Israelite Tribes

History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Central Levant States

Israelite Tribes

According to tradition, the Israelites were Semitic émigrés from southern Mesopotamia who left the city of Ur during the reign of Hammurabi, when the Amorite Babylonian empire was at its height. A confederation of tribes, they initially settled on the coast of the Dead Sea, before being forced to emigrated to Egypt, only to return centuries later to form small kingdoms in Canaan during the period of unrest after 1200 BC.

Oral history almost always has a core truth at its heart (something that can be forgotten by scholars who wander off at tangents with imaginative theories about tribal origins such as this). The assertion that the Israelites came from Mesopotamia has to be taken at face value. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to refer to a wave of thirteen tribes and several hundred or more tribes people wandering into Canaan. Archaeology alone has disproved this version of events. Instead, as with tribal associations everywhere in history, the arrivals probably formed a small but powerful – and possibly more technologically advanced – group that quickly became a ruling nobility over Canaanite tribes (thirteen of them, perhaps?). As with other such cases, such as various tribes of the Celts and Germanics, or the Mitanniwhen they arrived to dominate the Hurrians, the new arrivals were in command, but their own customs were quickly replaced by those of their majority subjects, making them also look Canaanite in origin. The simplest answer is usually the best one.

In their early years the Israelites were probably more usually known as habiru (which became Hebrew) when they migrated into Canaan from Mesopotamia and when they invaded Canaan in the twelfth century BC through Edom and Moab, penetrating as far north as Amurruin Syria. This term seems first to have been used for a range of outsiders, from unemployed farm labourers and vagrants to mounted mercenary archers. The context differed depending upon where the references were found. Although this term originally seems to have been used for any marginal people who lived outside state controls, there is nothing to preclude one such group becoming the later Hebrews.

While the Bible’s Old Testament is the primary source for much of the information on the second and first millennium BC Israelites, the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, also provides a highly interesting interpretation in Greek for his predominantly Roman audience in his massive work, Jewish Antiquities. The early parts of this list are largely made up of a combination of incidents from both sources. The dating agrees with sources such as Oxford, but others date Abraham to about 2000 BC, Joseph at about 1800 BC, Moses at about 1400 BC, and David and Solomon at 1000/900 BC. There are various chronologies which differ to some degree (Thiele, Usher, the orthodox dating, Rohl, Velikovsky, and Courville included).

(Additional information on Israelite dating, Joseph, and the Amarna letters by Sean B, and general information from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran, 1992, and the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed), 1986.)

c.1752 – 1750 BC


Began the exodus from Ur.

c.1750 BC

Terah leads his people to settle in Harran, a city far up and to the east of the Euphrates, near the Hatti, where he dies. His son, Abraham, inherits the leadership, and begins to formulate his theories of a single God of which he determines to persuade all others, unless they can come up with a better theory that persuades him otherwise. Abraham also adopts his brother’s son, Lot, as his own (presumably as his potential successor in light of his own failure to produce a son). They head south to Canaan where Abraham occupies the region around the later Jebusite city of Hebron, and Lot the plain near the River Jordan and the city of Sodom.

This slightly fanciful view of the migrating Israelites does show a surprisingly small number of participants, something that chimes with the ‘ruling elite’ theory of migration detailed in the introduction, above


The Old Testament also reports on the ‘five cities of the plain’ in Canaan, which include Salem, as well as their overlords who come into conflict with the Israelites. Lot comes to the assistance of his neighbours, the people of Sodom. Later in his life, Abraham is credited with introducing circumcision to the Israelites, at a time when they are clearly still tent dwellers.

c.1750 – 1700 BC

Abraham / Avram / Abram

Son. Led the tribe to Canaan, close to Palestine.

c.1750 BC


Nephew, and son of Harran.

c.1740 BC

Moab, first son of Lot (after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) and grandnephew of Abraham, gains the stretch of land between the River Arnon and the Brook of Zered on the coast of the Dead Sea. This area forms the kingdom of Moab. Ben Ammi, an illegitimate son of Lot, gains Ammon, east of the River Jordan and on Moab’s northern border.

