Israel before 1948 was a scattered people or nation throughout Europe. After the Second World War, several events led to the formation of Israel.

The creation of Israel engineered lots of conflicts between them and the Arab nations. Learn the history of Israel, how it became a nation and the conflicts that followed.

A Brief History of Israel Before 1948

The people of Israel were descendants of a man named Jacob, who later became known as Israel. Israel had 12 sons: Reuben, Simon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Napthali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin.

Eleven of his sons became the foundation for the 12 tribes of Israel. The first son, Reuben, did not have a tribe named after him because he had an affair with his father’s wife.

The tribe of Levi also did not have an inheritance because the other tribes were responsible for its upkeep. Joseph, the favorite son of Israel, received a double portion of the inheritance because he saved his family during a severe famine. Ephraim and Manasseh completed the tribes of Israel.

The 12 tribes formed a loosely connected nation called the kingdom of Israel, which was ruled by King Saul. There were ten tribes in the northern part of the kingdom and two tribes in the south.

During the reign of King Rehoboam, the 10 tribes in the north broke away and formed their own kingdom. They kept the name Kingdom of Israel and the south became the Kingdom of Judah.

The Downfall of the Two Kingdoms

Several conflicts between the two kingdoms led to severe damages to the Kingdom of Israel. During the 8th century BC, the Neo-Assyrians attacked and destroyed the northern kingdom.

The ten tribes became scattered and are difficult to trace to this day. The Kingdom of Judah fell during the 6th century BCE and can be traced to the people occupying today’s Israeli country.

What Was Israel Before 1948?

Before 1948, Israel was non-existent as a nation after the tribes were scattered around Europe and the Middle East. Several internal and external efforts were put in place to reestablish the nation of Israel, but these were fruitless.

The Jews suffered under various empires and regimes and millions of them lost their lives. The plight of the Jews over the centuries moved some people, who then tried to resettle them.

Events That Led To Jewish Independence

Events that led to the creation of the state of Israel started in the 19th century. The Jews who were in the minority in several countries faced discrimination and ill-treatment, so the British decided to come to the aid of the Jews by helping them establish their nation. The Christians in Britain spearheaded and supported this movement.


The efforts by the British were unsuccessful but had sown seeds of independence in the heart of the Jews. The Israelis continued to face persecution, especially in Russia, so they decided to form a movement that will push for the establishment of their nation. That was how the Zionist movement was founded.

Zionism, founded in 1897, sought to relocate all Jews to Palestine because that was the original home of the Jews. However, the group encountered fierce opposition in the form of the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Palestine. This hampered their activities and their realization of the Jewish State.

Arthur Balfour, Prime Minister of Britain, proposed a plan to relocate the Jews to Uganda. This did not go down well with the then-president of the Zionist movement, Chaim Weizmann.

At a meeting with Arthur Balfour, Chaim Weizmann insisted that Jerusalem be given to the Jews. Weizmann then met with other prominent people during the First World War to convince them to allow a Jewish state in Palestine.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the Jewish State

Fortunately for the Jews, the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Palestine, fell after World War I. The Ottomans had aligned with the Germans, so when Germany fell, they also followed suit.

The British then took control of Palestine and paved the way for the creation of Israel. Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, a statement that sought to establish Israel’s independence.

This move upset the Arabs who were living in Palestine at the time. Once the declaration was published in the newspapers, the British military attacked Gaza and Jaffa. The Arabs there suffered heavy losses and surrendered Jerusalem in the same year. Meanwhile, Jews welcomed the publication with joyous celebrations.

The Israelis living in Palestine even established a day called Balfour Day in honor of the publication.

After the signing of the declaration in 1917, a revolution broke out in Russia known as the October Uprising. This war caused the maiming and death of about 100,000 Jews, and, as a result, about 40,000 of them fled to Palestine. Around the same time, the Greco-Turkish war also caused Greek Jews to flee to Palestine.

The Arab-Jewish Conflicts

Many Jews settled in the Jezreel Valley, which was a marshy area. The Jews from Russia were excellent agriculturalists, so they put their skills to good use. The Jews also purchased lands and formed an armed group called Haganah in 1920 to defend them.

