Membership, Community, Diversity

What is the story of the formation of the State of Israel?

In the 1930s the world’s Jews could see that the survival of European Jews depended on mass immigration to Palestine and to friendly states. This humanitarian imperative, however, was rejected by Britain and by those countries, like the United States, where Jews might conceivably have found a home. Faced with Hitler’s hatred on the one hand, and world indifference on the other, the world’s Jews realized the absolute need for a Jewish homeland, a sovereign state where Judaism was not only a religion, but a nationality. With the Proclamation of an Independent Jewish State on May 14, 1948, for the first time since the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of the Jews, Jewishness became a national as well as a religious identity. By the Law of Return every Jew had a right to Israeli citizenship. Thus the State of Israel had become a solution to the problem faced by the Jewish people, whose history since the dispersion had been one of trauma and tragedy. In medieval England the Jews had been expelled; in fifteenth-century Spain they had endured the same fate. In most cases, Jews could not achieve political equality in the lands where they settled, and they lacked a land they could call their own and to which they could return.

The proclamation of an independent Israel was the signal for a combined attack by the Arab states. After initial setbacks and mixed success, the Israelis were able to create a national army and to arm it, to an extent, with modern weapons. As a result of these efforts, the tide of battle gradually turned, and, by the end of 1948, Israeli forces led a campaign through southern Palestine and even into Egypt itself. In a later thrust, an Israeli column drove down to the Red Sea, securing the port of Eilat. During one of several ceasefires, Count Folke Bernadotte of Wisborg, the United Nations mediator, was assassinated by Zionist terrorists. Finally, by July, 1949, armistice agreements were signed with the Arab states.


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