Since 1948

Israel Today
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Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.—Ezekiel 37:11, NAS

Len Griehs

On November 29, 1947, Theodor Herzl’s dream came close to fruition when the United Nations partitioned the land of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. The British evacuation on May 14, 1948, led the acting Israeli government to declare its independence, about 2,500 years after it had been totally destroyed by the Babylonian armies. That declaration initiated a period of trouble in the land that continues today. Ezekiel 37 describes prophetically the bringing back to life of the once-destroyed nation, a position not experienced since prior to the Babylonian captivity of Ezekiel’s own day.

Ezekiel’s Prophecy Fulfilled

God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered “O Lord GOD, thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:3). Ezekiel knew it would take a miracle to revive the glory of Israel. Only God could provide the answer: “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” (verse 4). As Ezekiel spoke (verses 5 and 6) there was “a noise and … rattling, and the bones came together … The sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them” (verses 7 and 8). The separated skeleton came together reuniting the houses of Judah and Israel in a prophetic description of the restored nation.

What began with a small gathering of Zionist Jews in Petah Tikvah in 1878 culminated seventy years later in the birth of a nation—Jewish people in a Jewish land under Jewish rule. But independence did not come peacefully.

As British troops began to exit the land in March 1948 upon the expiration of the mandate of 1917, they exposed the Jewish convoys bringing food into Jerusalem. An Arab ambush killed many of those carrying supplies, and these Arab enemies went on to attack Jews in Jerusalem. On April 9, members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi (the National Military Organization) and the Lohamei Herut Yisrael (fighters for the freedom of Israel) struck back, attacking the Arab village of Deir Yassin to the west of Jerusalem. The struggle for Israel’s right to exist had begun.

Arabs hit Jerusalem again the next day. Three days later Arab mortar fire struck kindergartners in the Jewish Quarter and hit a Jewish medical convoy bound for Hadassah Hospital. The Arab Higher Committee proclaimed that no Jew would have been spared had the remaining British troops not intervened. Fighting became so intense in the five-month period between December 1947 and April 1948 that more than 3,500 Arabs, 1,100 Jews and 150 Britons were killed. But that was only the beginning.

The War of Independence

British rule over Palestine ended formally at midnight on May 14, 1948, the Jewish Sabbath. David Ben-Gurion, head of the provisional government of Israel, read a Declaration of Independence (see p. ) aloud on a live radio broadcast two hours prior to the beginning of Sabbath. Israel would become an independent state at one second after midnight. Although one third of the world’s population of Jews had been annihilated by Nazi Germany, the 600,000 that now populated Israel were ready to stand on their own.

Within hours the new nation was surrounded by armies of the Arab League. Many of these new citizens had survived the Holocaust but none were prepared for this war.

 Possessing only three tanks and without air force fighters or bombers, Israeli fighters held off 74 Arab fighters and bombers. Six thousand Israelis were killed. In an eerie similarity to the 70 A.D. siege of Jerusalem, food became so scarce that people survived on dandelions and weeds. Severe rationing of water made proper sanitation almost impossible.

Then a miracle happened. Jewish soldiers halted Egyptian tanks moving up from the south and pushed back the Syrian army attacking from the north while carving out by hand a three-mile stretch of road through rock and steep hillsides. The resulting “Burma Road” brought convoys to Jerusalem with food, water, and supplies—a hundred tons every twenty-four hours. A pipeline constructed over this road provided the city with a water source once again.

The war ended on November 28, 1948, after several false armistices. Armistice borders were set. Israel now possessed more land than it had been given in its original partition. But one percent of the population had been lost in the war. And Jerusalem, the most sacred city in all of the world, was divided into two parts, one Jewish and one Arab, under the armistice agreement signed on April 3, 1949.

The Six-Day War

Two years later in July 1951 King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated by a lone gunman while regularly attending Friday prayers with his grandson at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Arab East Jerusalem erupted in violence. It began a hostile fourteen-year period of fighting between Arabs and Arabs, and Arabs and Jews.

When attacks on Israeli citizens grew increasingly harsh, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad asked Egyptian president Gamal Nassar to sign a three-way treaty with Jordan. Nassar agreed and also expelled the ten-year-old U.N. military contingent from the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli Intelligence learned of an imminent attack by the new trilateral alliance. It supervised a preemptive air strike on Egyptian military bases on June 5, 1967.

Joshua conquered Jericho in seven days; Israel took just six to turn back the combined forces of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. When the fighting was over, Israeli fighters had captured the Sinai Peninsula (later returned to Egypt), the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the Jordan River, the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

Here is how Randolph S. Churchill and Winston S. Churchill described the miraculous victory: “By a feat of arms unparalleled in modern times, the Israelis, surrounded by enemies superior in quantity and quality of equipment and overwhelming superiority in numbers, had fought a war on three fronts and not only survived, but had won a resounding victory” (The Six Day War, p. 191).