c.1740 BC


Son of Lot. King of Moab.

c.1740 BC

Ben Ammi

Son of Lot. King of Ammon.

c.1700 BC

Aram ben Nahor

Brother of Abraham. Ancestor figure of all Aramaeans.

c.1700 BC

Ismael / Ishmael

Son of Abraham. Ancestor figure of Kedarites & Nabataeans.

c.1700 BC


Son of Abraham.

c.1700 BC

A late son of Abraham, Isaac is his successor as leader of the early Israelites. He lives much of his life in Hebron and eventually dies there, but with at least one interruption in the meantime – during a period of famine he (and by inference his tribe) is forced to seek refuge with the Canaanite ruler of later Philistine territory, Abimelech of Gerar (son of the Abimelech who had previously had dealings with Abraham). Abimelech later visits Isaac when he is encamped at Beer-sheba, and expresses a desire to renew the covenant which had been entered into between their fathers.

Isaac’s eldest son is Esau, and he eventually gains his birthright (despite his brother’s attempts to steal it from him). This is the land that is centred around Mount Seir, from the Brook of Zered to the Sinai peninsula, which becomes the kingdom of Edom.

c.1700 BC


Son. King of Edom.

c.1650 BC



c.1650 BC

Jacob spends some years in Harran, where he meets his wives. As he returns them and his large family to Hebron, Jacob stops off at the Canaanite city of Shechem where his daughter is attacked, so Jacob’s sons slay all the males within the city walls. Upon his return home, Jacob succeeds Isaac as the leader of his people, with his twelve sons forming the basis of the later tribes of Israel.

The Israelites are presumed to descend into Egypt to escape famine just as Lower Egypt is invaded and governed by the Hyksos, probably making their entrance and acceptance there easier. They settle in the region of modern Cairo, at first as welcomed guests but later enduring worsening conditions and eventually slavery. According to the available sources, Joseph is the focus of Hebrew leadership when they first arrive there, but their deteriorating conditions mean that the situation four hundred years later is very different, with no apparent ruling house, although a Hebrew nobility survives.

More recent theories have diverted away from the idea that it is Hyksos Egypt that the Israelites enter. Some scholars place the early Israelites even earlier, by as much as four centuries, with them interacting with Twelfth Dynasty Egypt. Another school of thought prefers a much earlier period, Third Dynasty Egypt under Zoser, based on the idea that early Egyptian dating is still incorrect, with Menes being placed up to seven hundred years too early.

c.1625 BC


Son. Leader of the Israelites in Hyksos Egypt.

Ephraim & Manasses

Sons, but no claims of leadership made for them in sources.


Elder brother of Joseph.





c.1371 – 1358 BC

The Amarna letters between Egypt and Assyria, and the city states of Syria and Canaan, describe the disruptive activities of the habiru, painting them as a threat to the stability of the region.

Rohl’s theory is that the habiru of the Amarna letters are the Israelites of David. Findings indicated that the three years of drought, famine, and plague of the Amarna letters and those of David’s time may be same. Another theory is that Moses (an individual who is probably much closer to the period in which the Amarna letters are written than David) is ‘the rebel Mesh’ of amelut-sagaz-Mesh (habiru) of the Amarna letters.

c.1230 BC

By this time, four hundred years after their descent into Egypt (a few scholars say only two hundred years), the Hebrews have multiplied from a band of seventy into a people numbering thousands, but they have been reduced to slavery. A nobility still exists, however, and is represented in the sources by the descendants of Levi. The most recent of his descendants is Moses, who possibly fulfils the role of an advisor or even minister to an unnamed pharaoh who may be Ramses II. He now leads the loose confederation of Israelite tribes out of Egypt, shortly after his marriage to a Midianite woman, Zipporah daughter of Jethro the Midian priest. Moses is also claimed as an ancestor figure of the early Ethiopian kings.

c.1230 – 1170 BC


Son. Died after the conquest of Moab.

c.1200 – 1020 BC

This is the period of Israelite settlement after the exodus from Egypt. At this time, there is general instability in the region: the Hittite empire is destroyed in Anatolia, the Canaanites begin to be reduced to owning the shores ofLebanon (to eventually become the sea traders known as the Phoenicians), the Philistines and other Sea Peoplesare first settling on the lower coast of the Levant, and various neo-Hittite city states are arising in northern Syria, many of which come into contact with the Israelites.

