Category: “Zion’s History, Tradition and Ties”

The term Sanhedrin is from a Greek word that means “assembly” or “council” and dates from the Hellenistic period, but the concept is one that goes back to the Bible. In the Torah, God commands Moses to “bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you” (Numbers 11:16). Also, in the sixteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, we read in verse 18, “You shall appoint for yourselves judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.” The land was divided up among the tribes, and in those areas where tribes had their presence, there were towns and villages, and in every town and every village there was to be a court. If there were 120 men as heads of families, they had a local court there called a Sanhedrin. In smaller towns where there were not 120 men as heads of families, there were either three judges, if the town was very small, or seven judges who sat as a court, both judge and jury, in all legal matters.

The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel, made up of 70 men and the high priest. In the Second Temple period, the Great Sanhedrin met in the Temple in Jerusalem. The court convened every day except festivals and on the Sabbath. The Sanhedrin as a body claimed powers that lesser Jewish courts did not have. As such, they were the only ones who could try the king or extend the boundaries of the Temple and Jerusalem, and were the ones to whom all questions of law were finally put. The last binding decision of the Sanhedrin was in 358, when the Hebrew calendar was adopted. The Sanhedrin was dissolved after continued persecution by the Roman Empire. Over the centuries, there have been attempts to revive the institution, such as the Grand Sanhedrin convened by Napoleon Bonaparte.

In the New Testament, the Sanhedrin is best known for their part in the series of mock trials that resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus. The Sanhedrin began with an informal examination of Jesus before Annas, the acting high priest (John 18:12-14, 19-23), followed by a formal session before the entire Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:57-68). There the decision was made to turn Jesus over the Roman authorities to be tried and crucified.

In the earliest days of the Christian church, the church was comprised predominately of Jews. In Acts chapter 8 the gospel spread to the Samaritans (who were ethnically mixed Jews-Gentiles), and many Samaritans received Jesus Christ as Savior. In Acts chapter 10, the Apostle Peter was the first to take the gospel specifically to the Gentiles, and many received Christ as Savior. In Acts chapter 13-14, Paul and Barnabas had a very fruitful ministry among the Gentiles. All of these Gentiles turning to faith in Christ caused concern among the Jewish believers, first expressed in Acts 11:1-18, and the issues that caused concern were ultimately decided upon at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). The issues centered on two questions: Do Gentiles first have to become Jews before they can become Christians? Do Gentiles have to observe the Mosaic Law after they become Christians?

The impetus for the Jerusalem council is given in Acts 15, verses 1 and 5, “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’ … It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the Law of Moses.” Some Jewish Christians were teaching that Gentiles had to observe the Mosaic Law and Jewish customs in order to be saved. Since this teaching clearly contradicted the fact that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Acts 15:11), the apostles and church leaders held the first Christian council to settle the issue. In verses 7-11, the apostle Peter spoke of his ministry with the Gentiles, as recorded in Acts chapter 10. Peter focused on the fact that the Holy Spirit was given to uncircumcised Gentiles in precisely the same manner the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles and Jewish believers on the day of Pentecost. This led Peter to the conclusion that there should be no “placing a yoke on the neck of the (Gentile) disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10).

Jesus’ half-brother James, who had become a leader of the church in Jerusalem, agreed with Peter and declared, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19). The Jerusalem Council then proceeded to give four “rules” that Gentile Christians should live by. These were not rules the Gentiles must follow in order to be saved. Rather, the rules were to build harmony between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the first century. The four rules the Jerusalem Council decided upon were that Gentile Christians should abstain from: food polluted by idols, sexual immorality, the meat of strangled animals, and blood. The instructions were not intended to guarantee salvation but to promote peace within the early church.

