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Israel is a tiny country on the Mediterranean coast.  The 20th and 21st  centuries have been marked by friction and warfare between the Jews and Arabs

The Jews were expelled from the land then called Judea by the Romans in 135CE after Bar Kochba’s failed rebellion.  To create a new map the Romans renamed the country Palestinae in memory of the Philistines who 600 years previously had fought the Jews.  Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina

(Aelia Capitolina, city founded in ad 135 by the Romans on the ruins of Jerusalem, which their forces, under Titus, had destroyed in  70 CE. The name was given, after the Second Jewish Revolt (132–135), in honour of the emperor Hadrian (whose nomen, or clan name, was Aelius) as well as the deities of the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva). A sanctuary to Jupiter was built on the Temple Mount, and statues of Roman deities were erected in the city, in intentional violation of Old Testament law. The area was walled and a large foreign population imported; Jews were generally forbidden entrance to the city. The present walls of the Old City of Jerusalem follow the layout of the Roman walls. The name was used until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century. Encyclopedia Brittanica

For 2,000 years a few Jews remained there with most in other countries suffering periodic discrimination culminating in the Holocaust during World War 2.  During this time they always said ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ in their prayers.

Russian pogroms at the the end of the 19th century saw the birth of a new movement called Zionism which led to the return of persecuted Jews to what was then a desolate area in the Ottoman Empire.  Their return and rejuvenation of  the desolation saw Arabs coming in search of work.  This saw the birth of nationalism by the Jews and Arabs. WW1 saw the Ottoman Empire as a German ally.  In 1916 Britain and France negotiated the Sykes-Picot agreement to split the Middle East between them.  Britain fanned the flames of Arab nationalism to the Arabs  and the Balfour Declaration giving a state to the Jews so giving the same land to both groups.

The end of WW1 saw the British in occupation under a League of Nations  mandate on land conquered from Turkey which it called Palestine.    in 1921, the British appointed the ultra nationalist-antisemitic  Haj Amin al-Husseini Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.  Anti-British and anti-Jewish, the Mufti was the key nationalist figure among Muslims in Palestine.

In 1921 the British Mandate of 118,000 square kilometers (about 45,000 square miles) was split into two with the 91,000 square km of the Palestine Mandate east of the Jordan River creating Trans-Jordan (77%) under the Arab Hashemites and the remaining 27,000 square km creating the directly ruled British mandate of Palestine (23%).  In 1925, the British added 60,000 sq. km. of desert to eastern Transjordan forming an "arm" of land to connect Transjordan with Iraq and cutting Syria off from the Arabian Peninsula. The scene was set for confrontation between the Arabs and Jews with the British in the middle.  In 1937 the British published the Peel recommendations which proposed the area be split between the Arabs and Jews. The Jews accepted it. The Arabs refused.      

The British left in 1948 and Palestine was divided into two parts by the UN, one to the Jews (which became known as Israel) and the other to become an Arab state. This split was not accepted by the neighboring Arab states who invaded Israel the day after the British left to eliminate it. Israel repelled the invasion leaving it with new borders which increased its territory and an enlarged Arab population.  Many Arabs fled at the behest of the Arab states thinking they would return within a few weeks. After peace had been signed Israel refused them readmittance and the Arab League refused to resettle them.  In 1949 the United Nations formed UNRWA -- the United Nations Relief & Works Agency for the Palestinian refugees -- the largest and only long-term UN agency that was ever formed to deal with just one group of refugees. The rest of the world is covered by UNHCR.  Click here fot the diffrences.between the two organisations

The population of Israel has grown through worldwide immigration, from  survivors of European concentration camps and from Arab countries following their expulsion.  Arabs who left Israel in the 1948 war were settled by the UN and not allowed to return to Israel. The Arab League was expected to resettle them in Arab countries but refused and left them in UNWRA camps. This was seen as a population transfer by Israel, as happened when India was split into India and Pakistan, but not by the Arabs .  By the mid 1950’s Arab governments and the refugees were unwilling to contribute to any plan that could be interpreted as fostering resettlement.  This led to future wars of defence.  

Education and entrepreneurship has led to major developments in fields from agriculture to zoology.  Settlement has varied from urban development  to joint holdings in the form of the kibbutz and moshav.

Efforts to bring Jews and Palestinians together have been made through interfaith efforts such as joint schools in Israel.


When, finally, in the twelfth century BCE the Jews settled in a country they could call their own, they used the worst possible judgment. They selected a strip of land that was a corridor for the armies of warring empires. Over and over again the Jews were to pay for this error of judgment by being decimated in battle, sold into slavery, or deported to alien lands. Yet they showed up persistently at the same old place, building anew their little strip of real estate which has been alternately called Canaan. Palestine, Israel, Judah. Judea, and now again. Israel.

(Max Dimont, ‘Jews, God and History’ p48)


Palestine remained closed to Jewish immigration during World War II.  Many Jews became holocaust victims . After the war, the British refused entry to Palestine. To relieve the suffering the Americans accepted 100,000 Jewish immigrants.  What happened next?  

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