It has been strongly suggested that the Israelites themselves are Canaanites, and that the exodus never occurs. This theory seems to be backed up by archaeological finds (although a temporary event such as an exodus would be hard to locate archaeologically). But, if the exodus is true (and see the main introduction, above, for a wider view on this) then the Old Testament affords us an almost unique look at the settlement of a people in the ancient Middle East. As they arrive and settle in the region, the Israelites may be joined by late additions to their confederation of tribes: the tribes of Asher and Dan appear to originate from the Weshesh and Danya. In local politics the Israelites have various dealings with the city states in the Dead Sea region of Canaan and southern Syria. These are mostly attempts at conquest, successful or otherwise.

c.1200 BC

The Israelites conquer Arad the Canaanite.

c.1198 BC

Moab is defeated and subjugated by the Israelites, as are a number of minor city states, including those of theMidianites and various other Canaanite cities.

c.1186 – 1168 BC

The southern Israelite territories are conquered and occupied by the Philistines.

c.1170 – 1140s BC


Son of Nun. Leader at the start of the Israelite Settlement Period.

c.1170 BC

The Canaanite king of Shalem leads the fragmented Jebusites against Joshua, but they are defeated and conquered by the Israelites, with their cities being incorporated into the Israelite state. Shalem becomes the Israelite capital of Jerusalem, with the region being occupied by the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, although control of it appears to be lost to the Philistines, perhaps in c.1150 BC.

c.1160s BC

The Israelites conquer a large number of cities in this decade, mostly Canaanite, and including Dor.

c.1150 BC

Israel (or at least, part of it) is subdued by Moab. More of it, in the south, is conquered by the Philistines who maintain vassal kings in Israel. Jerusalem is possibly freed from Israelite control at this stage, as King David is forced to re-conquer it in 975 BC.

Time of the Judges

The period of the Judges was described in the Old Testament book of the same name. These were nominal rulers who were possibly priests, and who held temporary authority over the twelve Israelite tribes at various times. They were not actually called kings, but nevertheless they did reign in a fashion, although they were rarely accepted by all of the twelve tribes at the same time. They were usually prominent during times of great need for the combined tribes, and were usually charismatic leaders who led military campaigns as the newly-arrived Israelites conquered Canaanite territory but were in turn dominated from around 1150 BC by the Philistines.

Their ‘reignal’ lengths are as described in the Old Testament, but it is impossible to calculate consecutive dates of reign for them without going back to the exodus period, at which time the elders (notably Moses) were still leading the tribes. With this in mind it seems much more likely that they only led some of the tribes, not all of them, and their reigns often overlapped, making any calculation of reignal dates impossible.

At the time, Canaan was nominally under the governance of Egypt, but it was preoccupied with repulsing incursions by the Sea Peoples. The Israelite conquest itself was a series of independent battles by the separate tribes for their independent portions of land (although the book of Joshua attempts to portray it as a unified conquest, something that is generally considered to be a later ideological reconstruction of events). Shagmar’s position in the list is open to debate, and it is just as likely that he was an oppressor of the Israelites as one of its judges.

(Additional information from Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897).)

fl c.1140 BC


First of the judges. 40 years.

c.1140 BC

The Israelites in the north are apparently under the rule of Aram-Nahara’im for eight years, until its king, Cushan-Rishataim, is defeated by Othniel.

fl c.1130 BC

Ehud ben Gera

Of the tribe of Benjamin. 80 years.

c.1130 BC

Ehud ben Gera assassinates the Moabite king and defeats his army in battle. Moab is again subjugated by Israel.