In the early afternoon of June 7, the entire Old City fell into Israeli hands—868 years to the day after the Crusaders first appeared there in 1099 A.D. It is said that when soldiers reached the remains of the Western Wall of the temple compound, they burst into tears and began to pray. For the first time in nineteen years, Jews had access to their most sacred site. Rabbi Sholomo Goren, senior Israeli military chaplain, blew the shofar and prayed on an Israeli radio broadcast from the wall. God had delivered the temple site into Jewish hands once again. But peace would not last long.

The Yom Kippur War

In October 1968 two Arab girls entered the Zion Cinema in Jerusalem with a bomb. Providentially, they had been observed and the bomb was removed. The following month a dozen Israelis shopping at the Yahuda market were killed in the first of multiple car bombings. Bombs also exploded at Hebrew University and at an Israeli supermarket. Tension rose throughout the early seventies in Jerusalem as car bombings, grenade launches and letter bombs introduced a new round of violence and the use of terrorism on civilians. Finally, on October 6, 1973—the Great Day of Atonement—all-out war broke out when Egypt and Syria once again attacked Israel.

Although Israel ultimately won that war and pushed Syria from the Golan Heights, it discovered the vulnerability of defending multiple borders against multiple enemies. When Egypt’s early victories gave it a new credibility among its Arab neighbors and the Western world, Israeli leaders agreed to meet in 1978 with Egyptian leaders at Camp David and to sign a formal peace treaty with Egypt in 1979.

Meanwhile a new enemy had arisen within Israel’s borders. On July 4, 1975, an abandoned refrigerator in Zion Square exploded, killing fourteen people and wounding seventy. An old organization, The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), under its new head, Yasser Arafat, claimed responsibility. The dawn of the 1980s brought the PLO to the forefront. Israel would still not be able to live in peace.

The Intifada

Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League, was arrested for plotting to destroy the Dome of the Rock. Alan Goodman, an American volunteer in the Israeli army, opened fire with a machine gun at the Dome of the Rock and killed two Muslim guards. Eighteen Orthodox Jews were arrested while planning a bomb attack at the Dome. Finally, a full confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians broke out in December 1987.

What began innocently with a small group of Arabs quickly escalated into an organized rebellion that lasted nearly a year. The PLO’s Arafat proclaimed an independent state of Palestine with Jerusalem (Al Quds Ash-Sharif) as its capital. In a speech on New Year’s Eve, Arafat later proclaimed that we “are the active volcano in the Middle East which will only calm itself when one of the youths of the revolution and the Intifada hoists the flag of your state over Jerusalem and our homeland Palestine.”

Violence finally subdued when Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords on September 9, 1993. Arafat pledged to recognize the right of Israel to exist in both peace and safety. Israel, under pressure from the U.S., agreed to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. When Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan a year later, fifty years of constant conflict were put to rest. Or so it seemed at the time.

The Second Intifada

Militant Palestinians never gave up the goal of an independent Palestine without Israel. To accomplish the task of wiping out Israel, they introduced a new style of terrorism: the suicide bomber. On February 25, 1996, a Palestinian man boarded bus #18 in Jerusalem and detonated a bomb strapped to his chest. Seventeen Israeli civilians and nine Israeli soldiers died. Hamas (a word meaning “zeal”), claimed responsibility. Since then, suicide bombings have become an integral part of terrorist activity in Israel and throughout the world.

When Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in September 2000 Yasser Arafat and the PLO used the event as an excuse to incite a new round of violence.

Although the Second Intifada has yet to be officially ended by a stable Palestinian leadership, Israeli intelligence has managed to curb the level of violence against its citizens. However, during the Intifada periods of 2000 through 2007, over a thousand Israelis have been killed.

Israel’s Position Today

During the past sixty years as Israel has sought genuine peace with its neighbors and the right to determine its own destiny, it continues to discover new enemies and receive interference from the rest of the world. This is prophetically pictured by Zechariah: “And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (Zechariah 12:3). Under pressure from the West and other countries, Israel has given up land it fought to defend since 1948. Today even Jerusalem is being split and negotiated away.

God warned Moses: “I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Exodus 23:31-33, NASB, emphasis added). Israel’s desire for peace will not thwart God’s intention for the people: to occupy all the land which he gave to Abraham and his heirs.

Jeremiah prophesied of a regathering of Israel in our day that would be more notable than when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (Jeremiah 23:7,8). This prophecy’s fulfillment is occurring today. The Jewish population in Israel has grown from 600,000 in 1948 to 5.7 million today. Since 2006 and for the first time since 135 A.D., there are more Jews in Israel than in any other country in the world.

While much prophetically remains to be fulfilled for the nation, its history and growth since 1948 is a tribute to God’s love and care for his chosen earthly people.

The Declaration of the Establishment of
the State of Israel

ERETZ-ISRAEL [(Hebrew)—the Land of Israel, Palestine] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim [(Hebrew)—immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people—the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe—was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.

Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.

In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.

On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.


WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.

WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.

WE APPEAL—in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months—to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream—the redemption of Israel.


  Signed by David Ben-Gurion and thirty-six others.
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site.