A brief History of Israel – for the visiting Tourist

Before you visit the Holy Land or Israel, this is an article you need to read first. Here you can read the rough brief history of the lands of Israel and some background what’s going on currently in Israel.

Looking at this history, nobody can claim ownership of these lands (based on history and who was here first), because there are so many civilizations who can claim the same, it’s not normal anymore. The Canaan ruled here for more than 4,000 years, Muslims for 684 years, Israelites 613 years, Ottoman for 400 years, Romans for 350 years, Persians for 207 years, and so many other civilizations ruled here too. The Israelites invaded these lands, just like the Muslims and others did. All of those civilizations and peoples had their own valid reasons to do so.

Ancient Israel
Ancient Israel

We can find the first Homo Sapiens (early humans) living here already for 17,000 years. Then the Canaan ruled here for almost 4,000 years. The Israelites ruled for 613 years, followed by the Persians for 207 years. Israel fell under Hellenistic rule for 192 years, under Hasmonean rule for 103, taken over by the Romans for 350 years. The Byzantine time lasted 308, followed by the Arab dynasties for 561 years before they were beaten by Crusaders, who ruled for 88 years. The Islamic rule came back for 123 years, when they were being taken over by the Ottoman rule for 400 years. Israel was ruled after the Ottoman by the British Mandate for 31 years, when finally the Israeli state was created and still exists for 68 years.

Note – What happened with the Canaan population? Where did the Canaan go to after it was occupied by the Israelites? The Bible claimed God ordered the Canaanites to be wiped out, but a new genetic research study (July 2017) suggests the ancient people survived that initial order. In later excerpts of Judges and Ezra, there is evidence that not all Canaanites were destroyed by the Israelites—some fled or became servants. Over the years, little information had been discovered about the Canaanites—until a new genetic research study found their DNA, confirming they did survive. The Canaanite’s DNA lives on in Lebanon, where over 90% of Lebanese derive their ancestry from Canaanites, according to a study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. 


Ancient Israel
Ancient Israel

Many countries were involved one way or the other by the history of these lands, but not many countries can be compared with the various cultural and historical heritages Israel currently has. It’s a merger of the tens of thousands of years of many civilizations and cultures, which makes Israel as it is now. Historical ownership of the lands can’t be claimed or monopolized, because too many civilizations and peoples have historical roots in these lands and can claim the same … but nobody does. But what everyone can do is sharing in peace.

Ancient Israel
Ancient Israel

Muslim historical supposing claims on the lands of Israel is overshadowed by the Christian roots, and they are again overshadowed by the Israelites, and they are overshadowed by many thousands of years rule by the Canaan tribes. The Israelites ruled Israel for 613 years, Christians for 396 years, but the Muslims ruled Israel for 684 years. But the Muslims were not here as first, neither the Christians and neither the Israelites! No, they were easily overshadowed by the Canaan empire for more than 4,000 years of their rule. Jerusalem as example is not a Muslim city, neither Jewish city or a city from the Israelites; it’s a Canaan city.

Ancient Israel
Ancient Israel

Even with the long Muslim occupation of Israel for 684 years (longer then the Israelites), their surviving culture didn’t impact Israel as the Christians and Israelites did. You see some historical Mosques, small Muslim communities, but actual Muslim cultural sights you will not see in Israel, except on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Jewish impact of these lands are everywhere, as is the Christian impact. You can see this easily at the number of available Muslim sights and its variations here on this site.