Led the Israelites against the Philistines. 10 years.


Guided her commander, Barak, to victory. 40 years.

c.1125 BC

Israel is temporarily subdued by Jabin, ‘king of Canaan‘, who rules his Canaanite coalition from the northern city ofHazor, ‘head of all those kingdoms’. His associate, Sisera, is routed in battle by Joshua at Merom, and Hazor itself is sacked and burned, possibly by the Israelites who then annexe it to their state. However, the Israelites are conquered by the Philistines who maintain vassal kings in Israel. Jerusalem is possibly freed from Israelite control at this stage, as King David is forced to re-conquer it in 975 BC.


Defeated the Midianites. Declined kingship. 40 years.

Upon the death of Gideon, his son, Abimelech, is proclaimed king. One of his first acts is to murder his brothers, seventy in number, ‘on one stone’, at Ophrah. Only one of them bu the name of Jotham escapes. Abimelech is an unprincipled, ambitious ruler, one who is often engaged in war with his own subjects. When engaged in reducing the town of Thebez, which had revolted, he is struck mortally on his head by a millstone that is thrown by the hand of a woman from the wall above. Perceiving that the wound is mortal, he desires his armour-bearer to thrust him through with his sword so that it might not be said he has perished by the hand of a woman.


Son. Killed by his own people at Thebez. 3 years.


Minor judge. 23 years.


Minor judge. 22 years.


Leader also during peacetime. 6 years.

c.1115 BC

The Israelite tribe of Menasseh defeats Og the Amorite and conquers the Syrian city of Bashan. This victory, when combined with that over Sihon the Amorite in Ammon gives them possession of the country east of the Jordan, from Arnon to the foot of Hermon.


Minor judge. 7 years.


Minor judge. 10 years.


Minor judge. 8 years.

fl c.1110 BC


Son of Manoah. Of the tribe of Dan. Died freeing Israel. 20 years.

c.1110 BC

The first recorded event in Samson’s life is his marriage to a Philistine woman of Timnath. An unblessed marriage, his wife is soon taken from him and given ‘to his companion’. In echoes of modern Levantine politics, Samson takes revenge by burning the ‘standing corn of the Philistines’. They in turn ‘burn his wife and her father’. Her death is avenged ‘terribly’ by Samson. And so the cycle of violence rests for a while. Following this, Samson serves as a judge for the Israelites for twenty years before becoming infatuated with Delilah, and is betrayed by her. He meets his death leading the Israelites in freeing themselves from the control of the Philistines.


High priest & judge. Neck broken in an accident. 40 years.

c.1097 – 1095 BC

A civil war is fought in Israel.

c.1080 BC

Israel is subdued by the Midianites to the south (probably only on a very local and temporary basis).

c.1050 BC

Shiloh is a Canaanite town that has become the central sanctuary site of the Israelite confederacy during the period of the judges. Following the Israelite conquest of Canaan, the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant had been installed in Shiloh, but the Ark is now captured by the Philistines during a battle at Ebenezer (site unknown), and Shiloh is soon afterwards destroyed. Excavations at Khirbat Sayūn in modern Jordan during 1920-1932 suggest that Shiloh remains a ruin for several centuries. The Philistines decide to return the Ark after about seven months.

Ark of the Covenant
The Israelite Ark of the Covenant is the stuff of legend, but it does figure noticeably in the early centuries of Israel’s history and, despite being captured by the Philistines around 1050 BC, it seems that even they couldn’t hold onto it for long



Last judge with possible authority over all the tribes. 30 years.

c.1040 – 1035 BC

Joel & Abiah

Sons of Samuel. Judges in Beersheba only.

