Israel's Incredible History
Part 1: From The Divided Kingdom
To The Rise Of Zionism

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country,
and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that
I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will
bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee:
and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Gen. 12:1-3)

In the very beginning of recorded history, God choose Israel and made them a three part promise. He promised to make them a great nation, give them a place of their own, and not only would He bless them, but He would also bless all the nations of the world through them. He delivered them out of slavery in Egypt, and led them into the Promised Land.

At first there were judges that led the people, but the people rebelled against God, their Creator. They wanted an earthly king, like all the other nations had. When the Hebrews had first asked for a king, in the book of Judges, they were told that only God was their king. The prophet Samuel told them their desire for an earthly king was an act of disobedience to God, as He alone was their King. He warned them that they would pay a terrible price if they established a monarchy. (See I Sam. 8:5-20) History, especially that in the book of Kings, proves the truth of Samuel's warning.

In spite of their rejection of God as their only King, God allowed Samuel to appoint a king to lead the nation. Saul was chosen by God to be the first earthly king of Israel. Because of the stubborn arrogance displayed by Saul, God took the kingdom from him, and appointed David as king of Israel. Unlike Saul, David was a man after God's own heart, (I Sam. 13:14), and the Lord promised David that his would be an everlasting kingdom, that he would have a descendant on the throne forever. (II Sam. 7:11-16)

When King David died, his son Solomon created the wealthiest and most powerful kingdom the Hebrews would ever see. The reigns of these three kings of Israel, Saul, David, and Solomon, have been characterized as the "Golden age of unity and prosperity" of Israel. When King Solomon died, the ten northern tribes refused to accept his son Rehoboam as their king, and revolted against him. Instead they appointed Jeroboam to be their king, a man who had been appointed by Solomon to supervise the engineering works in Jerusalem. Thus the kingdom was divided into two separate nations: Israel in the north, with ten tribes, and Judah in the south, with the remaining two tribes. The Israelites formed their capital in the city of Samaria, and the Judaeans kept their capital in Jerusalem. These kingdoms remained separate nations for over two hundred years, until both eventually fell to their enemies. This began a period called the diaspora, which means "scattered abroad", or dispersed among the Gentile nations.

While this is by no means a complete or comprehensive list, these are some of the most important events of those hundreds of years of the diaspora, Israel's return to the land God had promised them, and their history since their return to Israel:

722 BC - Fall of the Northern Kingdom - Assyria captured the northern kingdom of Israel, and as dictated by Assyrian military policy, deported the people of Israel, resettling the 10 tribes throughout the Assyrian empire. This resulted in the so-called Lost Tribes of Israel. There were a total of twenty kings of Israel. They reigned for about 210 years; from about 930 BC when the kingdom was divided, to about 722-721 BC, when the kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria. The southern kingdom of Judah lasted a number of years more, but eventually fell to the Babylonians.

586 BC - Fall of the Southern Kingdom - The southern kingdom fell to the Babylonians, who burned the first Temple and sent the Jews into captivity in Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar had installed Zedekiah as vassal king of Judah, however, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, entering into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, the king of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah. He began the siege of Jerusalem in December 589 BC. During this siege, the city endured horrible deprivation. There were a total of twenty kings of Judah, reigning for about 344 years; from about 930 BC when the kingdom was divided, to 586 BC, when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.

539-538 BC - Jews allowed to return to their homeland - The Medo-Persian Empire overthrew the Babylonian kingdom, and King Cyrus of Persia gave an order allowing the Jewish people to return to their homeland. However, the Jews had assimilated so well into the Persian culture, and had prospered there, so many of them had no desire to return. Their homeland was nothing but a war-torn ruin, and they would have to start all over, rebuilding and re-establishing their positions.

King Cyrus also gave permission for Zerubbabel to rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. This second temple was a far more modest structure, nowhere near as awe-inspiring and rich as the first one, and so was a great disappointment to the Jews. According to the book of Ezra, construction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem began around 537 BCE. (Note: Later, during the reign of Herod the Great, the Second Temple was completely refurbished, giving it once again the magnificence of the original temple. However, just as the original temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, this second temple would later be destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.)