It is interesting that the issue the Jerusalem Council was dealing with is still very much an issue in the church today. There are groups still teaching that Christians must obey the Old Testament Law. Whether it is the Sabbath day or the food laws or all of the Old Testament Law outside of the sacrificial system – there are groups which declare observance of the Law is either required for salvation, or at least a crucially important aspect of the Christian life. Sadly, these groups either completely ignore or grossly misinterpret the decision of the Jerusalem Council. The specific goal of the Jerusalem Council was to decide what aspects, if any, of the Old Testament Law, Christians must observe. The Jerusalem Council, for the sake of melding the Jewish and Gentile cultures within the Antioch church, said that the Gentiles should eschew their former pagan practices associated with idolatry. There was no mention of the Sabbath whatsoever. Further, the Jerusalem Council made it abundantly clear that these rules were not requirements for salvation by reaffirming that salvation is by grace for both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 15:11). How many arguments would be solved if the church today would simply follow the principle set by the Jerusalem Council—limit your liberty for the sake of love?

I have pointed out in my “six part series” on “Israel’s History, traditions and Ties” the perils, hardships and suffering this nation and it’s people have endured.  I have also given recognition to the Jewish people for their contribution to the land, society, culture, religion,  and to the world.  No nation, nor it’s people, have suffered at the hands of others like Jews and Israeli’s have. All of my love, prayers, hope and respect go out to the Jewish people and the Nation of Israel. They are truly a blessed people. Shalom!

Here is a partial listing of the attacks and wars invoked against Israel. Many of the following events have happened in my life-time. Forgive me, Oh People of Israel, for not having told your story long ago. Shalom!

  • 1920-1921 Arab Riots/Terrorism in the early Mandate Period Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini repeatedly fomented riots against Jews.

In the 1920 incidents, six Jews were killed and 200 wounded; in 1921, 43 Jews were killed and 147 wounded. In response, Jews organized defensive forces that would later become the Haganah, the forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

  • 1929 Massacres instigated by Haj Amin al-Husseini Mobs attacked Jews in Jerusalem, Safed, Jaffa and Kfar Darom, a kibbutz in the Gaza Strip. The centuries-old Jewish community of Hebron was destroyed, and 67 Jews were slaughtered. British authorities reported incidents of rape, torture, beheadings of babies and mutilation. British High Commissioner John Chancellor wrote, “I do not think that history records many worse horrors in the last few hundred years. In total, 135 were killed, and  350 were maimed or wounded.
  • 1936-1939 Great Arab Revolt:

With the support of Nazi Germany, Haj Amin al-Husseini led a three-year rebellion against the British, the Jews and his political opponents to force an end to Jewish immigration and land purchases. An estimated 415 Jews, 200 Britons and 5,000 Arabs were killed.

  • 1948-1949 Israel’s War of Independence

On May 14, 1948, the British Mandate ended, and the State of Israel was established. Less than 24 hours later, Israel was invaded by the armies of five Arab nations: Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq. The newly formed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) managed to defeat the invasion in 15 months of war that claimed over 6,000 Israeli lives, roughly 1 percent of the total population.

  • 1949-1956  The Fedayeen Raids:

Arab terrorists (fedayeen) trained and equipped by Egypt, repeatedly attacked Israeli civilians from bases in Lebanon:  Gaza and Jordan. One thousand three hundred Israelis were killed or wounded in terrorist attacks.

  • 1956 The Sinai/Suez War

Egypt increased its Fedayeen attacks, prevented Israeli shipping through the Suez Canal and blockaded the Israeli port of Eilat, violating international law and threatening Israel’s economic survival. With the support of France and Britain, Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza. Israel completely withdrew six months later when Egypt assured Israel unimpeded navigation and safety.

  • 1959 Al Fatah Raids

The Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat formed Fatah in 1959 to conduct guerrilla warfare operations against Israel. In 1965 Fatah adopted “the entanglement theory,” which presumed that its repeated attacks would force Israel to respond aggressively against the Arab states hosting Arafat’s fighters, thereby escalating the animosity between Israel and her Arab neighbors.

  • 1964 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Formed

The PLO was formed in Egypt, supported by the Arab League as an umbrella organization for anti-Israel militant groups. In 1968, Arafat’s Fatah joined the PLO and eventually dominated it. Over the decades, the PLO carried out thousands of attacks against Israelis andothers around the world, including the first airplane hijackings.

