From the Beginnings to 1948

Many religions look upon the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea as their homeland. This historic land is called Palestine. Before the birth of Christ, the Jews also lived here. Later on , the Romans invaded the area and made it Christian. The Jews were driven away and had to live in other parts of the world.

Muslims also think of Palestine as a holy place. In the Middle Ages the land was ruled by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire and more and more Arabs came to Palestine.

The Ottoman Empire in 1913

In the middle of the 19th century, Jews started to think about coming back to Palestine. This idea was called Zionism. By the beginning of the 20th century, more and more Jews came back to Palestine and started a new life there.

At the end of World War I the Turks were defeated and Great Britain ruled Palestine. The British helped the Jews and wanted to create a new country for them. During the Second World War about 6 million Jews were murdered by German Nazis in the Holocaust. Those who survived had no place to go.

In 1947 , the United Nations decided to divide Palestine into two states : Israel for the Jews and Palestine for the Arabs. The Jews accepted the plan but the Arabs didn't want the Jews to take over their country.

When the British left Palestine in 1948, Israel declared its independence. At once, Arab countries started to attack the new state but Israel fought back and won. It also expanded its territory and occupied more land than the UN gave it. Other Arab countries - Egypt, Syria and Jordan - took over the Arab part of Palestine. Over 700,000 Palestinians became refugees. Most of them fled to Israel’s neighbours .

UN partition plan for Palestine