Kingdom of Israel
c.1035 – 928 BC

In circa 1035 BC the comparatively weak Israelites founded a small kingdom under Saul which also included the captured city of Hazor. This was partially in response to attacks from Ammon, which Saul realised could only be responded to with any effectiveness if the Israelite tribes were united. Once regained from the Philistines, another major threat, he made their capital the small walled city ofJerusalem. Much of the kingdom’s territory may have included the inland mountains, rather than the coastal strip which forms a key part of modern Israel.

According to Professor Mario Liverani, “There are no extra-biblical sources [specifically] mentioning the united kingdom of Judah and Israel, but maybe this is due to the fact that such sources never existed. In the tenth century BC Jerusalem was so small that only a palace and a temple possibly existed… If we read the biblical text critically but positively we may suggest a kingdom of limited dimensions, whose limits were Shechem and Beersheba.”

(Additional information by Sean B, and from the BBC documentary series, Bible’s Buried Secrets, first broadcast 15 March 2011.)

c.1035 – 1005 BC


Kingdom founder. Deposed.

Saul defeats Nahash, king of Ammon, after the citizens of the frontier city of Jabesh-Gilead call for assistance against the Ammonite army. He also hands Edom a defeat and possibly makes it a vassal of Israel.

c.1005 – 1003 BC

Ishbaal / Ish-bo’-sheth


c.1005 – 1003 BC

Ishbaal reigns over Israel for just two years and is opposed by David throughout. The latter king is proclaimed by Judah (suggesting the existence of a permanent division between the Israelites that is mentioned in further detail below, for 928 BC). Civil war sees David victorious and Ishbaal is murdered by his own captains. They are later punished by David.

c.1005 – 965 BC


Son of Jesse of Bethlehem.

990s BC

The Israelites under David take the city state of Dor and incorporate it into the kingdom. He also commits his parents to protect the king of Moab, Mizpeh, a possible relation of his, but this is the last time the two kingdoms appear to share friendly relations.

c.980 BC

Ammon is apparently conquered by Israel, despite assistance being supplied by the northern state of Aram Damascus. However, some archaeological findings suggest that the vast empire claimed by the Bible for David is impossible. With only small villages within the ‘kingdom’s’ borders and a potential army of a few hundred men, David simply does not have the manpower to create an empire, let alone maintain it. More recent findings, especially of the fortress city of Kirbet Qeiyafa, to the west of Jerusalem, suggest a measure of the opposite, that there may indeed have been a dedicated military force to aid David in building a small regional kingdom.

Kirbet Qeiyafa
Kirbet Qeiyafa has lain virtually undisturbed for three millennia and provides evidence of a fortress city in Davidian Israel


975 BC

David leads the Israelites to subdue the Philistines, regaining Jerusalem from a Jebusite king and making the city his capital. One of Israel’s allies in David’s reign is the Syrian city of Hamath, which remains a close friend for centuries afterwards. David also permanently subdues Edom, making it a dependency of Israel. To achieve any of this, David has first to subdue Goliath, the giant champion of the Philistines. Goliath is claimed as a resident or son of the Philistine city of Gath, one of the five royal cities, and perhaps the greatest of them at this time.

c.970? BC

David conquers the city of Zobah, although one of its military officers escapes and founds an important kingdom based upon Aram Damascus. This replaces the eclipsed Zobah as the main centre of Aramaean power in the Levant.

c.966 BC

Work starts on the construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

965 BC


Attempted to steal the throne.

965 – 928 BC


Son of David.

c.965? BC

Solomon meets the queen of Sheba (Saba) and according to legend becomes the father of Menelik, founder of theEthiopian empire.

Probably in the same decade, a ruler of the Philistine city of Gath named Achish is mentioned in connection with two servants of Shimei who flee to him. Shimei goes to Gath in pursuit of them, in breach of Solomon’s orders, and is subsequently put to death by Solomon.

c.955 BC

The First Temple of Jerusalem is completed, apparently by craftsmen from Sidon under King Hiram of Tyre, and houses the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon also enters into a matrimonial alliance with Sidon.

c.930s BC

Solomon’s elaborate building operations and lavish personal existence have already led to forced labour, high taxes, and increasing unrest amongst the populace. In the later years of his reign, his enemies increase, ‘divinely raised up to chasten him’. One of these is Rezon, the son of Eliada, a former officer of Zobah who has assumed control ofAram Damascus.