  • 1967 The Six-Day War

Israel was forced to defend itself when Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq intensified their terrorist attacks and Egypt illegally blocked Israel’s access to international waters and expelled UN peace-keeping forces. The four Arab countries mobilized more than 250,000 troops, armed with Soviet-supplied tanks and aircraft, on Israel’s borders in preparation for a full-scale invasion. The Iraqi defense minister ordered his troops to “strike the enemy’s civilian settlements, turn them into dust and pave the Arab roads with the skulls of Jews.”

  • 1967-1970 The War of Attrition

Shortly after the Six-Day War ceasefire, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser ordered attacks on Israelis in the Sinai. During the three-yearlong conflict, 1,424 Israeli soldiers and more than 100 Israeli civilians were killed.

  • 1972 The Munich Massacre

After 1967, Palestinian terrorists attacked Israelis worldwide. In their most public operation, the group Black September held hostage and murdered 11 members of the Israeli Olympic Team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. It is widely accepted that the terrorists were controlled by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO.

  • 1973 The Yom Kippur War

Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year. Caught unprepared, the IDF nonetheless managed to fend off this assault, cutting off Egyptian forces across the Suez Canal and pushing Syrian troops back from the Golan Heights. While Israel was victorious militarily, the human toll was devastating—2,688 Israeli soldiers were killed in the nearly three weeks of fighting. Egypt claimed to have restored its own honor because of its success in the war’s first 48 hours.

  • 1982-1985 The Lebanon War

After Jordan expelled the PLO in 1970, it entrenched itself in southern Lebanon. During Lebanon’s ensuing civil war (1975-1990), PLO attacks on northern Israel intensified. Israel entered Lebanon in 1982 to root out the organization. The PLO was forced to relocate to Tunis. In 1985, Israel withdrew to a security zone, approximately four miles wide along the border, and stayed until it unilaterally withdrew in 2000.

  • 1987-1991 First intifada

The PLO initiated the Intifada (“shaking off”) after false rumors of Israeli atrocities circulated through Palestinian territories. Palestinians claim this was a nonviolent uprising, but it quickly turned violent with 27 Israelis killed and more than 1,400 Israeli civilians and 1,700 Israeli soldiers injured. Almost half (1,000) of the Palestinian casualties were caused by other Palestinians in the “Intifada,” or internal, fighting among Palestinian factions.

  • 1991 Persian Gulf War

When the U.S.-led coalition fought to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, Hussein attempted to draw Israel into the war and fired 39 Scud missiles into Israel. To avoid disrupting the U.S.-led coalition, Israel did not retaliate.

  • 1994 First Suicide Bombing in Israel

Eight civilians were killed in a suicide bombing on a bus in central Israel, a tactic that would increasingly be used by radical Islamic terrorist factions all over the world.

  • 2000-2006 Second “Al Aqsa” Intifada

A campaign of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks began September 29, 2000 and within five years had left over 1,068 Israelis dead and over 7,000 injured—69 percent of them civilians. Approximately 3,000 Palestinians were also killed in this conflict.

  • 2006-2008 “Acts of War” against Israel

After Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas and other terrorists unleashed a barrage of daily rocket attacks into Israel. The city of Sderot, for example, one mile away from Gaza, was hit by over 360 Qassam rockets within a six-month period after Israel’s withdrawal. In June 2006, terrorists from Gaza tunneled into Israel, killing two soldiers and kidnapping one. Two weeks later, Hezbollah, supported by Iran and Syria, attacked Israel across the internationally recognized Israeli-Lebanese border, killing eight soldiers and kidnapping two, simultaneously launching a barrage of rockets against civilian towns in northern Israel. Israel responded with a military operation that lasted 34 days.

Britain and the League of Nations created the Palestine Mandate as the Jewish National Home in part because of the growing number of Jews and their achievements in the pre-World War I period.

