Saturday, May 13, 2006
Declaration Of The State Of Israel, May 14, 1948
Today in 1948, the nation of Israel was established with the reading
of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in Tel
Aviv, the new nation's capital. For the first time in nearly 2,000
years, the Jewish people had a homeland of their own.
Jewish immigration to the area that would become the modern State of
Israel began in 1881. While Jews had lived in the area before and
after the time of Christ, the Romans, Muslims and succeeding empires
who occupied the area scattered them to the far corners of the world.
The modern immigration was spearheaded by Jewish leaders who
considered themselves members of the Zionist movement, meaning that
they worked towards the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the area
of ancient Israel. They bought land from individual Arab landholders
and the Ottoman as a means of establishing a foothold in the area.
Tens, and later hundreds, of thousands of their brethren followed.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First
World War, the area known as Palestine was handed over to the British,
who agreed to follow a League of Nations mandate regarding that
region. The British supported the creation of a Jewish state in
Palestine, but Arab resistance in the area put plans for
self-governance on hold. Despite this, immigration to the area
continued. By 1940, 30% of the population of Palestine was Jewish.
At the beginning of the Second World War, the British decided to limit
Jewish immigration to Palestine and restricted their purchase of land.
This move was in response to Arab unrest in the area, which the
British feared would grow out of control. This decision to limit
Jewish entry to Palestine was controversial at the time and became
even more so once the events of the Holocaust came to light. Many
believed that millions of Jews could have been saved from certain
death at the hands of the Nazis had immigration limits been done away
with during the war.
In 1947, the newly-formed United Nations addressed the issue of a
Jewish homeland by dividing the Palestine area into two parts: 55%
for a Jewish state and 45% for settlement by Arabs. Jerusalem was to
be overseen by the UN. The Arab League rejected the partition and
began preparations for war.
Immediately following the declaration of the State of Israel, the
armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria all attacked the
nation. The Israelis slowed or stopped most of the invading forces
before a one month ceasefire was declared by the United Nations in
June, 1948. The new government in Tel Aviv took this time to form the
Israeli Defense Forces. A formal ceasefire was declared in 1949 and
new borders were drawn in which Israel gained 26% more land. Many
issues relating to the creation of Israel and the disposition of the
area's population still remain unsettled and have resulted in several
wars since 1948.
Within a year of its founding, Israel's population doubled. Today,
over seven million people call Israel home.