928 BC


Son of Solomon. Mother was Naamah the Ammonite.

928 – 925 BC

Because he fails to heed the demands of the people to rescind Solomon’s heavy tax and labour demands, the ten tribes of the north refuse to accept Rehoboam at the confirmation ceremony at Shechem and civil war ensues. Rehoboam is left with just the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south as the kingdom divides into Israel & Judah.

However, there is a possibility that the two kingdoms are never united. The Bible’s attitude towards the northern kingdom, and a sidelining of its major rulers and successes, suggests a level of antipathy always exists between the two regions. The story of David’s united kingdom may be propaganda, an attempt to back up later claims to a single Israel and all the territory that this may encompass.

Kingdom of Israel / Samaria
928 – 723 BC

Following the civil war which (according to the Bible) divided Israel, the capital of the rebellious north was initially Tirza (Tirzah), which the Israelites had conquered in the 1160s BC during the settlement period, but from 881 BC it became Samaria. The city of Bashan formed part of its northern territory at first, as did Moab and Ammon to the east, but Israel’s break-up allowed its enemy Damascus to greatly increase its own power. The situation was not helped by Samaria and Judah continuing their civil war, on and off, under successive rulers.

To help break the northern population’s ties with Jerusalem still further, Jeroboam I created two sanctuaries, at Bethel in the south (very close to the border with Judah), and Dan in the north, both important cultic centres. He introduced forms of worship which could easily be accepted by the people but which were also easily attacked by Judah as being idolatrous. However, it was in Judah, or by Judeans, that much of the Old Testament was written, so Samaria was often painted in unflattering tones.

Additionally, even the Old Testament is unable to completely hide the fact that polytheism seemed to be prevalent throughout Canaan, even Hebrew Canaan. The early god El, who unmasked himself as Yahweh to Abraham, may have had a consort called Asherah, and a court of lesser gods in the typical format of Canaanite societies. Perhaps Jeroboam was simply being more true to the origins of his people while the Babylonian period Judeans who wrote down the books that make up the Old Testament had a completely different viewpoint.

(Additional information from the BBC documentary series, Bible’s Buried Secrets, first broadcast 22 March 2011.)

928 – 907 BC

Jeroboam I

Son of Nebat. Former Ephramite chief of Solomon’s labour gangs.

c.925 BC

Egyptian Pharaoh Sheshonk mounts a full-scale invasion of the kingdom, mainly ignoring Judah to the south. Many treasures are captured but the Ark of the Covenant, contrary to some opinion, is not taken to Egypt.

Some modern scholars outside the orthodox Egyptologists and Biblical scholars prefer the idea that the Shishak who attacks Israel is probably not Sheshonk but Ramses II of Nineteenth Dynasty Egypt instead, placing the event a clear two centuries before the generally accepted date of Israel’s foundation as a kingdom and even further before the building of the First Temple into which the Ark is placed.

906 – 905 BC


Son. Killed by Philistines.

905 – 883 BC


While attacking Asa of Judah, Samaria loses some of its northern towns to Damascus, although this event goes unrecorded by the Bible, and Jeroboam probably has to make important concessions to the Damascene king, Ben-Hadad. Control over Ammon is also lost in about 880 BC.

Samaria excavations
General view of the 1933 excavations of the city of Samaria looking north


883 – 881 BC


Son. Murdered by the captain of chariots.

881 BC


Ruled for seven days. Suicide.

881 – 870 BC


Oppressor of the Moabites.

c.880 – 848 BC

Moab is oppressed by Omri and his son, Ahab. These two Israelite kings head a new dynasty in Samaria, and this is the first direct mention of Israelite rulers outside of the Old Testament. Omri also establishes closer ties with thePhoenicians at Tyre in an attempt to draw away some of Damascus‘ wealth and prosperity. The Assyrians make themselves known, referring to Samaria as Bit-Humri (‘House of Omri’), and his successors as Mar-Humri (‘Son of Omri’). Omri’s footprint in history makes him far more credible as a powerful early Israelite than his predecessor, Kind David, but he is barely mentioned by the Bible, which is written down by people from Judah.