  • Between 1890 and 1915, the Jewish population rose from 42,900 to 83,000.  
  • They had built thriving farms, created villages and towns and social institutions, introduced innovations like socialist communes, revived Hebrew and created a rich culture.
  • “During the last two or three generations, the Jews have recreated in Palestine a community….This community [has] its town and country population, its political, religious and social organizations, its own language, its own customs, its own life.” —The Churchill or British White Paper, June 1922

  • “The British Government was impressed by the reality, the strength and the idealism of this [Zionist] movement. It recognized its value in ensuring the future development of Palestine.”—Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine to the League of Nations, 1921

During the Mandate (1920-1948), Zionists continued their prewar policies of purchasing and restoring the land, often using innovative agricultural techniques.

  • By 1935, the Jewish National Fund had planted over 1.7 million trees.

Zionists also developed industry, power plants, urban life and social institutions, such as labor unions, political parties, hospitals, universities and a national orchestra.

  • Three universities were founded before 1948, The Hebrew Opera first performed in 1922. The Palestine Orchestra, later the Israeli Philharmonic, was founded in 1936.

Zionists hoped to live in friendship and cooperation with the Arab population and believed that restoring the land would benefit everyone. Many Arabs welcomed this development, which also attracted Arab immigrants from the neighboring countries.

  • An estimated 25 percent to 37 percent of immigrants to pre-state Israel were Arabs, not Jews. Between 1922 and 1946 alone, approximately 100,000 Arabs entered the country from neighboring lands. Approximately 363,000 Jews immigrated in the same period.
  • “Those good Jews brought…prosperity over Palestine without damage to anyone or taking anything by force.”—Syrian Alawi notable’s letter to French Prime Minister, June 1936

  • No one doubted that the Arabs had benefited from Jewish immigration. Their numbers had almost doubled  between 1917 and 1940, wages had gone up, the standard of living had risen more than anywhere else in the Middle East.”—Historian Walter Laqueur

Some Arab leaders in Palestine became increasingly hostile to the Jewish community. Many affiliated with the rising Nazi movement, incited violence and instigated mob attacks against the Jews in 1920, 1921, 1929 and 1936-1939.

The British violated the Mandate obligations in response to Arab protests. They repeatedly restricted Jewish immigration and land purchases. As anti-Semitism mounted in Europe, these policies doomed hundreds of thousands of Jews who otherwise could have reached safety in Palestine, which had been established in part to serve as a refuge for persecuted Jews.

By 1947, the Zionist achievements had paved the way for the UN to recommend partitioning the Mandate into a Jewish state alongside an Arab state.

  • The area the UN allotted for the Jewish state had a significant Jewish majority. They now numbered 650,000 and formed one-third of the whole Mandate population. Over 70 percent of the land for the proposed Jewish portion was not privately owned, but was state land that belonged to the British Mandate.
  •  The 277 rural Jewish communities stretched throughout the countryside.  Tel Aviv had grown from 550 people in 1911 to 230,000 in 1948.

The Hebrew term for immigration to Israel is “aliyah” or “going up.” There were five different waves of aliyah prior to World War II when Jews from around the world joined the Jews who were already living there.

                                                                                  Date      Numbers /  Motive Majority      From

  • 1st Aliyah   1882-1903  25,000 Pre-Zionist socialists and religious Jews wanted to escape persecution and/or to rebuild homeland. Russia, Romania, Kurdistan, Yemen
  • 2nd Aliyah 1904-1914 40,000 Escape pogroms and persecution; restore nationhood and dignity and realize socialist ideals. Russia and Poland
  • 3rd Aliyah 1919-1923 35,000 Escape persecution and impoverishment; restore nationhood and dignity and realize socialist ideals. 53% Russia,  36% Poland; 11% from Lithuania, Romania, Western and Central Europe
  • 4th Aliyah 1924-1928 67,000 Escape persecution and impoverishment. Poland
  • 5th Aliyah 1929-1939 250,000  Escape persecution and anti-Semitism.Germany, Austria and other countries

In May 1948, the Jewish State of Israel was reborn and the Jews’ 2,000-year yearning to restore their national independence and ingather the exiles had become a reality.