475 BC - Plot to destroy the Jews - Haman was the highest official in the Persian empire under King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes). Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites, who were perpetual enemies of the Jews. The king had ordered everyone to bow down to Haman, but Mordechai, a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, refused to do so, as Jews were only to bow down to God. This angered Haman greatly, and knowing of Mordechai's Jewish nationality, Haman convinced King Ahasuerus, to sign a proclamation to have all of the Jews in the Persian empire killed. A proclamation made by a Persian king could not be reversed, it was final and unchangeable.

Because Mordeecai did not pay homge to Haman by bowing before him, Haman built a 50-cubit-high gallows on which he intended to hang Mordecai for all to see. Fortunately for the Jews, this plot was foiled by Queen Esther, who was Jewish herself, and the niece of Mordecai. She had been chosen by King Ahasuerusas as his second wife, after he had expelled his first wife, Queen Vashti, from the kingdom. Mordecai informed Esther of the plot to destroy the Jews, and reminded her that she may have been put in such a high position for just such a time as this.

Risking her own life to approach the king, Esther held two banquets for the king and Haman. During the second banquet, she informed the king that Haman was plotting to kill her (and the other Jews). This enraged the king so much that he left the room in anger. He shortly returned, only to find Haman laying across Esther's couch, in what he perceived as a sexual advance. Haman had only intended to plead for mercy from Esther, but the king was outraged, and ordered Haman to be hanged from the 50-cubit-high gallows that had been built by Haman himself. Mordecai was then promoted to Haman's position as the highest official under King Ahasuerus.

Since the king's edict could not be overturned or reversed, Mordecai and Queen Esther convinced the king to issue another proclamation, allowing the Jews to defend themselves, when the attack came. The Jews were successful in defeating their enemies, and to commemorate their victory, the festival of Purim is celebrated in the spring of every year.

167-160 BC - The Maccabean Revolt - Led by Mattathias Maccabee and his 5 sons, this was a revolt against the evil Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes. (This is the Antiochus of Daniel Ch. 8) Antiochus Epiphanes was a descendant of Seleucus I, one of the 4 generals of Alexander the Great who inherited his territories after his death. The Jews called him “Epimanes” meaning “madman”, a derogatory play on the name "Epiphanes". He forbade traditional Jewish worship, and desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the sacred altar.

This victory of the Jews resulted in the celebration of Hannukkah, or the "Festival of Lights", an eight-day long celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. (Note: The story of Hanukkah is recorded in the books of the First and Second Maccabees,. They describe in detail the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah. These books are not part of the canonized Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) used by modern Jews, nor the Protestant Bible, though the Catholic and Orthodox Churches still consider them to be a part of the Old Testament.)

66-70 AD - The first Jewish revolt against Rome - This revolt caused the Romans to totally destroy Jerusalem and Jerubbabel's temple. The Emperor Nero sent an army under the leadership of his general Vespasian to restore order. By 68 AD, the rebellion in the northern part of the province had been quashed, and the Romans turned their attention to the siege of Jerusalem.

That same year, the Emperor Nero died by his own hand, and Vespasian succeeded him as Emperor. His son, Titus, led the remaining army in the assault on Jerusalem. By the year 70 AD, Jerusalem's outer walls had been breached. The Romans burned and destroyed both the temple and the city, and slaughtered thousands of Jews. Of those spared from death, thousands were sent as slaves to the mines of Egypt, and thousands more were cruelly tortured for the entertainment of the Emperors. All the sacred objects were taken from the temple to Rome.

115-117 AD - Second Jewish revolt against Rome - This second Jewish Roman war, also called the Kitos War, occurred forty-five years after the fall of Jerusalem, when Trajan invaded Parthia. This rebellion started in Cyrene and spread to Alexandria and Cyprus, where thousands of citizens were killed, both Jew and Gentile. The rebels destroyed many Roman Temples, killing both Greeks and Romans. These rebellions were led by disordered mobs, rather than armies, and the engagements were more like riots rather than battles. These rebellions resulted in a tremendous loss of life, and the Romans destoyed many of the Jewish strongholds outside of Judea.

132 -135 AD - The Bar Kokhba rebellion - This rebellion against Rome was led by Simon ben Kosevah, a Jewish military leader. This third and final war between the Jewish people and the Roman Empire followed a long period of tension and violence that began with the first Jewish revolt and the Kitos War. (Note: Some historians refer to this as the second Jewish revolt, dismissing the Kitos War, as it was a poorly led, disorganized rebellion, rather than a military action.) The Bar Kochba Revolt differed from its predecessors, in that for the first time, the Jews presented a united front against Roman forces and fought under the command of a single military leader.