Israel is the birth of the Jews and the Christians, because their roots started here. But Christianity is a religion (not a people or nation or tribe) more then 2,000 years ago, derived from the Jewish religion and the birth of Jesus, while the Jews are a tribe, who lived here at 1,200 AD, when the Israelites under Joshua enter Promised Land or the founding patriarch Abraham (who himself came from the city state Ur,  an ancient 4,900 year old Sumerian City State from ancient Mesopotamia) and his tribe settle in what becomes Judea in 2,000 AD. The Muslim religion didn’t start in Israel (but in Mecca and Medina), but it shares the founding patriarch Abraham, parts of the Torah and the Christian bible and it has their third most holiest Al Aqsa Mosque at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Palestinians are rooted from the so called Boat People and are from Crete (Greece), who settled in Palestine (1100-722 BCE). According to biblical tradition (Deuteronomy 2:23; Jeremiah 47:4), the Philistines came from Crete (Caphtor). They occupied the coastal plain of Palestine from Joppa (modern Jaffa) southward to the Gaza Strip. The area contained the five cities of the Philistine confederacy (Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron) and was known as Philistia (source).

Child Sacrifices in Ancient times
Child Sacrifices in Ancient times

Barbaric scenes as everyone can witness today with ISIS and the regime of the Syrian President Assad from Syria, the involvement of third parties like the US, Turkey, Russia and Iran are barbaric and inhuman, but not different what happened here in the region some hundreds of years ago, or 20,000 years ago. The only difference actually is the scale. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs are currently slaughtered in front of the cameras and the world is maintaining the slaughter instead of stopping it.

Israel has armed itself heavily to be able to defend itself against incursions and invasions and it’s very successful until now. The so called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is an ongoing process already for more then 60 years and lately it’s reduced to a political battle and the battle of the hearts and minds of the local populations. The fragmentation of the Palestinian people also doesn’t help, and neither is the radicalization of its leadership.

The one thing what the international media and the Palestinian leadership fail to mention is the fact that thousands of Palestinians are being tortured and murdered in the jails of Assad in Syria, and this shows the level of politicization in the region. Israel is the only country in the region which is stable.

And walking in Israel alone at night is safer then walking in New York at day.

Pre-Biblical and early Biblical times


c. 20,000: First settlements of humans near Sea of Galilee

c. 7000: Jericho is a walled settlement

c. 5000-4000: Land of Canaan is occupied by Canaanites, then Amorites and Jebusites.

c. 2000: Founding patriarch Abraham and his tribe settle in what becomes Judea.

c. 1500: Abraham’s descendants, led by Joseph, settle in Egypt.

c. 1260: Moses leads Israelites in Exodus from Egypt.

c. 1200: Israelites under Joshua enter Promised Land.

c. 1000: David captures Canaanites city of Jerusalem and makes it his capital.

c. 970: Solomon builds First Temple.

Two kingdoms

c. 930: Israel splits into northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah (including Jerusalem).

c. 720: Northern kingdom conquered by Assyria and its 10 tribes sent into exile.

c. 700: Southern kingdom’s King Hezekiah cuts tunnel from Gihon Spring to Pool of Siloam.

701: Assyrians conquer much of southern kingdom; Jerusalem is besieged but survives.

597: Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon captures southern kingdom and Jerusalem.

587: Following rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem and First Temple, deporting most of population to Babylon (in present-day Iraq).

Persian rule

539: Cyrus the Great of Persia conquers Babylon and allows Jews to return from captivity.

515: Second Temple is completed.

444: Nehemiah rebuilds city walls of Jerusalem.

Hellenistic rule

332: Alexander the Great conquers Persian Empire, including all of Palestine.

323: Alexander dies and his kingdom is divided into four parts; Palestine falls under Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt, then under Seleucid Empire of Syria.

175: King Antiochus IV of Syria bans traditional Jewish practices and desecrated Temple.

167: Judas Maccabeus leads successful revolt against Seleucid Empire, rededicate Temple and restores religious freedom.

Hasmonean rule

140: Simon Maccabeus, a brother of Judas, establishes Hasmonean Dynasty, which rules an independent Jewish kingdom for 103 years.

63: Rivalry between Simon Maccabeus’ great-grandsons, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, brings civil war that ends with Roman general Pompey controlling the kingdom.

37: Rome proclaims Herod as King of Israel, now a Roman client state, ending the Hasmonean Dynasty.

Roman rule

20: Herod expands Temple Mount and rebuilds Temple.

c. 6: Jesus Christ is born in Bethlehem.