But difficult struggles lay ahead: state-building, absorbing successive waves of immigrants and refugees (the majority of whom came from Arab countries), defending the new state from wars and terrorism, finding paths to peace and keeping Judaism’s ancient ethical tradition vibrant even while facing harsh realities and an often hostile world.

The young state of Israel worked hard to meet these challenges. around the world joined the Jews who were already living there

[Minority in their homeland, and their numbers rose and fell depending on the kindness or cruelty of the region’s different rulers. In the 1700s and early 1800s, crippling taxes, discrimination, persecution and natural disasters brought the Jewish community to a new low.]

 The Jews legally bought the land they developed primarily from absentee landowners. Most of it was uncultivated swampland or sand dunes.

  • “They (Jews) paid high prices for the land, and in addition, they paid to certain occupants of those lands a considerable amount of money which they were not legally bound to pay.” – Hope Simpson Report – 1930
  • “Of the total of 418,000 dunums (quarter-acres) acquired by Jews in Palestine [between 1878 and 1914], 58 percent was sold by non-Palestinian [Arab] absentee landlords and 36 percent by Palestinian absentee landlords, for a total of 94 percent.”—Palestinian – American historian Rashid Khalidi

  • “Arab claims that the Jews have obtained too large a proportion of good land cannot be maintained. Much of the land now carrying orange groves was sand dunes or swamps and uncultivated when it was bought.” —Peel Commission Report, 1

Through backbreaking labor, the early Jewish pioneers cleared the wastelands and malarial swamps, reforested the hillsides and built towns

and villages.

  • “Nobody knows of all the hardships, sickness and wretchedness they [the early Zionists] underwent. No observer from afar can feel what it is like to be without a drop of water for days, to lie for months in cramped tents visited by all sorts of reptiles, or understand what our wives, children, and mothers go through.…No one looking at a completed building realizes the sacrifice put into it.” —Early Zionist account  of settling – 1885

  • “Jewish agricultural colonies…developed the culture of oranges.…They drained swamps. They planted eucalyptus trees. They practiced, with modern methods, all the processes of agriculture.…Every traveler in Palestine… is impressed by…the beautiful stretches of prosperous cultivation about them.”—Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine to the League of Nations, June 1921

In the mid-1800s, a new energy seized the Jewish community in Palestine. With help from philanthropists like Sir Moses Montefi ore and donations from ordinary Jews around the world, Jews branched out from the cities and began purchasing land and building farms, villages and schools. More exiles returned. By 1854, Jews were the largest religious group in Jerusalem; by 1870, they were once again the majority of the city’s population.

  • Between 1882 and 1914, a new kind of Jewish immigrant arrived—the “Lovers of Zion” and other early Zionists—who laid the groundwork for the modern Jewish State.

These immigrants sought freedom from the oppression and persecution that had plagued Jews in Europe and the Middle East.

  • Between 1881 and 1906, Jews in Russia were slaughtered, their homes and towns were destroyed, and their women were raped. In Kishinev, [“The mob was led by priests and the general cry, ‘Kill the Jews’ was taken up all over the city. The Jews…were slaughtered like sheep.…Babies were literally torn to pieces by the frenzied and bloodthirsty mob.”—New York Times, April 28, 1903, p. 6].
  • “Like the miserable dog without an owner, he [the Jew] is kicked by one because he crosses [a Muslim’s] path, and cuffed by another because he cries out—to seek redress he is afraid, lest it bring worse upon him; he thinks it better to endure than to live in the expectation of his complaint being revenged upon him.” — British Consul in Jerusalem, William T. Young, to Colonel Patrick Campbell, May 25, 1839.

They were young, energetic idealists imbued with Western political principles and the dreams of national liberation that were sweeping across Europe. Many were socialists. They believed their country could be restored through their hard physical labor and dedication. They hoped to start a renaissance of Jewish culture and to restore Jewish dignity, self-reliance and The returning Jews had no powerful nation to help them. They had no weapons. They were often penniless.