The revolt established an independent Jewish state, which lasted for 3 years, until they were again conquered by the Romans in 135 AD. The Roman's "scorched-earth" strategy ultimately laid waste to the entire country. The majority of the Jewish population were either killed, enslaved, or exiled. The Jewish people would not regain political independence until the Zionist era and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 AD.

361-363 AD - Jews allowed to return to Jerusalem - Roman Emperor Julian Augustus was the last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire. Both of his parents were Christians, and he was originally given a Christian education, but converted to paganism at the age of twenty. He attempted to revive traditional Roman religious practices to eradicate the teachings of Christianity. In 363, before leaving Antioch to campaign against Persia, he ordered the Temple rebuilt, not so much to appease the Jews, as to undermine the Christian religion. Julian also forbade Christians from teaching and learning classical texts. For his efforts to eradicate Christianity, he was known as Julian the Apostate.

610 AD - The birth of Islam - At age 40, discontented with life in Mecca, Mohammed retreated to a cave in the surrounding mountains, where he received his first revelation. Muhammad despised the idolatry and immorality that abounded during his time, but created his own religion based on many of the same pagan practices of the ancient worshipers of the moon-god Allah. He also incorporated basic theological elements of both Christianity and Judaism. He could neither read nor write, so his understanding of Holy Scriptures was subject largely to his own ideas and interpretations. After his death, his followers took his sayings and teachings, and created the Quran, the holy scriptures of Islam.

Beginning with Muhammed, Islam waged wars of expansion for centuries. Infidels, or non-believers, were not always forced to convert to Islam or die, but would be subject to extremely high taxation. The Muslim conquest of Jerusalem established Arab control over Palestine, which continued until the Crusades.

1095-1291 AD - The Crusades - The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated and supported by the Roman Catholic Church - especially to the Eastern Mediterranean campaigns in the period between 1096 and 1271. Pope Urban II ordered the first crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095, promising absolution for the participants' sins. In the Second Crusade, Pope Eugenius III was persuaded that the German's conquest of the Slavs was comparable. Those fighting in the Crusades were assured of Papal protection, and of salvation if they died while engaged in the suppression of heretical sects.

There were eight major Crusade expeditions between 1096 and 1291, and the conflicts were bloody, violent and merciless. Despite promising protection to the citizens of Jerusalem, the Crusaders slaughtered hundreds of men, women, and children upon their victorious entrance into that city. Intent on liberating the land of Christ's birth from the Muslim invaders, they also murdered Jews as well as the Muslims, calling them "Christ-killers".

The objective of the Crusades was to put a stop the aggression and conquests by the Muslims and stop spread of Islam, and most especially to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. Later Crusades were fought to combat heresy in the Church, as well as to convert pagans to Christianity. Crusaders were also granted forgiveness of sins and privileges as mentioned as mentioned above. It has been suggested that financial gain was also an incentive for many of the crusaders; however, for most, that was not their primary goal. Several religious knightly military orders arose from the Crusades, including the Knights Templar, the Teutonic Knights, and the Hospitallers. These groups defended the Holy Land and protected travelers in and around the region.

1230 AD - The Expulsion of all Jews from England - The first Jewish communities came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. After conquering England, William instituted a feudal system, in which all Jews were declared to be direct subjects of the king, which could be an advantage or a disadvantage to them, depending on the whims of the king. Every successive king formally reviewed a royal charter, granting Jews the right to remain in England.

The Edict of Expulsion was a royal decree issued by King Edward I of England on July 18, 1290, expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England no later than All Saints' Day (November 1) that year. The edict was not an isolated incident, but the culmination of over 200 years of increased persecution of the Jews. It remained in effect for more than 350 years, until Oliver Cromwell permitted Jews to return to England in 1657.

1306-1394 - All Jews Expelled from France - Many of the Jews that had been expelled from England under King Edward l moved to France. King Philip IV, known as Philip the Fair, ruled as king of France from1285-1314. On July 22, 1306, King Philip IV expelled all Jews from his kingdom. Jews had been expelled from France in 1182 by an earlier King Philip, and were regularly expelled throughout the 13th century, but they were always allowed back within a few years, because of their usefulness to the Crown. They acted as tax collectors for the king.

