The Bible tells the story of how the link between Abraham’s descendants and the Land of Israel began. The Lord directed Abraham to travel to the Land of Canaan, and when he arrived, God told him, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12-7).
Although he and his descendants occasionally left the Land of Israel in search of more fertile land in the Nile delta of Egypt, they ultimately returned to the Promised Land. After the great Exodus from Egypt, the nation of Israel settled in the Land where they set up a kingdom called Israel and built the Temple.
The earliest forced exile from the land occurred when the Assyrians exiled the northern Israelite tribes (known as the “Ten Lost Tribes”) in 722 BCE. King Jehoachin and his government officials were exiled by the Babylonians in 597 BCE. When the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 586 BCE, they took many captives and led them off in chains to Babylon. During the Babylonian attacks on Judea some small numbers of Jews seem to have migrated to Egypt.
A minority of the Israelites returned under the auspices of Cyrus the Great and rebuilt the Temple. After the fall of the Persian Empire, Jews lived under the rule of Alexander the Great and then as part of the Roman Empire. The destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans led to an almost complete exile from the Land. A very small number of the citizens of Judah (Jews) inhabited the Land of Israel, while the rest settled around the world.
Diaspora Jewry never forgot the Land of Israel, their homeland. Jews continuously prayed for an end to exile and a return to Israel under Jewish self-government. Groups of Jews traveled to Israel to visit and to settle there. Saadya Gaon (tenth century), Petachia of Ratisbon and Benjamin of Tudela (twelfth century), and Maimonides and Nachmanides (thirteenth century) were among those who made the perilous journey. Also in the thirteenth century, a group of 300 French and English rabbis moved to the Holy Land.
Among Christians, the Holy Land was also of great importance. In the Byzantine period, many churches were established in Palestine. Among the most famous is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built in the fourth century CE. In that same century, St. Jerome made a pilgrimage to Palestine and Eusebius served as the Bishop of Caesarea. In the fifth century, the Empress Eudocia (wife of the Roman emperor Theodosius II) settled in Jerusalem, where she involved herself in numerous building projects.
Richard the Lionheart, King of England from 1189-1199, spent almost his entire reign in an attempt to re-conquer Palestine from the Muslims. Political leaders such as Napoleon recognized the importance of the Land of Israel for strategic purposes, as a bridge between Africa and Asia.
The nineteenth century brought an intensified yearning for a return to the Promised Land. The British government was the first to establish a consulate in Jerusalem, in 1838. In the nineteenth century, a number of British politicians were Christian Zionists- Palmerston, Lloyd George, T.E. Lawrence and Allenby. William Makepeace Thackeray, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Mark Twain all traveled to Palestine. The science of biblical archaeology began to develop, under British and American excavators of Jerusalem such as Charles Warren, Charles Wilson and Edward Robinson.
Jewish groups of the time worked to muster Jewish and international support for a return of the people of Israel to its land. Hovevei Zion, established in 1881-2, aimed to further Jewish settlement (particularly agricultural settlement) in the Land of Israel. Theodore Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basle, whose purpose was to lobby for the establishment of a Jewish home in the Land of Israel, secured by international law. Meanwhile, immigration to the Holy Land was gaining popularity.
In 1917, the British General Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Ottomans. The League of Nations awarded Great Britain the Palestine Mandate in 1922. Although the original Mandate was approximately 48,000 sq. miles, the British siphoned off about 78 percent to create the Emirate of Transjordan. The British had made promises both to world Jewry and to the Arabs about their rights in Palestine, and this was a cause of great conflict between the British Mandate Government and the inhabitants of Palestine. The United Nations voted to partition Palestine on November 29, 1947. War between the Arabs and the Jews broke out immediately.
Fifty years after the Basle conference, where Herzl declared in 1897, “At Basle I founded the Jewish State…Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it,” the State of Israel was established. The people of Israel had returned to the Land of Israel.
This site offers a wealth of information about Zionism and Israel, from the ancient connection of the people of Israel to their land, to current events in the State of Israel.
COJS brings you overviews, newspaper articles, primary sources, secondary sources, images, maps, videos and websites, to provide a clear chronological picture of this amazing story. The sources provided are ideal for use in the classroom, research, or general enrichment.
“Returning and Redemption” contains hundreds of sources and is continually being updated. Hundreds more will be added, so please check back with us periodically.
The origins of the 100-year-old Israeli-Arab conflict
The role of international politics in the establishment of the State
How American newspapers reported on the events in Palestine
And much more!
Choose one of the sections below-
- The Land of Israel in Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Times, 1800 BCE-1798
- The Zionist Movement, 1799-1917
- British Military Rule, 1918-1922
- Preparing the Way for the Jewish National Home, 1923-1929
- British Disillusionment, 1930-1935
- The Arab Revolt, 1936-1939
- Palestine During World War II, 1940-1945
- Towards Statehood, 1946-1948
- An Uneasy Truce and the Suez War, 1949-1956
- The PLO and the Six-Day War, 1957-1967
- The War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War, 1968-1973
- The Lebanon War and the Intifadas, 1974-2008