Historical Timeline of Israel

C. 17th Century BCE

  • The Patriarchs of the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bring the belief in One God to the Promised Land where they settle.
  • Famine forces the Israelites to migrate to Egypt

Documents unearthed in Mesopotamia, dating back to 2000- 1500 BCE, corroborate aspects of their nomadic way of life as described in the Bible. The Book of Genesis relates how Abraham was summoned from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan to bring about the formation of a people with belief in the One God. When a famine spread through Canaan, Jacob (Israel), his twelve sons and their families settled in Egypt, where their descendants were reduced to slavery and pressed into forced labor.

C. 13th Century BCE

  • Moses leads the Israelites from Egypt, followed by 40 years of wandering in the desert.
  • The Torah, including the Ten Commandments received at Mount Saini.

Moses was chosen by God to take his people out of Egypt and back to the Land of Israel promised to their forefathers. They wandered for 40 years in the Sinai desert, where they were forged into a nation and received the Torah (Pentateuch), which included the Ten Commandments and gave form and content to their monotheistic faith.

During the next two centuries, the Israelites conquered most of the Land of Israel and relinquished their nomadic ways to become farmers and craftsmen; a degree of economic and social consolidation followed. Periods of relative peace alternated with times of war during which the people rallied behind leaders known as 'judges,' chosen for their political and military skills as well as for their leadership qualities.

C. 13th - 12th Centuries BCE

The Israelites settle the Land of Israel.

C. 1020

  • Jewish Monarchy established.

The first king, Saul (c. 1020 BCE), bridged the period between loose tribal organization and the setting up of a full monarchy under his successor, David. King David (c.1004-965 BCE) established Israel as a major power in the region by successful military expeditions, including the final defeat of the Philistines, as well as by constructing a network of friendly alliances with nearby kingdoms. David was succeeded by his son Solomon (c.965-930 BCE) who further strengthened the kingdom. Crowning his achievements was the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, which became the center of the Jewish people's national and religious life.

C. 1000

  • Jerusalem made capital of David's Kingdom.

C. 960

  • First Temple, the national and spiritual center of the Jewish people, built in Jerusalem by King Solomon.

C. 930

  • Kingdom divided into Judah and Israel.

After Solomon's death (930 BCE), open insurrection led to the breaking away of the ten northern tribes and division of the country into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah, on the territory of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

The Kingdom of Israel, with its capital Samaria, lasted more than 200 years under 19 kings, while the Kingdom of Judah was ruled from Jerusalem for 350 years by an equal number of kings of the lineage of David. The expansion of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires brought first Israel and later Judah under foreign control.

722 - 720

  • Israel crushed by Assyrians; 10 tribes exiled (Ten Lost Tribes).


  • Judah conquered by Babylonia; Jerusalem and First Temple destroyed; most Jews exiled to Babylonia.

The Babylonian conquest brought an end to the First Jewish Commonwealth (First Temple period) but did not sever the Jewish people's connection to the Land of Israel. The exile to Babylonia, which followed the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE), marked the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora. There, Judaism began to develop a religious framework and way of life outside the Land, ultimately ensuring the people's national survival and spiritual identity and imbuing it with sufficient vitality to safeguard its future as a nation.




  • Many Jews return from Babylonia; Temple rebuilt.

Following a decree by the Persian King Cyrus, conqueror of the Babylonian empire (538 BCE), some 50,000 Jews set out on the First Return to the Land of Israel, led by Zerubabel, a descendant of the House of David. Less than a century later, the Second Return was led by Ezra the Scribe.

The repatriation of the Jews under Ezra's inspired leadership, construction of the Second Temple on the site of the First Temple, refortification of Jerusalem's walls and establishment of the Knesset Hagedolah (Great Assembly) as the supreme religious and judicial body of the Jewish people marked the beginning of the Second Jewish Commonwealth (Second Temple period).


  • Land conquered by Alexander the Great; Hellenistic rule.

As part of the ancient world conquered by Alexander the Great of Greece (332 BCE), the Land remained a Jewish theocracy under Syrian-based Seleucid rulers.


  • Maccabean (Hasmonean) revolt against restrictions on practice of Judaism and desecration of the Temple

When the Jews were prohibited from practicing Judaism and their Temple was desecrated as part of an effort to impose Greek-oriented culture and customs on the entire population, the Jews rose in revolt (166 BCE). First led by Mattathias of the priestly Hasmonean family and then by his son Judah the Maccabee, the Jews subsequently entered Jerusalem and purified the Temple (164 BCE).


  • Jewish autonomy under Hasmoneans.

Following further Hasmonean victories (147 BCE), the Seleucids restored autonomy to Judea, as the Land of Israel was now called, and, with the collapse of the Seleucid kingdom (129 BCE), Jewish independence was again achieved.


  • Jewish independence under Hasmonean monarchy.

