Israel Travel Guide
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Israel History - Zionism & The British Mandate
Jews living in the Diaspora have long aspired to return to Zion and the Land of Israel, though the amount of human effort to be spent towards such aim is a matter of dispute in Judaism. That hope and yearning was articulated in the Bible, and is an important theme of the Jewish belief system. After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, some communities settled in the Holy Land. During the 16th century communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities, in 1697 Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid led a group of 1500 to Jerusalem and in the second half of the 18th century, East European opponents of Hasidism known as the Perushim settled in the Holy Land.
The first large wave of "modern" immigration, known as the First Aliyah (Hebrew: עלייה), began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe. While the Zionist movement already existed in theory, Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism, a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane. In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews), offering his vision of a future state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.
The Second Aliyah (1904–1914), began after the Kishinev pogrom. Some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine but nearly half of them left. Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews, but those in the Second Aliyah included socialist pioneers who established the kibbutz movement. During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which "view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". At the request of Edwin Samuel Montagu and Lord Curzon, a line was also inserted stating "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 Jewish Legion, a group of battalions composed primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Palestine. Arab opposition to the plan led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of the Jewish organization known as the Haganah (meaning "The Defense" in Hebrew), from which the Irgun and Lehi split off. In 1922, the League of Nations granted the United Kingdom a mandate over Palestine under terms similar to the Balfour Declaration. The population of the area at this time was predominantly Muslim Arab, while the largest urban area in the region, Jerusalem, was predominantly Jewish.
The Third (1919–1923) and Fourth Aliyah (1924–1929) brought 100,000 Jews to Palestine.
The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews. This caused the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 and led the British to cap immigration with the White Paper of 1939. With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine. By the end of World War II, Jews accounted for 33% of the population of Palestine, up from 11% in 1922.
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