870 – 848 BC


Son. m Jezebal, dau of king of Tyre. Killed by Assyrians.

855 – 854 BC

Ahab further strengthens Samaria’s position by concluding a treaty with Tyre which is cemented by marriage, and adding a protective alliance with Judah, sealed with the marriage of his daughter, Athalia, to Jehoram, the crown prince of Judah. In 855 BC, the long-awaited attack by Damascus arrives. After burning Hazor, King Ben-Hadad and 32 vassal kings suddenly appear before the gates of Samaria, but are strategically defeated twice in two years (this attack may be a misattribution by later editors of the Bible and may instead refer to the throwing off of Damascene domination by Jehoash in the early eighth century BC).

853 BC

Ahab is a member of an alliance of states which also includes AmmonArvadByblosDamascusEdomEgypt,Hamath, and Kedar. Together they fight Shalmaneser III of Assyria in a battle which consists of the largest known number of combatants to date, and is the first historical mention of the Arabs from the southern deserts. Despite claims to the contrary, the Assyrians are defeated, since they do not press on to their nearest target, Hamath.

850 BC

Damascus removes Bashan from Samarian control.

848 – 847 BC


Son. Weak and sickly. Moab rebels during his reign.

847 – 842 BC

Joram / Jehoram

Son of Ahab. Killed by Jehu.

c.847 BC

Joram, together with Jehoshaphat of Judah, and the king (or governor) of Edom, form a coalition which attempts to retake Moab by force, but despite some initial gains, the attempt is unsuccessful. Despite Old Testament claims to the contrary, Moab even invades and defeats Samaria.

842 – 814 BC



c.840 BC

Jehu puts an end to the house of Omri by massacring the entire royal family and seizing the throne. The only known survivor is Omri’s daughter, Athaliah, who is queen in Judah. Soon after his reign begins, Damascus takes all the Hebrew possessions east of the Jordan, ravaging Judah, and rendering Israel impotent. Later in his reign, Jehu is also represented on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III as submitting to Assyria, the only representation of an Israelite ruler in existence today.

814 – 800 BC


Son of Joram.

800 – 784 BC

Jehoash / Joash


During his reign, Jehoash is able to throw off dominion by Damascus as the powerful kingdom weakens. His son goes one step further by making Damascus a vassal.

784 – 748 BC

Jeroboam II


748 BC


Son. Ruled for 6 months.

748 BC


Ruled for 1 month. Killed.

748 – 738 BC


Son of Gadi.

738 BC

Samaria becomes a vassal of Assyria, but its kings are allowed to continue to rule.

738 – 733 BC



733 – 732 BC


Son of Remaliah.

734 BC

Pekah and Rezon II of Damascus form an anti-Assyrian coalition. They try to force Ahaz of Judah to join them but are stopped when Tiglath-Pileser III marches an army into the region. Over the next two years he re-conquers all the rebellious states, and takes Damascus.

732 – 723 BC


Ostensibly pro-Assyrian to assuage Tiglath-Pileser III.

722 – 721 BC

After Hoshea stops paying tribute, Samaria is invaded and eventually falls to Assyria. The ten (of twelve) Hebrew tribes in Israel are relocated by the Assyrians (27,290 inhabitants in all). A proportion of them are resettled in Mediain the Zagros Mountains, forced to walk all the way. It is often assumed that the rest may be massacred by the Assyrians, although it now seems more likely that they are eventually absorbed into general Assyrian society. In their place, the residents of the rebellious city of Hamath are shipped in, and it is these people who form the core of the later Samaritans. The former kingdom is divided into provinces: Megiddo (north-west), Samaria (west of the River Jordan), and Gilead (east of the River Jordan).

