conquering the land. The nation of Israel is established.

1050 BC - Saul becomes Israel’s first king. 

1010 BC - David becomes king of Israel. During his reign, the size of the country is expanded.

970 BC - Solomon, David’s son, becomes king. He builds the Temple, which is completed by about 960 BC.

926 BC - After Solomon’s reign, Israel becomes a divided kingdom. The southern kingdom is called Judah and includes the city of Jerusalem. The northern kingdom continues to be called Israel.

721 BC - The Assyrians conquer the northern kingdom of Israel. Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel are forced out of the country. These ten tribes never return and have become “lost.”

597 BC - The Babylonians, who had conquered Assyria, attack Judah and take Jews into captivity.

586 BC - Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and the Temple.

538 BC - Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian empire, which had conquered Babylon, releases the Jews from captivity. They begin to return to Judah. Work to rebuild the Temple begins about 536 BC.

516 BC - The Second Temple is dedicated.

333 BC - The Greeks begin rule over the land of Israel after defeating the Persian armies.

175 BC - Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes reigns. He attempts to destroy Judaism and defiles the Temple.

166 BC - The Jews have independence in Jerusalem and the surrounding area following the Maccabean revolt.

63 BC - The Romans take over the land of Israel. The Second Temple is rebuilt and the Temple Mount expanded by Herod.

4-5 BC - Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

AD 70 - The Roman army under Titus destroys Jerusalem and the Temple. Approximately 1.1 million Jews are killed and many others taken as slaves.

135 - The Romans under Hadrian kill approximately 580,000 Jews, plow over Jerusalem and ban Jews from living there. Centuries of Jewish persecution begin.

638 - Jerusalem is conquered by Muslims. 

1099 - The Crusaders take control of Jerusalem.

1260 - The Mameluks (Egyptians) conquer Jerusalem.

1517 - Ottoman-Turks take over Jerusalem. The city walls and gates are later rebuilt; the Golden Gate is sealed to prevent Messiah’s entrance.

1800s - The Zionist movement begins among European Jews. Restoring the Jewish state becomes a Jewish passion because of centuries-long persecution.

1878 - Jewish people begin returning to the land, then called Palestine

1897 - First Zionist Congress is held. 

1917 - The British take Jerusalem. The Balfour Declaration proclaims the British government’s desire for a Jewish homeland. 

1922 - A mandate system to fulfill treaties of World War I is put into place. Palestine and Iraq are given to Great Britain and Syria is given to France. Palestine is not easily settled, and the British eventually turn to the United Nations for help.

1947 - A UN Partition decision is enacted. Israel would have three areas nearly divided by three Palestinian areas with an international zone around Jerusalem.

1948 - The British Mandate ends on May 14, and Israel proclaims itself an independent state. On May 15, the surrounding Arab nations attack Israel.

1949 - Armistice agreements are put into place. Israel has its present area minus the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank, which belonged to Egypt, Syria and Jordan respectively.

1967 - Israel captures the Gaza Strip and all the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and takes control of Jerusalem (Six Day War). Jewish people freely pray at the western wall of the Temple for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

1973 - Egypt and Syria attack Israel, and Israel counterattacks (Yom Kippur War). Syria is pushed back closer to Damascus. The additional ground is returned to Syria in 1974. Israel annexes the Golan Heights.

1979 - Egypt signs a peace treaty with Israel at Camp David. By 1982, Israel withdraws from the Sinai except for the Gaza Strip.

1987 - First intifada (uprising) begins.

1988 - Jordan relinquishes claim to the West Bank. The Palestine National Council proclaims an independent Palestinian state.

1993 - Israel and the PLO sign the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Rule (Oslo I) at the White House. This begins the process of an interim period of Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and Jericho.

1995 - Israel and the PLO sign the Interim Agreement (Oslo II) in Washington, DC. This broadens Palestinian self-rule to include the West Bank and sets up the Palestinian Council, a self-governing authority.

1998 - Israel and the PLO sign the Wye River Memorandum in Maryland, which provides for further transfer of authority by Israel and for responsibility by the Palestinians for security and prohibition of terrorism.

2000 - Second intifada begins.

2001 - Israel begins construction of a 26’ fence along the 450 miles of West Bank border. The International Court of Justice has said it is a violation of international law. As of January 2006, approximately 31% has been constructed.

2004 - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announces a disengagement plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and several settlements on the West Bank. Withdrawal is accomplished in 2005. 

by David Virkler
P.O. Box 10, Towaco, NJ 07082  *  973-334-9081

What You Need To Know