The land was only sparsely populated, and much of it had become barren. The Jews wanted to restore the land’s once-famous fertility and build villages and communities where none existed.The region was an impoverished backwater of the Ottoman Empire. In 1880, there were only an estimated 250,000 to 400,000 people, many of whom were also recent arrivals, who had no sense of unity or ethnic or national identity. 3 Their allegiance was to the Ottoman Empire, their religious group, their clan and their local community.

  • The country was…and is now, underdeveloped and under-populated.…There are…large cultivable areas that are left untilled. The summits and slopes of the hills are admirably suited to the growth of trees, but there are no forests. Miles of sand dunes that could be redeemed, are untouched.” — Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine to the League of Nations, June 1921
  • The area included such an assortment of ethnic groups that over 50 different languages were spoken. —“Palestine,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, 1911, p. 600

In the first century, the Roman Empire defeated the over 1,000 year old nation of Judea, destroying it’s Holy Temple in Jerusalem and exiling hundreds of thousands of Jews, to erase all memory of Judea. Romans renamed it Palestine after the Jews biblical enemy, an Aegean  people who had once settled along the coast. Afterward, the westerners referred to the Jewish-Christian  Holy Land as Palestine. Arab people did not widely accept the name Palestine until the 20th century. Though the name has always been associated with Jews. In the 1960’s it became associated with the Arab-Palestinian nationalist movement.

For two Millennia after the Roman conquest, no other state or unique national group developed in Palestine, and no ruler chose Jerusalem as it’s capital. Instead, different  empires and peoples came,  colonized, ruled and disappeared.  Jews remained throughout these changes. There numbers grew as exiled Jews returned in periodic waves of immigration; their numbers fell when the area’s rulers persecuted them.

Between 1517 and 1917, Palestine was an unimportant backwater of the sprawling Ottoman empire, which at it’s height in 1683, covered vast parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe. it was separated into small sub districts within the large providence of Syria (and later Beirut). The Palestinian region initially prospered under the Ottoman’s, but during the empires decline it was reduced to a sparsely populated barren area.

When the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I(1914-1918), it’s lands were ceded to the victorious allies. Just as the Allies carved new nations out of Europe’s defeated empires, so too they carved nations out of the former Ottoman’s Empire and created most of the Middle Eastern states we know today, including Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. They also redrew Palestine’s boundaries and recognized it as the Jewish national home.

Jews are one of the few ancient peoples who have survived into modern times.

Jewish civilization was already over 1,000 years old when the Romans conquered Judea, but the Jews safeguarded their unique heritage for the next two millennia. No matter how far they wandered, how much they adapted to their host societies or how much they were persecuted, Jews maintained their identity.

Judaism and its sacred books bind the Jewish people together. Whether they are religious or secular, Jews are connected by the ethics and values that Judaism teaches. Parents have passed the tradition to their children, who passed it on to their own children, and so it has continued for thousands of years. Jews everywhere observe the holy days in almost identical ways and repeat the rituals and prayers that Jewish families have used since the days of ancient Israel.

Jews share the same life-cycle rituals. When an eight-day-old infant is circumcised or adolescents celebrate their Bar Mitzvah and the whole community celebrates, they are reenacting age-old Jewish traditions. When a loved one dies, Jewish customs and prayers comfort Jews are one of the few ancient peoples who have survived into modern times. Judaism is among the world’s oldest living religions. the grieving and spell out how the community should support andconsole the mourners.

Jewish life centers around home and family. Jewish tradition sanctifies family relationships. Parents’ devotion and sense of responsibility for passing on Jewish identity have bound generations to the past whilelinking them to the future.

Jews have always identified with Zion, the Jewish homeland. It is at the core of Jewish history, religious texts and identity. Many consider title to the land to be at the heart of the promise between God and the Jewish people in the Torah, which dates back thousands of years. The Hebrew language, the Torah, the laws in the Talmud, the Jewish calendar and Jewish holidays and festivals all originated in ancient Israel and revolve around its seasons, way of life and history. Zion and Jerusalem are mentioned 809 times in the Hebrew Bible. When Israel was reestablished in 1948, Jews everywhere came to embrace Israel and once again recognize it as the center of Jewish life and continuity.