Under the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted about 80 years, the kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon's realm, political consolidation under Jewish rule was attained and Jewish life flourished.


  • Jerusalem captured by Roman general, Pompey.

63 BCE-313


37BCE - 4CE

  • Herod, Roman vassal king, rules the Land of Israel;
    Temple in Jerusalem refurbished


  • Ministry of Jesus of Nazareth


  • Jewish revolt against the Romans


  • Destruction of Jerusalem and Second Temple.


  • Bar Kokhba uprising against Rome.


  • Codification of Jewish oral law (Mishnah) completed.



By the end of the 4th century, following Emperor Constantine's adoption of Christianity (313) and the founding of the Byzantine Empire, the Land of Israel had become a predominantly Christian country. Churches were built on Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee, and monasteries were established in many parts of the country. The Jews were deprived of their former relative autonomy, as well as of their right to hold public positions, and were forbidden to enter Jerusalem except on one day of the year (Tisha b'Av - ninth of Av)to mourn the destruction of the Temple.


  • Persian invasion

The Persian invasion of 614 was welcomed and aided by the Jews, who were inspired by messianic hopes of deliverance. In gratitude for their help, they were granted the administration of Jerusalem, an interlude which lasted about three years. Subsequently, the Byzantine army regained the city (629) and again expelled its Jewish population.



The Arab conquest of the Land came four years after the death of Muhammad (632) and lasted more than four centuries, with caliphs ruling first from Damascus, then from Baghdad and Egypt. At the outset of Islamic rule, Jewish settlement in Jerusalem was resumed, and the Jewish community was granted permission to live under "protection," the customary status of non-Muslims under Islamic rule, which safeguarded their lives, property and freedom of worship in return for payment of special poll and land taxes.

However, the subsequent introduction of restrictions against non-Muslims (717) affected the Jews' public conduct as well as their religious observances and legal status. The imposition of heavy taxes on agricultural land compelled many to move from rural areas to towns, where their circumstances hardly improved, while increasing social and economic discrimination forced many Jews to leave the country. By the end of the 11th century, the Jewish community in the Land had diminished considerably and had lost some of its organizational and religious cohesiveness.


  • On site of First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock built by Caliph Abd el-Malik



For the next 200 years, the country was dominated by the Crusaders, who, following an appeal by Pope Urban II, came from Europe to recover the Holy Land from the infidels. In July 1099, after a five-week siege, the knights of the First Crusade and their rabble army captured Jerusalem, massacring most of the city's non-Christian inhabitants. Barricaded in their synagogues, the Jews defended their quarter, only to be burnt to death or sold into slavery. During the next few decades, the Crusaders extended their power over the rest of the country, through treaties and agreements, but mostly by bloody military victories. The Latin Kingdom of the Crusaders was that of a conquering minority confined mainly to fortified cities and castles.

When the Crusaders opened up transportation routes from Europe, pilgrimages to the Holy Land became popular and, at the same time, increasing numbers of Jews sought to return to their homeland. Documents of the period indicate that 300 rabbis from France and England arrived in a group, with some settling in Acro (Akko), others in Jerusalem.

After the overthrow of the Crusaders by a Muslim army under Saladin (1187), the Jews were again accorded a certain measure of freedom, including the right to live in Jerusalem. Although the Crusaders regained a foothold in the country after Saladin's death (1193), their presence was limited to a network of fortified castles. Crusader authority in the Land ended after a final defeat (1291) by the Mamluks, a Muslim military class which had come to power in Egypt.



The Land under the Mamluks became a backwater province ruled from Damascus. Akko, Jaffa (Yafo) and other ports were destroyed for fear of new crusades, and maritime as well as overland commerce was interrupted. By the end of the Middle Ages, the country's urban centers were virtually in ruins, most of Jerusalem was abandoned and the small Jewish community was poverty-stricken. The period of Mamluk decline was darkened by political and economic upheavals, plagues, locust invasions and devastating earthquakes.



Following the Ottoman conquest in 1517, the Land was divided into four districts and attached administratively to the province of Damascus and ruled from Istanbul.


Orderly government, until the death (1566) of Sultan Suleiman the Magificent, brought improvements and stimulated Jewish immigration. Some newcomers settled in Jerusalem, but the majority went to Safad where, by mid-16th century, the Jewish population had risen to about 10,000, and the town had become a thriving textile center as well as the focus of intense intellectual activity. During this period, the study of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) flourished, and contemporary clarifications of Jewish law, as codified in the Shulhan Arukh, spread throughout the Diaspora from the study houses in Safad.



  • First Aliya (large-scale immigration), mainly from Russia.




  • First kibbutz, Degania, and first modern all-Jewish city, Tel Aviv, founded.


  • 400 years of Ottoman rule ended by British conquest;
    British Foreign Minister Balfour pledges support for establishment of a "Jewish national home in Palestine".




