Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Brandeis University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
List of Maps
This book was the brainchild of Professor Jehuda Reinharz. On one of his visits to Israel he approached me and proposed that I undertake the writing of a comprehensive history of Israel, from the beginnings of the Zionist movement until the present day. Most histories of Israel focus on the Arab-Jewish conflict. He had in mind a more ambitious project: without shying away from examining the conflict, the history should encompass...
Part I | 1881-1918: Zionism: Ideaology & Praxis
1 | The Emergence of the Zionist Movement
‘‘At Basel I founded the Jewish state,’’ wrote Theodor Herzl in his diary after the First Zionist Congress in 1897. ‘‘If I said this out loud today, I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years, perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.’’ 3 In fact, fifty-one years intervened between that first congress and the State of Israel’s Declaration...
2 | Jews, Turks, Arabs: First Encounters in the Land
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Palestine was a remote, backward province of the Ottoman Empire, which itself was in decline. Internecine wars and clashes between Bedouins and fellahin occurred every day, and the roads, controlled by robbers and bandits, were dangerous. The country was almost empty, with some 250,000...
Part II | 1918-1948: A State-in-the-Making
3 | Palestine Under British Rule
On December 11, 1917, the eve of the Hanukkah festival, General Sir Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem, opening a new period in the history of Palestine, Zionism, and the Jewish people. As befitting a modest pilgrim, Allenby dismounted from his horse at the Old City wall and entered the city on foot—the city that had not seen a Christian...
4 | Immigration and Settlement During the Mandate Period
‘‘We had to go and leave behind everything, to shoulder just a knapsack and leave in exiles’ clothing.’’ These are the opening words of Uri Zvi Greenberg’s poem ‘‘The Necessity.’’ It explains immigration to Palestine as the result not of that country’s attraction but of the Diaspora’s expulsive power. ‘‘We had to leave. The ground screamed beneath our feet, the beds shook.’’ He goes on to describe his unrequited love for the...
5 | The Yishuv as an Emerging State
Jewish society in Palestine during the Mandate period was organized and functioned without legal authority. Consequently, preserving Jewish autonomy required a system of agreements, compromises, goodwill, and a readiness to concede. Yet this was also a time of nation building, when the ability to mobilize individuals and the masses was vital to advancing the national agenda. Shaping a leadership’s authority and...
6 | The Yishuv: Society, Culture, and Ethos
This poem, published in Warsaw, epitomizes the youth rebellion that was part of the Zionist experience. Old Judaism seemed aged and ailing, lacking relevance to the new world dawning in the wake of World War One. The old Jew, the Jew of the Diaspora, was depicted as psychologically flawed, physically weak, inclined toward luftgesheftn (lit., ‘‘air business,’’ meaning peddling, acting as middlemen, and engaging in other ephemeral...
Part III | 1948-1967: Nation Building
7 | The War of Independence, 1947-1949
The night of November 29, 1947, following the United Nations General Assembly vote partitioning Palestine, was marked by a spontaneous outpouring of joy. Crowds danced in the streets, the Hallel prayer of praise was o√ered up in synagogues opened specially in the middle of the night, and children garlanded sinister British armored vehicles with flowers. One who did not take part in the universal celebrations was David...
8 | The Creation of Israeli Democracy
Of all the states created after 1945, Israel is one of the few that has maintained a democratic regime. Certainly it has not been a perfect democracy (and it is doubtful if such a democracy exists), but considering the state of war in which Israel was founded, the tremendous demographic shock waves that rattled it during its early years, and...
9 | State Building: Economy, Development, and Big Government
Establishing the state gave its leaders the chance to put into practice the utopian plans that had enriched Zionist thinking from its inception. The Mandatory government’s restrictions on Zionism’s vision of building and development enterprise had come to an end. ‘‘We will dress you in a gown of concrete and cement, and lay for you a carpeting of gardens,’’ wrote Nathan Alterman in the early 1930s in ‘‘Morning Song,’’...
