The First Fifty Years

May 1948: The State of Israel founded.

On 6th Iyar 5708 (15th May 1948) an autonomous and independent Jewish homeland is established in the ancient land of Israel. Headed by David Ben Gurion, the provisional government acts immediately to assure free Jewish immigration and the right of Jews to purchase land. Some Orthodox Jews believe the formation of the Jewish state is the beginning of the Messianic redemption (the Ge'ula) while other religious Jews oppose the establishment of the State on the grounds that only the Messiah has the right to establish the Jewish people in their own land.

The War of Independence

On the day Israel declares its independence the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invade the Jewish State determined to crush it out of existence. In spite of the fact that the invading armies are fully equipped with tanks, planes and heavy artillery the fledgling Israeli army holds most of the land except for the Jewish quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

1949: The End of the War of Independence

Israel signs armistice agreements with its Arab neighbours and the war ends, leaving the Jews in control of 8,000 square miles of territory, compared with the 6,200 originally granted by the United Nations. Jerusalem remains divided, with the Western Wall remaining under Arab control. Four thousand Jewish soldiers and 2,000 civilians perish in the conflict and sporadic attacks by the Arabs continue for many years.

1950: The Jews of Iraq and Yemen Emigrate to Israel

The Iraqi government, which had treated the Jewish community harshly, allows them to leave on the condition that they take none of their possessions. The entire Jewish community of Yemen numbering 45,000 is airlifted to Israel.


The Government of West Germany agrees to pay money for the losses suffered by Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

1956: Jewish forces conquer the Sinai Peninsula

Increasing numbers of Israeli citizens are being killed by Arab infiltrators, many of them from Egypt. Equipped with quality Russian arms, Egypt nationalises the Suez Canal, preventing ships from sailing to and from Israel. In a lightning strike that lasts eight days, Israeli forces invade the Sinai totally routing the Egyptian army.

1958: Who is a Jew?

A serious and prolonged controversy arises when it is announced that anyone claiming to be a Jew will be registered as such by the State without the need for rabbinic legal proof. The Miha Yehudi (Who is a Jew?) controversy continues to the present.

1962: Adolph Eichmann Trial

The Nazi in charge of the implementation of the Final Solution in World War II is captured in Argentina, tried by a court in Jerusalem, and hanged.

1964: The Birth of the PLO

Delegates from Israel's Arab neighbours meet in Egypt to form the Palestine Liberation Organisation, an army of Palestinian Arabs, to carry out attacks against Jews in Israel. At the same time the more extreme Al Fatah organisation is established independently along the same lines as the PLO.

1967: The Six Day War

Terrorist attacks against Israel reach unbearable proportions and Israeli intelligence learns that the Arab nations are preparing to destroy the Jewish State. Egypt once again closes the Suez Canal and begins deploying its forces on the borders of Israel. In a pre-emptive strike that lasts three hours, Israeli planes attack Egypt and Syria destroying a total of 452 Arab aircraft. During the next six days, under the command of General Moshe Dayan, Israeli soldiers shatter the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The Old City of Jerusalem is liberated and Jewish soldiers for the first time weep and pray at the Western Wall. Seven hundred and seventy seven Israeli soldiers are killed in the war.

1973: The Yom Kippur War

In the early afternoon on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, when the nation is fasting and praying, Egypt and Syria launch a full scale military attack on Israel. Seventy thousand Egyptian soldiers overcome 500 Jewish soldiers defending the Suez Canal. Within days the Israeli defence forces stage a successful counter attack, crossing the Suez Canal into North Africa. To the north, Israeli forces advance to within firing distance of Damascus. After twenty days of fighting the Arab forces lose 18,500 troops and 2,100 Russian-made tanks. Two and a half thousand Israeli troops die in the conflict.

After their defeat the Arab nations refuse to sell their oil to nations that supported Israel, which leads to the Jewish State becoming politically isolated.

1976: The Raid on Entebbe

When Arab terrorists hijack a plane carrying 100 Jewish passengers and hold them hostage at Entebbe airport in Uganda, Israeli commandos launch a spectacular rescue mission that becomes the stuff of legends.

1977: Knesset Passes Anti-conversion Law

Due to unsubstantiated claims of Jews being bribed to convert, the Israeli Parliament passes a law prohibiting the offer of "material inducements" to anyone to change their religion.

1979: Peace with Egypt

The president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, visits Jerusalem at the invitation of Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. After long negotiations a peace treaty is signed between the two countries, under which all Jewish forces and settlements are withdrawn from the Sinai.

1981: Israel destroys Iraqi Nuclear Reactor

Iraq, which has always been involved in military action against Israel, is threatening to develop the capacity for nuclear weapons. In an unexpected action, Israeli planes bomb the nuclear reactor near Baghdad, thus destroying a potential threat to Israel's safety.

1982: Israel Invades Lebanon

In addition to their terrorist attacks, the PLO is bombarding Israeli settlements near the Lebanese border. Israeli defence forces invade Lebanon to remove the threat to the safety of northern Israel. To demonstrate to a compliant international media that Israeli forces are killing Lebanese women and children, the PLO position their fighters in densely populated civilian areas. The PLO forces are eventually overcome and have to withdraw from Beirut to other Arab countries.

1989: Knesset Rules that Jews cannot be Christians

In a landmark ruling, on December 25th, the Knesset declares that Jews who believe in Jesus are no longer Jewish and therefore ineligible to settle in Israel under the terms of the Law of Return.

1990: Jews Allowed to Leave Russia

Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms in 1987 allowed Soviet Jews greater freedom. Following the break up of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a massive wave of immigrants enters Israel.

1991: The Gulf War

Iraq begins firing SCUD missiles at Israeli cities and in eighteen waves of attacks 4,000 buildings are damaged but, though numerous citizens die of heart failure, only a small number are killed as a direct result of the missiles.

Messianic hope is kindled among the Orthodox community when the leader of the Lubavitch Chabad sect, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, predicts the coming of Messiah by the Jewish New Year. Many of his followers claim that Messiah is already among them in the person of their leader.

In a dramatic airlift, 15,000 Falasha Jews from Ethiopia arrive in Israel. Although they believe themselves to be of biblical descent there is considerable debate among the rabbis about their acceptance as full Jews.

1993: The White House Peace Accord

With US president Bill Clinton looking on, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, sign a historic peace agreement on the lawn of the White House. Although Chairman Arafat agrees to recognise Israel's right to exist (contrary to the PLO's charter) he is reported to have assured the Arab nations that the PLO is still committed to the destruction of the Jewish State. The event is not greeted with unanimous approval in Israel, the Orthodox seeing the action of prime minister Rabin as a betrayal of Israel's territorial rights.

1996: Yitzhak Rabin Assassinated

The whole country is left reeling following the public assassination of the prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. His killer, an Orthodox student, shows no remorse for his action, claiming that he had acted in accordance with the will of God on account of prime minister Rabin's perceived betrayal of Israel. The Jerusalem Post warns that similar attitudes were the cause of Israel's destruction and dispersion in 70 AD.

1997: Anti-Missionary Bill

Knesset members Moshe Gafni and Nisim Zvili propose that anyone who "possesses, prints, imports or distributes" literature that seeks to persuade others to change their religion should be imprisoned for one year. The Messianic Action Committee is established to oppose the Bill.

1998: Israel's Jubilee

In the year that Israel attains its half century the conditions of Bill 174c are made more stringent. It is proposed that anyone who seeks in any way to persuade someone else to change their religion should be imprisoned for three years or face a fine of

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