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ISRAEL: Culture

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The earliest known mention of the name 'Israel', probably refering to a group of people rather than to a place, is the Egyptian Merneptah Stele dated to about 1210 BCE. For over 3,000 years, Jews have held the Land of Israel to be their homeland, both as a Holy Land and as a Promised Land. The Land of Israel holds a special place in Jewish religious obligations, encompassing Judaism's most important sites including the remains of the First and Second Temple, as well as the rites concerning those temples. Starting around 1200 BCE, a series of Jewish kingdoms and states existed intermittently in the region for over a millennium until the failure of the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire resulted in widescale expulsion of Jews. Recent archeological evidence suggests that the Kingdoms of David and Solomon may have existed.

Under Babylonian, Roman, Byzantine, and (briefly) Sassanian rule, Jewish presence in the province dwindled due to mass expulsions, but the Mishnah and Jerusalem Talmud, two of Judaism's most important religious texts, were composed in the region during this period. The Arabs conquered the land from the Eastern Roman Empire in 638 CE. The area was ruled by various Arab states (interrupted by the rule of the Crusaders) before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517.

Throughout the centuries, the size of the Jewish population in the land fluctuated widely, with the population in the region of present day Israel numbering approximately 20-25,000 in 1881 of a total population of 470,000. An official British census in 1844, however, showed that in Jerusalem, Jews were more numerous than Muslims and Christians.

Ben Gurion pronounces the Declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv.

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), an Austrian Jew, founded the Zionist movement. In 1896, he published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), in which he called for the establishment of a national Jewish state. The following year he helped convene the first World Zionist Congress. The first wave of Jewish immigration to Israel, or Aliyah (עלייה) started in 1881 as Jews fled persecution or followed Socialist Zionist ideas of Moses Hess and others of "redemption of the soil". Jews bought up land from Ottoman and individual Arab landholders. After the Jews established agricultural settlements, tensions erupted between the Jews and Arabs.

The end of the 19th century saw the founding of Zionism, the national movement to create a Jewish political entity in Palestine, leading to the Second Aliyah during the first two decades of the 20th century with the influx of around 40,000 Jews. In 1917 the British Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour issued the historic Balfour Declaration that "view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". In 1920 Palestine became a League of Nations mandate administered by Britain (see British Mandate of Palestine).

Jewish immigration resumed in third and fourth waves after World War I. Later, the rise of Nazism in 1933 led to a fifth wave of Aliyah, and the Jews in the region increased from 11% of the population in 1922 to 30% by 1940. The subsequent Holocaust in Europe led to additional immigration from other parts of Europe. By the end of World War II, the number of Jews in Palestine was approximately 600,000.

Arab riots in Palestine of 1929 killed 133 Jews, including 67 in Hebron.

In 1939, the British abandoned the idea of a Jewish national home, and abandoned partition and negotiations in favour of the unilaterally-imposed White Paper of 1939, which capped Jewish immigration.

Its other stated policy was to establish a system under which both Jews and Arabs were to share one government. As a result of impending world war, the plan was never fully implemented, but the White Paper policy was implemented well into the end of WWII, and enforced even when refugees escaping the Holocaust were fleeing from Nazi persecution.

Establishment of the State and the War of Independence: Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel & 1948 Arab-Israeli War

In 1947, following increasing levels of violence by militant groups, alongside unsuccessful efforts to reconcile the Jewish and Arab populations, the British government decided to withdraw from the Palestine Mandate. Fulfillment of the 1947 UN Partition Plan would have divided the mandated territory into two states, Jewish and Arab, giving about half the land area to each state. Under this plan, Jerusalem was intended to be an international region under UN administration to avoid conflict over its status. Immediately following the adoption of the Partition Plan by the United Nations General Assembly, the Palestinian Arab leadership rejected the plan to create the as-yet-unnamed Jewish state and launched a guerilla war that included attacks on Jewish civilians. The Irgun retaliated with attacks on Arab civilians.

On May 14, 1948, before the expiring of the British Mandate of Palestine on midnight of the May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. The surrounding Arab states supported the Palestinian Arabs in rejecting both the Partition Plan and the establishment of Israel, and the armies of six Arab nations attacked the State of Israel. Over the next 15 months Israel captured an additional 26% of the Mandate territory west of the Jordan river and annexed it to the new state. Most of the Arab population fled or were expelled during the war. The continuing conflict between Israel and the Arab world resulted in a lasting displacement that persists to this day.

May 16, 1948 edition of Yishuv newspaper The Palestine Post, soon renamed into The Jerusalem Post. In the news: Egyptian Air Force bombs Tel-Aviv, Transjordan shells Jerusalem. 15 May was Shabbat Immigration of Holocaust survivors and Jews from Arab lands doubled Israel's population within a year of independence. Over the following decade approximately 600,000 Mizrahi Jews, who fled or were expelled from surrounding Arab countries, migrated to Israel (with another 300,000 or so settling in France and North America, leaving only a tiny remnant, mostly in Morocco and Tunisia). Israel's Jewish population continued to grow at a very high rate for some years, and was fed by further waves of Jewish immigration following the collapse of the USSR.

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