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Jews in The Land of Israel
Before there was any Jewish presence in the land it was known as the Land of Canaan, though just who the Canaanites were is a moot question; some scholars think that they were inland Phoenicians, but perhaps we cannot go far wrong if we just refer to whoever lived here (maybe lots of tribes) as generic Canaanites. Whatever the case may be, in Genesis 15:19-21, the Bible makes this promise to Abraham: To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river the Euphrates. The land of the Kenites, Kenizites, Kadmonites; the Chitties, Perizites, Refaim; the Emorites, Canaanites, Gigashites and Yevusites. There are some who would expand the borders on the map displayed here, along the Euphrates as it runs east and down to the Nile.
Daivd's Kingdom at its peak
When Joshua led the tribes into the Promised Land he failed to conquer all the land promised. Not until David's day did anyone come even close to ruling most of the territory.
When David's son and successor, Solomon, died, the kingdom split into two, the north known as the Kingdom of Israel, the south as the Kingdom of Yehuda, though later it became better known in its Greek/Roman form as Judea.
Yisrael and Yehudah
The northern kingdom was destroyed by the City Empire of Nineveh (today's Mosul in Iraq) in the year 722 BCE and the southern kingdom by Nineveh's great rival Babylon in 586 BCE. Within a generation Persia had conquered the Babylonian Empire and Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to what was now the Persian province of Yahud. There they were allowed to establish a Temple State run in effect by the High Priest, a situation which comtinued under the Greeks who, under Alexander the Great, had taken over the Persian Empire. Eventually, in 167 BCE the Jews rebelled against the Greeks who had tried to impose on them worship of the Emperor, and with a little help from the newly rising power in the west, Rome, an independent kingdom was established which lasted 5 generations. At this point Rome imposed her own rule, appointing, from 63 BCE on, the local ruler. Rome was now sovereign, but just as under the Persian and Greeks before them, the Jews were allowed a measure of autonomy. Eventually, afer a series of rebellions against them in 66-70, 115-117 and finally 132-135, the Romans put an end to the Jewish state, in the first instance destroying the Temple Herod had built, and in the last killing some 600,000 and selling a like number into slavery, in effect ending a dominant Jewish presence in the land.
The Ottoman Empire late 19th Century
Through the succeeding generations the land was ruled, first from Rome, then Constantinople, then Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo until the Crusaders established the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099. They were eventually (1291) driven out by the rulers of Egypt who controlled the land until they were replaced by the Turks (1516) and once more the land was ruled from Constantinople, only now it was called Istanbul. This lasted until the British conquered the Middle East in 1918 and from then until 1948 the British ruled under a Mandate from the League of Nations.
Map of the First Aliya
Throughout the previous 1800 years there had always been a Jewish presence in the land, but only as an insignificant minority. The Roman destruction of the Temple had brought about a new form of Judaism that centered on prayer 3 times a day, preferably in the synagogue under the guidance of the community's chosen spiritual leader, the Rabbi. Until Napoleon tore down Europe's ghettos in the early 19th century, Rabbinical Judaism all over the world was very similar, with prayers clearly focused on Zion. But it wasn't until the late 19th century that Jews began to settle in larger, more meaningful numbers, which grew until, at the end of the British Mandate, some 650,000 Jews constituted about 1/3 of the total population. The UN decision of November 29, 1947, established the formal basis of modern Israel, but it took the 1948 war to actually establish the State.