King Philip had both religious and financial reasons for kicking the Jews out of France. He was short of money due to the Flemish war, and needed lots of money to finance his miultary campaigns. It was this financial need that led Philip to come up with the plan to expel the Jews of France and confiscate and sell off their property. But his plan was not just financially motivated: Philip himself loathed the Jews; he considered them to be evil and a threat to his throne. His grandfather, the pious King Louis IX , had been a relentless persecutor of the Jews.

1478 - The Spanish Inquistion - Instituted by Kind Ferninand and Queen Isabella of Spain, the Inquisition was intended to combat heresy in their kingdoms. The Jewish community in Spain had prospered and grown over the years, both in numbers and influence. However, persecution of the Jews also increased, and they were pressured to convert to Christianity. Faced with the choice between baptism and death, many Jews became nominal converts to the Christian faith. Many others refused and were were killed, and even those who had converted faced continual suspicion. Many of them continued to practice their faith secretly. Thus in 1478 Pope Sixtus IV authorized the Catholic Monarchs to name inquisitors to deal with these heretics.

The first grand inquisitor was Tomás de Torquemada. Known for his brutality and fanaticism, which became the hallmarks of the Inquisition, Torquemada used torture and confiscation to terrorize his victims and display the power of the Roman Catholic church to the crowds watching. At his urging, Ferdinand and Isabella issued an edict on March 31, 1492, giving Spanish Jews the choice of exile or baptism; As a result, more than 160,000 Jews were expelled from Spain. About half of these relocated in Poland. Ultimately, some 32,000 individuals, were executed under the Spanish Inquisition, including Jews, Muslims, Christians, and even some Catholics who were thought to be heretical.

1496 - Jews expelled from Portugal - The initial edict of expulsion of 1496 was turned into an edict of forced conversion in 1497, Under this edict, Portuguese Jews were prevented from leaving the country and were forcibly baptized and converted to Christianity. Those Jews who refused to pay taxes in protest were forcibly deported from Portugal.

2,000 individuals were massacred in Lisbon in 1506. Then in 1536, the Portuguese Inquistition began, at the request of the king, John III. It was one of three different Inquisitions, along with the Spanish Inquisition and the Roman Inquisition. The main targets were those who had converted from Judaism to Catholicism, but were suspected of secretly practicing Judaism. Many of these were originally Spanish Jews who had left Spain during the Inquisition there.

1496 - Jews expelled from Germany - The history of the Jews in Germany goes back to the Middle Ages, when Jewish settlers founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community. The Church forbade Christians to be usurers, so the Jews secured the remunerative monopoly of money-lending. Jews were forced to pay higher taxes into the state treasury than did the non-Jews. The Jewish community survived under Charlemagne, who employed Jews for diplomatic purposes, and their status continued under Charlemagne's successor, Louis the Pious.

The persecution of Jews in Germany began with the First Crusade, when entire Jewish communities were slaughtered. By the15th century, what had happened in the time of the Crusades happened again, and the Jews of Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia suffered renewed persecution, and again were faced with death or forced baptism. Jews were forever banished from Silesia and all Jewish communities in southern and western Germany.

1555 - Jews persecuted in Italy - When Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, many of them found refuge in Italy, where they were given protection by King Ferdinand I of Naples. The Catholic church tried to introduce the Inquisition into the Neapolitan realm, then under Spanish rule. Several edicts were given, ordering all Jews to be exiled, but they were all delayed, under the influence of prominent Jews in the community. After the death of Pope Paul III, who had showed favor to the Jews, a period of strife, persecution, and despondency set in. In 1553, all the copies of the Talmud in Italy, Venice, and even in the distant island of Candia (Crete) were burned. In 1555, Pope Marcellus II tried to exile all the Jews of Rome, but was restrained from doing so by Cardinal Alexander Farnese.

1700-1760 AD - Hasidic Judaism is born - Israel Ben Eliezer, also called Baal Shem Tov (literally “master of the good name”) started the Hasidic movement in the 1700's, and it spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe. It was a spiritual revival movement, filling a significant void felt by many average observant Jews of the day. Israel Baal Shem Tov was a great scholar and mystic, who devoted himself to the study of Torah, both it's the revealed, outer aspect, and hidden, inner aspect.

