Edited by : Leontine Cohen – Jerusalem Tour Guide
Published on Sept 15th – 2022
When I am guiding I am always aware of the difficulty to grasp the history of Israel as it goes back so far in time, and so many different nations have ruled here.
Let me explain in a simple and logic way who was here? and in what context ? in what time?
From about 10.000 years ago until 3000 years ago several super powers south and north of Israel controlled Israel, that was then still called Canaan. Simply, who had the strongest army, ruled Israel. So, Israel would belong to Egypt, Assyria, or other local Kingdoms.
3000 years ago, King David captured a small town in Israel and made it the capital of his country, Jerusalem.
It was the first time Jews had their own country, Israel, with Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.
King David also brought the Arc of the Covenant to Jerusalem: The Arc of the Covenant was a beautiful box in which were kept the 10 commandments the Moses had received from God.
King David’s son, Salomon, built a Temple on a mountain, next to Jerusalem, dedicated to the Arc of Covenant.
This temple is called the First Temple.
The First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE by the Babylonians (or Irak today).
The Babylonians were defeated by the Persians (or Iran today).
The Persians allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild a new Temple, the Second Temple.
2300 years ago, Israel became part of Greece.
During that period Israel became a Jewish kingdom again, the Kings were called Hasmoneans.
But that won’t last long and 2100 years ago Israel became part of the Roman Empire.
During the occupation of the Romans, the Second Temple was embellished with gold and silver by Herod the Great.
Herod the Great was a Jewish, Roman king who built a lot in Israel.
Not only did he embellish the Temple, he also built a new harbour city, Ceasarea, and desert fortresses, like Masada.
2100 years ago, Jesus came to Jerusalem.
He lived during the reign of the sons of King Herod.
He was crucified, buried and resurrected in Jerusalem.
40 years later, during a revolt of the Jews against the Romans, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple.
That was the end of any Jewish building on the Temple Mount.
1900 years ago, the Roman Emperor Hadrian, got very annoyed with the Jews in Israel because they revolted against the Romans several times.
To punish them, he changed the name of the country to the land of the Filistines or “Syria Palistinea” after he wiped the Bar Kokhba revolt
The Filistines were the “History enemies” of the Jews.
Hadrian wanted to insult the Jews by giving Israel the name of their enemies.
In Arabic and Hebrew, the letters P and F are written the same. That is where the name Palestine comes from.
1700 years ago, the Roman empire ended up becoming part of the Byzantine Empire.
Palestine became a Christian country and many churches were built, like the Holy Sepulchre.
1380 years ago, the Muslims conquered Palestine.
They built the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.
900 years ago, the Crusaders conquered Palestine. They ruled 100 years from Jerusalem. But they were beaten by the Muslims, who didn’t allow them to rule from Jerusalem anymore. The Crusaders then ruled another 100 years from Akko, by the sea.
In Akko, you can still visit their medieval city.
750 years ago, the Crusaders were beaten again by the Muslims, called the Mameluks.
They buit a lot of markets, schools and libraries in Jerusalem that you can still visit.
500 years ago, the Ottoman Turks took control of Palestine.
During their reign, the railway was built as well as many churches by French, Dutch, British, American and Italian parishes.
Also, during the Ottoman period, Sheikhs grabbed the power every now and then, and they ruled for certain periods.
1896, Theodore Herzl unified the first Zionist Congress.
In 1917, during WWI, the British colonized the land. They received the Mandate to rule Palestine from the League of Nations, the ancestor of the Untied Nations. The British did their best to rule in Palestine, but it was a complicated task due to strong resistance from the local inhabitants.
During WW II, the Nazis in Europe started systematically impoverishing, starving and murdering the Jews. The Zionist movement resisted the Nazis and so gained more attraction. Many Jews migrated to Israel, fearful for their lives, to escape prosecution. The Jews started building the State of Israel precipately, as tensions rose with the locals. Many Arabs would flee and others were expelled from Israel.
In 1948, the State of Israel was declared independant but its neighboors contested the territories and the legitemacy. That’s why, just a day later, all the surrounding countries: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt ad Iraq disputed the outcome and violence erupted. They gathered an army and attacked Israel. Israel survived, and even took more territories than what was agreed on.
However, half of Jerusalem and the east of Jerusalem ended up under the control of Jordan. The Israeli side of Jerusalem became the capital of Israel, just like when King David and the Hasmoneans ruled several 1000-s years ago. The Jordan territory is called the Westbank. This means the Western bank of the Jordan river.
In 1967, the situation did not get any better as the United Arab Republic countries were, still, unhappy with the territorial division and the creation of israel. Thus, they attacked Israel again, as their diplomatic relationships were not yet normalized. But this time, Israel upped the Defense budget, with a strong army and stronger allies, Israel started with a surprise Israeli attack on the Egyptian Air Force.
In 6 days, owning the sky, Israel pushed back the armies of United Arab Republic, way back that Israel took many new territories such as Gaza and Sinai, giving Israel an advantage to negotiate the terms of peace. We call this war the 6 days war or the June War. Israel has known several other wars, like the Yom Kippur war, but survived.
Jerusalem became united and Israel today has many Arab Allies: Morroco, UAE, Jordan, Egypt… and continue its efforts to normalize its relationships with its neighboors.
Today there are nearly 10 million inhabitants in Israel.
The “Holy Land” has become a technology “Start Up Nation” with a staggering high density of PhD, young companies making numerous innovation and high number of patent contributing to the world technological advancement.
That’s why, I am very proud to live in Jerusalem.