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Time periods in Jewish history - 20th century

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20th century

Modern Zionism

During the 1870s and 1880s the Jewish population in Europe began to more actively discuss immigration back to Israel and the re-establishment of the Jewish Nation in its national homeland, fulfilling the biblical prophecies relating to Shivat Tzion. In 1882 the first Zionist settlement—Rishon LeZion—was founded by immigrants who belonged to the "Hovevei Zion" movement. Later on, the "Bilu" movement established many other settlements in the land of Israel.

The Zionist movement was founded officially after the Kattowitz convention (1884) and the World Zionist Congress (1897), and it was Theodor Herzl who began the struggle to get the world superpowers to establish a state for the Jews.

After the First World War, it seemed that the conditions to establish such a state had arrived: The United Kingdom captured Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, and the Jews received the promise of a "National Home" from the British in the form of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, given to Chaim Weizmann.

In 1920 the British Mandate of Palestine began and the British had promised to create and foster a Jewish national home in Palestine. In the beginning, The pro-Jewish Herbert Samuel was appointed High Commissioner in Palestine, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was established and several big Jewish immigration waves to Palestine occurred. The Arab inhabitants of Palestine were not fond of the increasing Jewish immigration however, and began to oppose Jewish settlement and the pro-Jewish policy of the British government by means of violent uprising and terror.

Arab gangs began performing terror acts and murders on convoys and on the Jewish population. After the 1920 Arab riots and 1921 Jaffa riots, the Jewish leadership in Palestine believed that the British had no desire to confront local Arab gangs over their attacks on Palestinian Jews. Realizing that they could not rely on the British administration for protection from these gangs, the Jewish leadership created the Haganah organization to protect their farms and Kibbutzim.

Major riots occurred during the Arab massacres of 1929 and the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.

Due to the Muslim violence the United Kingdom gradually started to backtrack from the original idea of a Jewish state and to speculate on a binational solution or an Arab state that would have a Jewish minority.

Meanwhile, the Jews of the United States and Europe gained great success in the fields of the science, culture and the economy. The most prominent physicists of Europe during that period were Jews, most notably Albert Einstein. In the Soviet Union, many Jews were involved in the October Revolution and belonged to the communist party.

The Holocaust

In 1933, with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany, The Jewish situation became more severe. Economic crises, racial anti-Semitic laws, and a fear of an upcoming war led many Jews to flee from Europe to Palestine, to the United States and to the Soviet Union.

In 1939 World War II began and until 1941 Hitler occupied almost all of Europe, including Poland - where millions of Jews were living at that time—and France. In 1941, when the invasion of the Soviet Union began, Hitler ordered the initiation of the Final Solution—an extensive organized operation on an unprecedented scale, aimed at the annihilation of the Jews of Europe and French North Africa. This genocide, in which six million Jews were murdered methodically and with horrifying cruelty, is known as The Holocaust or Shoah (Hebrew term). In Poland, more than one million Jews were murdered in gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp alone.

The massive scale of the Holocaust, and the horrors which happened during it, heavily affected the Jewish nation and world public opinion, which only understood the dimensions of the Holocaust after the war. After the war it became clear that it was impossible to leave the Jews in the hands of the nations of the world anymore, and efforts were increased to establish a shelter for the wounded Jewish nation.

The establishment of the State of Israel

In 1945 the Jewish resistance organizations in Palestine unified and established the Jewish Resistance Movement. The movement began pressing the British authority and avenging the Arab rioters whom attacked Jews. There are different opinions on the success of the violent struggle of the divisions, and the disobedience movement eventually stopped in 1946 in the aftermath King David Hotel bombing. The Jewish leadership decided to center the struggle in the illegal immigration to Palestine and began organizing massive amount of Jewish war refugees from Europe, without the approval of the British authorities. This immigration contributed a great deal to the Jewish settlements in Israel in the world public opinion and the British authorities decided to let the United Nations decide upon the fate of Palestine.

On November 29, 1947 the United Nations decided on dividing the country into two states: A Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jewish leadership accepted the decision but the Arabs opposed it and started attacking the Jewish settlements, and so the 1948 Arab–Israeli War started.

In the middle of the war, after the last soldiers of the British mandate left Palestine, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed in 1948 the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel. In 1949 the war ended and the state of Israel started building the state and absorbing massive waves of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from all over the world.

Since 1948, Israel has been involved in a series of major military conflicts, including the 1956 Suez War, 1967 Six-Day War, 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1982 Lebanon War, and 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, as well as a nearly constant series of ongoing minor conflicts to preserve its national interests.

Since 1977, an ongoing and largely unsuccessful series of diplomatic efforts have been initiated by Israel, its neighbors, and other parties, including the United States and the European Union, to bring about a peace process to resolve conflicts between Israel and its neighbors, mostly over the fate of the Palestinian people.