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Tuesday 12th December
Israel Facts
Abraham, the Patriarch of the Hebrews, was born in Ur in Mesopotamia (Iraq).

The name Hebrew may have been derived from the word Habiru - the term for nomadic peoples in the ancient Middle East.

Abraham's first son (with Hagar, his wife's servant) was Ishmael who is said to be the founder of the Arab nation. His second son (with Sarah, his wife) was Isaac, the father of Jacob. Jacob was also known as Israel.

Jacob's twelve sons (Asher, Benjamin, Dan, Gad, Issachar, Joseph, Judah, Levi, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon and Zebulun) were the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The word "Jew" is derived from the name of Judah. Judah was one of Jacob's sons and thus one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jacob and his family migrated to Egypt. Over the years the number of Israelites grew and eventually they were forced into slavery.

The Passover commemorates the end of two hundred years of slavery in Egypt.

The Israelites were led out of Egypt by Moses (the Exodus).

Joshua was Moses' successor who led the Israelites into Canaan, later known as Israel.

Samuel, the prophet, appointed Saul, the first king of Israel.

David, who ruled from around 1016 BC, was one of Israel's most famous kings.

King Solomon, David's son, built the first temple in Jerusalem which was later destroyed by the Babylonians from Mesopotamia.

Rehoboam succeeded his father, King Solomon. During Rehoboam's reign the twelve tribes divided into the Kingdom of Israel ruled by King Jeroboam and the Kingdom of Judah (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) ruled by King Rehoboam in Jerusalem.

In the eighth century BC the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians from Mesopotamia. The Assyrians deported the Ten Tribes of Israel, scattering them, in groups, throughout the Middle East. They became known as the Lost Tribes.

The Kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians from Mesopotamia. The Babylonians, ruled by Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC), deported ten thousand Jews to Babylon.

Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia (Iran), conquered Babylon in 539. Cyrus released the Jewish people who had been held captive in the country.

In 333 BC Alexander the Great conquered the region which came under Greek rule.

165 BC saw the beginning of the last independent Jewish state of ancient times.

The Jewish state of Judea became part of the Roman province of Palestine in 63 BC.

John the Baptist and Jesus were born during the reign of King Herod the Great.

In 70 AD the Romans started to expel the Judaeans from Palestine. Jews began to disperse to Africa, Asia and Europe.

During the reign of the Roman Emperor Vespasian Jerusalem was destroyed and Judaea annexed to the Roman Empire.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was built on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine.

Under the leadership of Caliph Umar the Arabs took Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire (638).

The construction of the Dome of the Rock was ordered by Caliph Abd al-Malik in 691.

Jerusalem was designated one of the three holy cities of Islam. Mecca is the first holy city and Medina is the second holy city.

Following an appeal by Pope Urban II to reclaim Jerusalem for the Christians, the Crusades began at the end of the eleventh century (1099-1187).

During the Sixth Crusade, Frederick II, King of Sicily, signed a treaty with Sultan al-Kamil for the city of Jerusalem. The treaty lasted around five years until the Sultan's death.

In 1187 Salah al-Din retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

From 1516 until the First World War (1914-1918) the area was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1896 Theodor Herzl wrote The Jewish State. Herzl, a Jewish writer born in Budapest (Hungary), proposed that Jews should have their own state in Palestine.

After the First World War, Palestine became a League of Nations Mandate. Great Britain was given the responsibility to govern the region. (the British Mandate for Palestine included Jordan). The British finally withdrew from the area in 1948.

During the Second World War the Nazis killed six million Jewish people.

Many Jews who survived the Holocaust wanted a Jewish state.

The United Nations recommended dividing the area into Jewish and Palestinian states. The plan was never implemented.

Conflict continued between the Jewish and Arab population; many Palestinians fled to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the area known as the West Bank.

The proclamation of the State of Israel (1948) was immediately followed by the War of Independence. The region remained volatile. Other wars were the Suez-Sinai War (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the War of Attrition (1967-70) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).

Golda Meir (1898-1978), a Russian Jew who migrated to the USA with her parents, moved to Palestine in 1921. Golda Meir became Israel's Prime Minister in 1969. She was the world's second female Prime Minister. (Mrs. Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka was the first female Prime Minister of a country)

On 27 June 1976 a hijacked plane en route to Tel Aviv landed at Entebbe in Uganda. Two groups of non-Israeli passengers (a total of one hundred and forty-eight) were released, but Israeli passengers were held as hostages. The hijackers wanted the release of prisoners held on charges of terrorism. On 3 July Israeli Defence Forces rescued one hundred and three passengers from the Entebbe Terminal Building. Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Netanyahu, brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, was killed in action.

Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978, sharing it with Egypt's President Anwar al-Sadat. (Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981.)

The Palestinian Authority which governed parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank was established in 1994.

Yitzhak Rabin (the Prime Minister of Israel), Shimon Peres (the Foreign Minister of Israel) and Yasser Arafat (Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat As Qudwa al-Hussaeini - the elected President of the Palestinian National Authority) were jointly awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally in central Tel Aviv in 1995.

1998 marked the fiftieth year of the existence of the State of Israel.

In March 2002 the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a Palestinian state alongside Israel: "a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognised borders."

In September 2005 Israelis left the Gaza Strip following thirty-eight years of settlement.

There was a 34-day conflict between the Israeli military and Hizballah in Lebanon in June-August and a 23-day conflict with HAMAS in the Gaza Strip during December 2008 and January 2009.

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