The Palestinian Arabs who were unhappy with the Jewish settlements began fighting them. The 1920 Battle of Tel Hai was one such conflict, where the Arabs attacked a Jewish farming village called Tel Hai and burned it to the ground. This caused rising tensions between the Jews and Arabs, which resulted in the 1920 Jerusalem riots.

The riots took place when the Arabs were celebrating their Nebi Musa festival. During the riots, they attacked the Jewish settlements and destroyed them. The following year, what started as a conflict between Jewish groups ended in a war between Jews and Arabs in Jaffa. However, all these hostilities did not deter the Jews, as about 80,000 of them still migrated to Palestine.

The Early Years of Resettlement in Palestine

In 1922, the League of Nations oversaw the declaration of Balfour and gave its authority. The Jews continued moving to and occupying Palestine. The Arabs continued their aggression towards the Jews while the Jewish population began expanding. They were able to build their first university by 1925.

In 1928, the Jewish community in Palestine held its first election, with the Jewish National Council (JNC) emerging as the winners. The JNC then started acting as a government, including imposing taxes on the Jewish community.

In 1935, about 50,000 more Jews arrived from Germany. These were Jews who had successfully negotiated their transfer from Nazi Germany. This number increased to over 170,000 by 1936. The increase in the Jewish population of Palestine became a cause for concern to the Arabs and caused the 1936 Arab revolt.

Attempted Settlement Plan

This revolt forced the British to create a unique settlement for the Jews in Galilee and the western coast. The British then reserved the rest of Palestine for the Arabs, but the Arabs rejected this new development. The Arabs continued the riots, so the Brits had no choice but to cancel the Jewish settlement plans.

What Was Israel Before World War II and the Holocaust?

During the Second World War, the Jews were still present in Palestine and they fought alongside Britain and the Soviet Union. Records indicate that about 1.5 million Jews took part in the war, with about 200,000 losing their lives in the Soviet army.

This and other events angered the Germans, who began a systematic killing of all the Jews in Europe. This became what was known as the Holocaust, where about 6 million people of Jewish origin lost their lives.

When the war started, the Jewish population was about 9.5 million. However, only about 3.5 million Jews survived the Holocaust. An inquiry was set up and it was found that most Jews relocated to Palestine to reconnect with their roots then began migrating illegally to Palestine.

What Was Israel Before Independence in 1948?

The Israelis continued their illegal emigration to Palestine, which did not sit well with the Arabs. Their main ally, Britain, also suffered severe losses during the World War and couldn’t continue to support the Jews, so they handed over the issue of relocating the Jews to the United Nations. The United Nations drew a plan to give 56 percent of the Palestinian Lands administered by the British to the Jews.

This plan was up for voting in the United Nations General Assembly, where it won by 33 to 13 votes. Therefore, the United Nations gave its blessings for the Jews to occupy parts of Palestine. The Arab countries opposed this resolution, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Lawyers came together and drafted the Declaration of Independence to have Israel become a nation.

The independence of Israel was declared on the 14th of May, 1948. Israel became a recognized state among the nations, but this did not stop the Arabs from continuing to launch attacks on Israel.


So far, we’ve discovered what Israel was before 1948 and how it became independent.

Here is a summary of what we’ve discussed:

  • Israel was a union of 12 tribes that descended from Jacob, also known as Israel.
  • The tribes formed a kingdom with Saul as its first king.
  • The Kingdom later broke into two with ten tribes to the north and two in the south.
  • Both internal and external conflicts led to the disintegration of the tribes.
  • Over the centuries, efforts were made to bring together the nation of Israel.
  • These efforts culminated in the 1917 Balfour Declaration.
  • The Declaration set the tone for relocating the Jews to Palestine.
  • The Jews finally settled in Palestine and declared independence in 1948.

Israel’s occupation of Palestine is still a hotly debated topic, and the Arabs continue to oppose Jewish settlements in Palestine. However, Israel history, which is filled with the persecution of the Jews wherever they went, means that they won’t be moving anytime soon.

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