10 | The Great Aliya: Mass Immigration
The phenomenon that had the most profound long-term ramifications for shaping the image of Israel was the immigration that occurred in waves during the state’s first two decades. Particularly significant was the wave that arrived during its first three years. For decades this aliya was known as ‘‘the mass aliya,’’ but recently the custom has taken hold of calling it ‘‘the great aliya,’’ as if the word mass implied a somewhat...
11 | Culture and Norms in an Evolving Society
The State of Israel’s first nineteen years were marked by tremendous dynamism, rapid change, and conflicts touching on both ethos and culture. In a panoramic view this period appears as the heyday of the national ethos. Israelis saw the state as the realization of the Zionist idea and the age-old vision of Jewish redemption. This positive attitude...
12 | Politics, Peace, and War
On April 29, 1956, Ro¢i Rothberg, a member of Kibbutz Nahal Oz on the Gaza Strip border and the area commander, rode out on his horse to inspect the kibbutz fields. The kibbutz, founded by former members of the Nahal Brigade in 1953, had since su√ered incursions and attacks by its Palestinian neighbors. The Strip was densely populated with Arab refugees, including some from the villages whose lands the kibbutz...
Part IV | 1967-1977: A Decade of War
13 | Six Days that Changed the Middle East
The Six-Day War—termed by the Arabs ‘‘the June War,’’ yet another in the sequence of full-scale armed conflicts known only by their dates in the Arab narrative—broke out without premeditation on either side and without anyone having predicted that it would occur when it did. It exemplifies a case of a deteriorating security situation resulting from loss of control, which inevitably leads to a clash. It also reveals...
14 | The Age of Euphoria, 1967-1973
After the Six-Day War the face of Israel changed. The deep, pervasive anxiety of the three-week waiting period gave way to euphoria: ‘‘We were like unto them that dream’’ (Psalms 126:1). Suddenly Israel was a world celebrity. No longer a sleepy country in a remote corner of the Middle East, it was now the focus of events of global significance. Journalists and tv crews flocked to Israel from all over the world. They were followed by thousands of volunteers, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, who...
15 | The Yom Kippur War, 1973
On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the air raid siren sounded all over Israel, marking the beginning of a new era, though at the time no one imagined this. The Yom Kippur War—or the October War, as the Egyptians called it—was a watershed in both Israeli and Middle Eastern history. Perhaps even more than the Six-Day War, it reshaped Israel’s self-image, as well as its political and social space and its relations with its neighbors. No one in Israel or...
16 | Israeli Society After the Yom Kippur War
When the Yom Kippur War broke out, Israel was in the midst of an election campaign in which Golda Meir’s slogan claimed that the country’s situation had never been better. Given the war and its aftermath this choice of slogan was rather ironic. The elections were postponed until late December 1973 and held while the country was still in shock and while the disengagement negotiations were taking place. The...
Part V | 1977-2000: Peace, War, & Indecision
17 | Begin in Power
In the run-up to the May 1977 elections, Israeli television adopted the British practice of the exit poll. As voters left the polling station, they were asked to recast their vote in a sample poll. Through statistical analysis of the results, the pollsters could get an indication of the election results shortly after the polling stations closed. When the television executives saw the exit poll results, they could hardly believe their eyes. The...
18 | The Stalemate Years: A Changing Israeli Identity, 1984-1990
When the Likud won only one seat more than the Alignment (the Labor Party and Mapam) in the 1981 elections, Begin was still able to form a coalition government, while the Alignment could not. In the 1984 elections the Alignment won three seats more than the Likud, but once again it was unable to form a government, since the Likud could muster a majority in the Knesset. In the 1988 elections the stalemate between the...
19 | The Decade of Hope, 1990-2000
The fascinating events of history do not divide equally into decades. Some decades are unexciting, with very few noteworthy occurrences, while in others unexpected events come fast and furious, one on the heels of another. They change reality and establish a new world scene that could not have been predicted a few years earlier. The 1990s was such a decade. The first reality-shaping event...
An Interim Summary
When Herzl published Der Judenstaat, many criticized him for linking the fate of the Jewish people to the establishment of a political entity of its own. These critics believed that the Jewish people’s ability to exist for thousands of years without such an entity was a virtue worth preserving. Many Jews considered modern nationalism a shameful relic of a bygone era, a reincarnation of tribal particularism that created...