Israel - Size and Dimension
The total area of the State of Israel is 22,145 sq.km (8,630 sq. miles), of which 21,671 sq. km is land area. Israel is some 420 km in length and about 115 km across at the widest point. The country is bordered by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, Egypt to the southwest and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.
Mountains and plains, fertile land, and desert are often minutes apart. The width of the country, from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Dead Sea in the east, can be crossed by car in about 90 minutes; and the trip from Metulla, in the far North, to Eilat at the country's southern tip takes about nine hours.
The Twelve Tribes of Israel (ca 1200 BCE)
The Jewish forefather Jacob (renamed Israel in Genesis 32:29) - son of Isaac and grandson of the patriarch Abraham - fathered 12 sons. They are the ancestors of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
Following their escape from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites, led by Moses, returned to the Land of Israel promised by God to their forefathers. There they settled under the leadership of Joshua and each tribe had its own territory, except for the tribe of Levi, which was assigned religious duties, especially in the Holy Temple. Ephraim and Menasheh, the two sons of Joseph were given the status of independent tribes and each was assigned its own territory.
The Kingdom of David and Solomon:(1077-997 BCE)
King David defeated several other kingdoms in the region, including his main enemy, the Philistines. He expanded his kingdom and brought it to a peak of political and military power, making Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom. There he purchased the land for the first Jewish Temple, built by his son, King Solomon.
The Jewish kingdom reached its highest level of wealth and regional influence during the reign of King Solomon, who was known for his great wisdom and was at peace with all his neighbors.
The Herodian Period:(37 BCE - 73 CE)
The Romans, who conquered the kingdom of Judea in 63 BCE, appointed their Jewish ally, Herod, of Edomite extraction, as king of Judea in 37 BCE, after the last king of the Hasmonean dynasty was deposed and executed. King Herod "The Great" ruled until his death in 4 BCE. He initiated monumental construction projects, including the building of new cities and fortresses like Caesarea and Masada, and the rebuilding and expansion of the Second Temple, first erected in 516 BCE.
During Herod's reign, the Jewish kingdom enjoyed a degree of autonomous rule under the Roman Empire. After his death, the Romans tightened their control over the Jewish population. This led eventually to the Great Jewish Revolt (66-73 CE) which resulted in the destruction of the Second Temple and of Jerusalem (70 CE), and the killing or expulsion of many hundreds of thousands of Jews by the Romans.
Jews in the Land of Israel (73-636 CE)
The Jewish people has had a continuous presence in the Land of Israel for nearly four thousand years. When the Romans occupied the land of Israel in 63 BCE the population of the land was approximately three million people (out of an estimated world population of 250-300 million), most of them Jewish. By 135 CE, after the quelling of the Bar Kokhba revolt by the Romans, there were only about 700,000 Jews left in the country.
Despite Roman and Byzantine oppression of the remaining Jews in the land, spiritual and cultural life continued to develop in the Jewish communities there. Other towns, such as Yavne and, later on towns in the Galilee such as Tzipori and Tiberias, replaced Jerusalem as the center of Jewish spiritual life. The central text of Jewish law, the Talmud, was completed during this period.
Jews in the Land of Israel (636-1880 CE)
After the decline of the Roman and Byzantine empires, the Land of Israel fell under other foreign powers: the Muslim Arabs (636-1099 CE), the Christian Crusaders (1099-1291), the Mameluks (1291-1516), the Ottoman Empire (1516-1917), and the British Mandate (1917-1948).
Despite the fact that since the second century CE most of the Jews were forced into exile, and despite the ill-treatment of the remaining Jews in the Land of Israel by the various foreign occupiers, Jewish presence in the land has been continuous, in particular in the four holy cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias, but also in other towns and villages. By the 19th century the Jews again constituted a majority of the population of Jerusalem.
Jews in the Land of Israel (1880-1914)
The Zionist movement, which took its name from “Zion” - the Biblical name for Jerusalem - emerged in the 19th century in Central and Eastern Europe as a national revival and liberation movement. Zionism advocated the return of the Jews from the Diaspora to the Land of Israel, the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland and state there, and the creation of a 'new society' based on humanistic, democratic and Jewish values. It also sought to obtain international legitimacy for the inalienable rights of the Jewish people to self-determination and freedom in its historic homeland.
Between 1882 and 1914, while the area was still under Ottoman rule, approximately 60,000 Jews returned to the Land of Israel in two major waves of immigration.
The Balfour Declaration
On 2 November 1917, British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, issued a statement of British government policy, which has since become known as the Balfour Declaration. It stated: "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
The Declaration's promise of a homeland for the Jews was later accepted internationally and incorporated into various resolutions.