The most fundamental theme of Hasidic theory is the immanence of God in the universe, The Baal Shem Tov taught that every Jew, regardless of their station in life, could connect with God through learning Torah and doing mitzvahs (the commandments, referring to the 613 commands given in the Torah, plus the 7 rabbinical commands given later) with love, joy, and simple, earnest humility.

Modern Hasidism is a sub-group within Ultra-Orthodox Judaism noted for its religious conservatism and social seclusion. Its members adhere closely both to Orthodox Jewish practice and the traditions of Eastern European Jews, including special styles of dress and the use of the Yiddish language.

1740–1750 - Jews return to Palestine - Thousands immigrate to their homeland in Palestine, which was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Palestine is the geographic region in Western Asia usually considered to include Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and in some definitions, parts of western Jordan. This area consists of the territory claimed for the biblical regions known as the Holy Land, or the Promised Land.

1791 - Russia creates the Pale of Settlement - The Pale of Settlement was a western region of Imperial Russia with varying borders that included Belarus, Lithuania and Moldova, much of Ukraine, parts of eastern Latvia, eastern Poland, and some parts of western Russia. The Pale of Settlement existed from 1791 to 1917, and was the only place where Jews were allowed to settle. They were mostly forbidden to settle anywhere else in the country, and many were forbidden to settle in a number of cities within the Pale as well. Only the more upper echelon Jews were allowed to live outside the Pale: those with university educations, nobles, members of affluential merchant guilds, skilled artisans, and some members of the military, along with their families and sometimes even their servants.

Jewish life in the Pale of Settlement was mostly a life of poverty and hardship. The Jews who were able to help formed social welfare organizations to meet the needs of their fellow Jews. They formed charities that provided clothing and food, and free medical treatment for the poor, offered dowries and household gifts to destitute brides, and arranged for technical education for orphans.

Tsar Alexander III had a "fierce hatred of the Jews", and there were rumors that Jews had been involved in the assassination of his father Tsar Alexander II. This hatred, and the numbers of Jews concentrated within the Pale, made them easy targets for pogroms, attacks aimed at decimating or destroying entire religious or ethnic groups. During the first World War, large numbers of the Jewish population fled into the Russian interior to escape the invading German army. The end of the enforced boundaries of the Pale then finally ended with the fall of the Russian Empire in the Revolutions of 1917. On March 20,1917, the Pale was abolished by the Provisional Government decree.

1881-1906 - Major Pogroms In Russia - During this time, more than 200 anti-Jewish events occurred in the Russian Empire, in which thousands of Jews were killed, thousands more incarcerated in concentration camps, and their properties stolen or destroyed. The most significant pogroms in the Russian Empire included the Odessa pogroms, which took place in 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881 and 1905, the Warsaw pogrom in 1881, the Kishinev pogrom in 1903, Kiev Pogrom in 1905, and Bialystok pogrom in 1906. After World War l, the Jewish population of Russia re-grouped in Poland, where they would again face annhiliation a generation later.

1897 -The Rise of Zionism - Zionism is the name given to a movement to allow the Jewish people to return to Israel. The name comes from the word “Zion,” a Hebrew term that refers to Jerusalem. Modern Zionism began in the late 19th century, when Jews throughout the world faced growing anti-Semitism. In 1894, a Jewish officer in the French army named Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused and convicted of treason, sparking outrage among the Jewish community. Struggling to retain their national identity and facing increased persecution, the Jewish people began formulating a plan to return to their Biblical homeland and restore their Jewish culture.

Theodor Herzl was a Jewish journalist and political activist from Austria. He believed that the Jewish people needed to have a nation of their own, due to the increasing persecution they faced, and that without a nation of their own, they would not be able to survive, much less thrive. After the Dreyfus Affair, Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), calling for political recognition of a Jewish homeland in the area then known as Palestine. He organized the First Zionist Congress in 1897, in Basel, Switzerland. He also formed and became the first president of the World Zionist Organization Herzl died in 1904, without ever seeing his dream of a Jewish nation come to fruition. Yet, even though he died years before Israel was officially declared a state, he’s still considered to be the father of modern Zionism.

Israel's Incredible History
Part 2: From The Balfour Declaration To Today

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