The National Library of Israel website uses cookies to improve your browsing experience. Continued use of the website constitutes consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our privacy policy

History of the State of Israel

History of the State of Israel

Israel’s history is rich and complex. The establishment of the State brought to an end a period of Jewish exile that lasted nearly 2,000 years. The roots of what would eventually develop into the State of Israel began to appear in the latter part of the 19th century, with the rise of Zionism. The momentum increased during the immigration waves that formed the Hebrew Settlement in the Land of Israel, when the region was under the control of the Ottoman Empire and later the British Mandate. With the heinous atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II, the need for a Jewish State was heightened to a critical urgency.

The State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, with the Declaration of Independence by David Ben-Gurion. Hours after declaring the State, Arab armies invaded and the second phase of the War of Independence began. Since then, Israel has experienced periods of relative quiet as well as times of heightened tension and violence, including a number of wars and military operations. In 1956, Israel was among the initiators of the Sinai Campaign; In 1967, the Six-Day War erupted and Israel was able to conquer the eastern parts of Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights, hence tripling the territories under its control; The hostilities that came to be known as the War of Attrition began soon after, lasting until August 1970; The 1973 Yom Kippur War took Israel by surprise, with the country ill-prepared for the joint attack by Egypt and Syria. Despite constant warnings from various intelligence sources, state officials adhered to their belief that the Arab states would not attack after their humiliating loss in the Six-Day War. These erroneous assumptions came to be known as "the concept". The traumatic anguish of the Yom Kippur War was burned into the nation’s collective consciousness; In 1982, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) embarked on Operation Peace for Galilee (the First Lebanon war), which would evolve into a long-term conflict focused on the "security zone" in southern Lebanon that lasted until the year 2000; In 2006, the Second Lebanon War was triggered by a cross-border Hezbollah raid targeting a force of IDF soldiers.

Major Events in the History of the State

Major events and milestones during Israel's first few years of existence included the Altalena Affair, the Tzena (Austerity) Policy, the Reparations Agreement between Israel and Germany and the establishment of the Ma’abarot (transit camps for new immigrants). Later on came the Wadi Salib Riots, the Eichmann Trial, and the early activities of the settler movement in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). The 1970s and 1980s saw the establishment of the Israeli Black Panther Movement, the work of the Agranat Commission in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, and the eruption of the First Palestinian Intifada. Major events in the 1990s, included the signing of a peace treaty with Jordon as well as the Oslo Accords, followed by the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir. The 21st century began with the October 2000 protests and the Second Intifada riots. Major landmarks in recent years have included Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the widespread protests over the cost of living in the summer of 2011, and the Abraham Accords, signed in September 2020.

Amid these events, the waves of Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) from the commencement of the State and until 2022, brought approximately 3.3 million Jews to Israel, including the 1.5 million that arrived from the former Soviet Union, beginning in 1990. As a result, and due to the high reproduction rate in both the Jewish and Arab communities, the population of Israel increased from 806,000 in May 1948, to approximately 9,506,000 in May 2022.

Israeli elections have been impacted by the diverse demographic composition of the society, the abovementioned events, and many other occurrences. 25 election campaigns have taken place in Israel from January 1949 to November 2022, averaging one election every 2.4 years, even though Members of Knesset are nominally elected to serve a term of four years in office. Between April 2019 and November 2022, five elections were held in less than four years. The 1977 election was one of the most memorable, when, after 30 years of dominance by the Mapai party and its successors, the Likud party headed by Menachem Begin emerged victorious.

As a young country with unique characteristics, Israel’s history is chronicled, commemorated, reviewed, and researched in numerous and varied ways. The National Library of Israel, in accordance with its mission statement, has compiled an abundance of fascinating materials that tell the story of the State. The Library preserves numerous collections, such as personal and institutional archives, letters, diaries, photographs, postcards, maps, posters, interviews, recordings, newspaper clippings, election campaign materials, and of course books, studies, and articles. Many of the materials are available in digital format and can be viewed outside of the Library.