4: Herod dies and his kingdom is divided among his sons, Philip, Antipas and Archelaus.


26: Pontius Pilate becomes procurator of Roman province of Judea.

c. 27: Jesus is baptized by his cousin John the Baptist and begins his public ministry.

c. 30: Jesus is condemned to death and crucified.

c. 32: Stephen, first Christian martyr, is stoned to death.

c. 34: Paul is converted on the way to Damascus.

41-44: Jerusalem’s “Third Wall” is built by King Agrippa I.

c. 50: Council of Jerusalem, first recorded council of Christian leaders, is held.

c. 45-120: Books of the New Testament are written.

67: During First Jewish-Roman War, Christians in Palestine flee to Pella in Jordan.

70: Romans destroy Jerusalem and Second Temple.

73: Masada falls to Romans.

130: Emperor Hadrian rebuilds Jerusalem, renaming it Aelia Capitolina, and puts pagan temple over site of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

135: Hadrian crushes Second Jewish Revolt and expels Jews from Palestine.

301: Armenia becomes first nation to make Christianity its state religion.

313: Emperor Constantine I legalizes Christianity.

325: At Council of Nicaea, Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem asks Constantine to reclaim site of crucifixion and Resurrection and build a church there.

326-7: Constantine’s mother, Helena, visits Holy Land, finds True Cross and orders churches built on sacred sites; large-scale pilgrimages begin.

Byzantine rule

330: Constantine moves his capital from Nicomedia to Byzantium (renamed Constantinople, now Istanbul).

335: Church of the Holy Sepulchre is consecrated.

380: Emperor Theodosius I makes Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire.

386-420: Jerome produces Vulgate translation of Bible in his Bethlehem cave.

395: Roman Empire splits into East and West.

c. 500: Jerusalem Talmud completed by rabbinic schools in Galilee.

570: Birth of Muhammad.

614: Persians capture Jerusalem, destroying many churches and burning Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

622: Muhammad escapes assassination in Mecca and flees to Medina, his flight marking first year of Islamic calendar.

629: Emperor Heraclius I re-establishes Byzantine rule in Jerusalem and recovers True Cross stolen by Persians.

Islamic rule

638: Islamic forces conquer Jerusalem, beginning rule by succession of Arab dynasties.

661-1000: Palestine variously ruled by Arab caliphs in Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo.

692: Dome of the Rock completed on Temple Mount.

1009: Sultan al-Hakim destroys Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

1048: Church of the Holy Sepulchre restored by Emperor Constantine Monomachus.

1054: Great Schism splits Christian Church into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches.

1071: Seljuk Turks capture Jerusalem, persecuting Christians, desecrating churches and barring pilgrims.

Crusader rule

1099: First Crusade captures Jerusalem and establishes Latin kingdom; Dome of the Rock becomes church called Templum Domini (Temple of the Lord).

1149: New Church of the Holy Sepulchre completed.

1187: Sultan Saladin defeats Crusaders at Horns of Hattin above Sea of Galilee, then takes Jerusalem.

Islamic rule again

1219: St Francis of Assisi visits Egypt and meets Sultan Melek al-Kamil.

1229: During Sixth Crusade, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II negotiates return of Jerusalem and other Christian sites to Crusader kingdom.

1229: Franciscans establish themselves in Jerusalem near Fifth Station of Via Dolorosa.

1244: Jerusalem is sacked by Khwarezmian Tartars; control quickly passes to Egyptian Ayyubids and then Mamluks, who rule until 1517.

1291: Crusaders’ last foothold, Acre, falls to Mamluks.

1342: Pope Clement VI formally establishes Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

Ottoman rule

1517: Ottoman Turks take control of Palestine from Mamluks.

1517: Martin Luther begins Protestant Reformation in Europe.

1538: Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent builds present walls of Old City of Jerusalem.

1757: Ottoman Turkish edicts give Greek Orthodox major possession of Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other holy places.

1808: Fire rages in Church of the Holy Sepulchre; Tomb of Christ is severely damaged when dome falls in.

