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