  • Third Aliya, mainly from Russia


  • Histadrut (Jewish labor federation) and Haganah (Jewish defense organization) founded.
    Vaad Leumi (National Council) set up by Jewish community (yishuv)to conduct its affairs.


  • First moshav, Nahalal, founded.


  • Britain granted Mandate for Palestine (Land of Israel) by League of Nations
  • Transjordan set up on three-fourths of the area, leaving one-fourth for the Jewish national home
  • Jewish Agency representing Jewish community vis-a-vis Mandate authorities set up.


  • Technion, first institute of technology, founded in Haifa.


  • Fourth Aliya, mainly from Poland.


  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem opened on Mt. Scopus.



  • Etzel, Jewish underground organization, founded.


  • Fifth Aliya, mainly from Germany.


  • Anti-Jewish riots instigated by Arab militants.



  • World War II; Holocaust in Europe.


  • Lehi underground movement formed; Palmach, strike force of Haganah, set up.


  • Jewish Brigade formed as part of British forces.


  • UN proposes the establishment of Arab and Jewish states in the Land.




  • Armistice agreements signed with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon.
  • Jerusalem divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule.
  • First Knesset (parliament) elected.
  • Israel admitted to United Nations as 59th member.


  • Mass immigration from Europe and Arab countries.


  • Sinai Campaign

In the course of an eight-day campaign, the IDF captured the Gaza Strip and the entire Sinai peninsula, halting 10 miles (16 km.) east of the Suez Canal. A United Nations decision to station a UN Emergency Force (UNEF) along the Egypt-Israel border and Egyptian assurances of free navigation in the Gulf of Eilat led Israel to agree to withdraw in stages (November 1956 - March 1957) from the areas taken a few weeks earlier. Consequently, the Straits of Tiran were opened, enabling the development of trade with Asian and East African countries as well as oil imports from the Persian Gulf.


  • Adolf Eichmann tried and executed in Israel for his part in the Holocaust.


  • National Water Carrier completed, bringing water from Lake Kinneret in the north to the semi-arid south.


At the end of six days of fighting, previous cease-fire lines were replaced by new ones, with Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights under Israel's control. As a result, the northern villages were freed from 19 years of recurrent Syrian shelling; the passage of Israeli and Israel-bound shipping through the Straits of Tiran was ensured; and Jerusalem, which had been divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule since 1949, was reunified under Israel's authority.



Three years of relative calm along the borders were shattered on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the holiest day of the Jewish year, when Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated surprise assault against Israel (6 October 1973), with the Egyptian army crossing the Suez Canal and Syrian troops penetrating the Golan Heights. Two years of difficult negotiations between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Syria resulted in disengagement agreements, according to which Israel withdrew from parts of the territories captured during the war.


  • Israel becomes an associate member of the European Common Market.


  • Likud forms government after Knesset elections, end of 30 years of Labor rule.
  • Visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem.


  • Camp David Accords include framework for comprehensive peace in the Middle East and proposal for Palestinian self-government.



  • Israel Air Force destroys Iraqi nuclear reactor just before it is to become operative.


  • Israel's three-stage withdrawal from Sinai completed.
  • Operation Peace for Galilee removes PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) terrorists from Lebanon.


  • National unity government (Llikud and Labor) formed after elections.
  • Operation Moses, immigration of Jews from Ethiopia.


  • Free Trade Agreement signed with United States.


  • Widespread violence (intifada) starts in Israeli-administered areas.


  • Four-point peace initiative proposed by Israel.
    Start of mass immigration of Jews from former Soviet Union.


  • Israel attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles during Gulf war.
  • Middle East peace conference convened in Madrid
  • Operation Solomon, airlift of Jews from Ethiopia.


  • Diplomatic relations established with China and India.
  • New government headed by Yitzhak Rabin of Labor party.


  • Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements for the Palestinians signed by Israel and PLO, as representative of the Palestinian people.


  • Implementation of Palestinian self-government in Gaza Strip and Jericho area.
  • Full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
  • Morocco and Tunisia interest offices set up.
  • Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty signed.
  • Rabin, Peres, Arafat awarded Nobel Peace Prize.


  • Broadened Palestinian self-government implemented in West Bank and Gaza Strip
  • Palestinian Council elected.
  • Prime Minister Rabin assassinated at peace rally.
  • Shimon Peres becomes prime minister.


  • Fundamentalist Arab terrorism against Israel escalates.
  • Operation Grapes of Wrath, retaliation for Hizbullah terrorists' attacks on northern Israel.
  • Trade representation offices set up in Oman and Qatar.
  • Likud forms government after Knesset elections.
  • Benjamin Netanyahu becomes prime minister.
  • Omani trade representation office opened in Tel Aviv.


  • Hebron Protocol signed by Israel and the PA.


  • Israel celebrates its 50th anniversary.
  • Israel and the PLO sign the Wye River Memorandum to facilitate implementation of the Interim Agreement.

Information taken in part from Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

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