1812: Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovers Nabatean city of Petra.

1839: British Jew Sir Moses Montefiore proposes idea of a modern Jewish state.

1842: First Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Michael Solomon Alexander, a converted Jewish rabbi, arrives.

1849: Christ Church in Jerusalem, oldest Protestant church in Middle East, is built.

1852: Under pressure from Russia, Ottoman Sultan Abd-ul-Mejid directs that possession of holy places remains according to 1757 edict.

1853-56: Possession of holy places is one cause of Crimean War between Russia and major European powers.

1860: First Jewish immigrant neighborhood outside Old City of Jerusalem is established, funded by Sir Moses Montefiore.

1878: “Status Quo” defining possession of holy places is incorporated into international law by Treaty of Berlin.

1883: General Charles Gordon proposes Skull Hill as Calvary and Garden Tomb as place where Christ was buried.

1884: Mosaic map of Holy Land discovered in floor of 6th-century church at Madaba, Jordan.

1909: Joseph Baratz and 11 others establish first kibbutz in Palestine, called Kvutzat Degania (“Wheat of God”), at southern end of Sea of Galilee.

1917: British government’s Balfour Declaration backs establishing Jewish homeland in Palestine, without prejudice to “civil and religious rights” of non-Jewish population.

British mandate

1917: British forces under General E. H. Allenby capture Palestine from Ottoman Turks.

1922: League of Nations approves British mandate of Palestine.

1946: Jordan gains independence from Britain.

1947: United Nations Partition Plan calls for a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine, with Greater Jerusalem (including Bethlehem) under international control; most Jewish groups accepts the plan but Arabs reject it.

1947: Dead Sea Scrolls are discovered at Qumran.

1948: Amid civil unrest and violence, Britain withdraws from mandate.

Israel and Palestinian Territories

1948: After Jewish provisional government declares Israel an independent state, Arab forces invade.

1949: Israel prevails in Arab-Israeli War, though Egypt holds Gaza, and Jordan the West Bank and East Jerusalem; more than 700,000 Palestinians become refugees.

1967: In Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Israel occupies Sinai, Gaza, Golan Heights, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

1969: Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, largest Christian church in Middle East, is completed.

1973: In Yom Kippur War against Egypt and Syria, Israel makes further territorial gains.

1979: Israel and Egypt sign peace treaty; Israel agrees to return Sinai to Egypt.

1986: Remains of fishing boat from time of Jesus found in Sea of Galilee.

1987-93: Palestinians carry out First Intifada (uprising) against Israeli occupation.

1993: Israel gives Palestinian National Authority limited autonomy in West Bank and Gaza.

1994: Jordan and Israel sign peace treaty.

1996: Excavations begin at likely site of Christ’s baptism, in former minefield at Bethany Beyond the Jordan.

1997: Interchurch co-operation completes 36-year restoration of Church of the Holy Sepulchre; reconstruction of Tomb of Christ edicule remains to be done.

2000-05: Second Intifada follows controversial visit by Israeli politician Ariel Sharon to Temple Mount.

2002: Israel Defence Forces besiege Palestinian militants in Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, for 39 days.

2002: Israel begins building 700-km West Bank separation wall.

2005: Remains of early 3rd-century church found at Megiddo.

2005: Israel withdraws settlers and military from Gaza.

2007: Archaeologist Ehud Netzer discovers Herod the Great’s long-lost tomb at Herodium.

2008: Responding to rocket attacks, Israel launches 22-day war against Gaza.

2009: Archaeologists in Nazareth uncover residential building from time of Jesus.

2012: United Nations General Assembly accepts Palestine as a “non-member observer state”.

2013: City of David excavators find clay seal inscribed with name of Bethlehem, first reference to the city outside the Bible.

2014: Discovery of nine previously unknown Dead Sea scrolls announced; the tiny texts were inside unopened tefillin (prayer cases) found at Qumran in 1952.

2014: Responding to rocket fire, Israel launches seven-week bombardment of Gaza.


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