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1. Early Times
(1000 BCE - 1917)

   Page 1
   (1000 BCE - 135)

   Page 2
   (313 - 1917)

2. Establishment of Israel (1880 - 1947)

3. The New State
(1947 - 1974)



The History of Israel
- A Chronological Presentation

1. Early Times (313 - 1917)

313 - The Byzantine Era
The Roman Emperor Constantine decreed that Christianity would henceforth be the official religion of the Roman Empire, and in 331 AD he moved its capital from Rome to Byzantium, which he then renamed Constantinople (today Istanbul in Turkey). At the end of the century Judea too, now known as Palestine, was a mainly Christian area. Churches and monasteries were being built in the holy places in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee, and Jews again were denied access to Jerusalem.

614 - The Persians Return
The Persians (from today's Iran) briefly gained control over Jerusalem. But when the Byzantine emperor, Heraclius, repulsed the Persian invasion, and in 629 reconquered the city, he ordered all Jews killed and all synagogues burned. Many Jews sought refuge in Egypt or other parts of the empire.

637 - Arab Rule
In the 630's a new religion, Islam, began spreading from the Arabian peninsula, and within only a few years both the Persian and Byzantine empires were defeated. In 638 Jerusalem fell to the Arab caliph Omar and became part of the Muslim empire, which was ruled from the caliphate in the city of Medina (in today's Saudi-Arabia). Omar founded the first mosque at the site in Jerusalem, where the Jewish temple had previously been located.

The following centuries were caracterized by internal strife in the Muslim world. Changing caliphs ruled over most of the Middle East from Damascus (from 661) and Baghdad (from 750). Jews and Christians were tolerated, but subject to special restrictions, which led many to either emigrate or convert to Islam. In 969 Jerusalem was conquered by the Fatimid dynasty, the rivaling caliphate in Cairo, and in 1071 the Arab dominance ended, when the Fatimids were ejected by the Seljuk Turks.

Jerusalem (painted by David Roberts, 1842).

1099 - The Crusaders
Pope Urban II called for a crusade against the Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land for the Christians, and in 1099 the first crusaders conquered Jerusalem, while massacring a large number of Jews and Muslims. During the following two centuries the European crusaders fought various Muslim rulers for control of the area. In 1187 Saladin, a Kurdish general who ruled over both Egypt and Syria, succeeded in recapturing Jerusalem for the Muslims.

1291 - The Mamelukes
In 1250 the Mamelukes (originally an army of slaves mainly from Turkey and northern Caucasia) seized power in Egypt from Saladin's Ayyubid dynasty. The Crusaders' last bastion in the Holy Land, the port city of Acre, fell to the Mamelukes in 1291. In the next 200 years, with Palestine being ruled from Damascus, the province ceased to function as a centre for trade from the Far East, and the population, including the few thousand Jewish families that were left, lived in extreme poverty. Several towns lay in ruins, and even Jerusalem was almost deserted. In 1351 Palestine was struck by the plague, and around 1500 the area's population numbered a mere 200.000 souls. The Mamelukes ruled the area from Egypt to Syria until they were defeated by the Ottoman Turks.

1517-1917 - The Ottoman Empire
In 1517 Kairo fell to the Ottoman Turks, who then ruled the entire Middle East from Constantinople (now Istanbul) for the next 400 years. The area known as Judea or Palestine was no longer considered a political entity of its own, but became part of the Ottoman Empire's Syrian province with Damascus as its local administrative capital. The region remained neglected and underdeveloped, and largely isolated from the outside world.

One of the earliest photos of Jerusalem, 1844.

Continue: Chapter 2 - The Establishment of Israel



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