A six part series on Zionist-Israeli history (with more to be added):

Zion is an age-old name for Jerusalem and the land of Israel. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people who sought to restore their freedom and independence in their ancestral homeland.

Theodore Herzl founded the modern Zionist movement in 1897, but the dream of restoration and return had always been at the core of Judaism and Jewish identity. Rome tried to obliterate the millennia-old Jewish state in the first century, but unlike other nations conquered in ancient times, the Jews survived and never lost their profound attachment to their land of origin. Jews lived in the land of Israel continuously for 3,000 years. Those forced into exile expressed their yearning to return in their daily liturgy and prayers. For 2,000 years, many came back in periodic waves of immigration. By the late 1860s, Jews once again were the majority in Jerusalem.

 Zionists adapted this historic dream to modern political ideals and circumstances. They were inspired by National Liberation movements and driven by ongoing anti-Jewish persecution and discrimination that occurred even in progressive Europe. The Zionists believed that if the scattered Jews reunited in their historic homeland, joining the Jews who were already there, they could restore their freedom, be free from prejudice and further develop their unique culture.

Disagreements arose among Zionists as Jews from different countries and with different ideologies—religious and secular, socialist and conservative—joined together. But they united around fundamental principles that combined idealism and practicality. They would seek official support from other national governments. They would return legally, purchase the land and restore it through their own labor. Zionists envisioned living in friendship with non-Jewish residents and believed the entire region would benefit from their restoration of the land.

Within 50 years, the Zionist dream became a reality. Britain recognized the thriving communities Jews had built and in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, endorsed the “Zionist aspirations.” In 1920, the League of Nations reinforced this commitment and carved out the Palestine Mandate from the defeated Ottoman Empire for the Jewish homeland.

On May 14, 1948, Israel was reestablished as a modern state and recognized by the community of nations. It lived up to the Zionist dream. Israel began with a Jewish majority that had purchased and settled the land and accorded full civil, political and cultural rights to all its minorities, including Arabs, Muslims and Christians.

Today, Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists around the world support the State of Israel and hope to see the full Zionist vision realized—a safe and thriving Israel living at peace with its neighbors.

שלי אהבת ה ‘- האהבה שלי לישראל

Jewish civilization was already over 1,000 years old when the Romans conquered Judea, but the Jew safe guarded their unique heritage for the next two millennia. No matter how far they wandered, how much they adapted to their host societies or how much they were persecuted, Jews maintained their identity.

Judaism and its sacred books bind the Jewish people together. Whether they are religious or secular, Jews are connected by the ethics and values that Judaism teaches. Parents have passed the tradition to their children, who passed it on to their own children, and so it has continued for thousands of years. Jews everywhere observe the holy days in almost identical ways and repeat the rituals and prayers that Jewish families have used since the days of ancient Israel. Jews share the same life-cycle rituals. When an eight-day-old infant is circumcised or adolescents celebrate their Bar Mitzvah and the whole community celebrates, they are reenacting age-old Jewish traditions. When a loved one dies, Jewish customs and prayers comfort the grieving and spell out how the community should support and console the mourners. Jewish life centers around home and family. Jewish tradition sanctified family relationships. Parents’ devotion and sense of responsibility for passing on Jewish identity have bound generations to the past while linking them to the future.

Jews have always identified with Zion, the Jewish homeland. It is at the core of Jewish history, religious texts and identity. Many consider the title to the land to be at the heart of the promise between God and the Jewish people in the Torah, which dates back thousands of years. The Hebrew language, the Torah, the laws in the Talmud, the Jewish calendar and Jewish holidays and festivals all originated in ancient Israel and revolve around its seasons,way of life and history. Zion and Jerusalem are mentioned 809 times in the Hebrew Bible. When Israel was reestablished in 1948, Jews everywhere came to embrace Israel and once again recognize it as the center of Jewish life and continuity.

“The Greeks and the Romans…are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out…the Jews saw them all, survived them all…all things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces passed, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”  —Mark Twain, 1898