Kingdom of Judah
928 – 586 BC

From 925 BC Jerusalem was the capital of the southern division of two of the twelve Israelite tribes. It kept the conquered kingdom ofEdom as a dependency. The civil war which had divided Israel rumbled on with occasional flare-ups over successive generations, and weakened both states. After the fall of Samaria in 721 BC and the conquests by Assyria, Judah became the sole surviving Israelite state, existing only in Jerusalem, the rest of its former lands now being under Assyrian occupation. Its population was swelled by the pouring in of refugees escaping the Assyrian rule of Samaria. Only then did Jerusalem swell to become a great city.

928 – 911 BC


Retained only the southern part of the former united kingdom.

c.925 BC

Egyptian Pharaoh Shesonk mounts a full-scale invasion of Samaria, but mainly ignores Judah. Jerusalem is relatively untouched following a short siege by the invaders, although some Temple treasures are looted.

911 – 908 BC


Son. Fought against Israel.

908 – 867 BC



Baasha pushes Samaria‘s frontier to within five miles of Jerusalem Just like his father before him, when under pressure from Samaria, Asa calls on Damascus for help.

871 – 847 BC


Son. Joint rule for five years.

c.850 & c.847 BC

The Philistines sack Jerusalem about 850 BC. Around three years later, Jehoshaphat, together with Joram ofSamaria and the king (or governor) of Edom, form a coalition which attempts to retake Moab by force, but despite some initial gains, the attempt is unsuccessful.

846 – 843 BC


Son. m Athalia, dau of Ahab of Samaria.

843 – 842 BC



842 – 836 BC


Queen. Mother of Ahaziah & daughter of Omri of Samaria.

c.840 BC

Despite Old Testament claims to the contrary, Moab defeats Israel. Damascus also takes all the Hebrew possessions east of the Jordan, ravaging Judah, and rendering Israel impotent.

836 – 798 BC


Son of Ahaziah of Judah.

798 – 781 BC


Son. Murdered.

781 – 740 BC

Uzziah / Azariah / Azarias


740 BC

Uzziah is struck with leprosy in front of the Ark of the Covenant and dies soon afterwards.

740 – 736 BC

Jotham / Yotham


736 – 716 BC



733 BC

Judah becomes a vassal of Assyria, but the king remains on the throne.

721 BC

Sennacherib of Assyria conquers all of Israel and Judah except the city of Jerusalem itself, to which he lays siege. As documented by Isaiah (who wrote the Book of Isaiah chapters 1-39 himself at this time), Hezekiah addresses the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Solomon and Sennacherib’s forces are decimated, whether by plague or the power of the Ark itself is unknown. With much of the rest of the Israelite lands remaining occupied, the Jewish faith and their god, Yahweh, survive only in this one small pocket which is now little more than a city state.

716 – 687 BC


Lands reduced.

716 – 702 BC

Hezekiah has dealings with the usurper king of Babylonia, Marduk-apla-iddina II (Merodach-Baladan), between these dates. In 701, Hezekiah’s refusal to pay tribute to Assyria leads to Sennacherib besieging Jerusalem until the wayward king capitulates.

687 – 642 BC


Son of Hezekiah. Crowned at the age of twelve.

687 – 642 BC

The first Jewish monarch to turn his back on the established faith, Manasseh introduces pagan idols and worship, and persecutes the prophets, leading a sustained campaign against the worship of Yahweh.

It seems possible that the Ark of the Covenant is withdrawn from Jerusalem by 650 BC by its Levite protectors. At the same time, Israelites are known to have settled in Egypt, on the island of Elephantine.

642 – 640 BC


Son. Assassinated by royal household for his paganism.

640 – 609 BC


Son. Killed by Nech of Egypt.

640 – 609 BC

Josiah is aged eight when he succeeds to the throne. The Bible books Deuteronomy and I Kings are compiled during his reign, which sees a return to established religious practices – with some modernising – but the king is later killed fighting Egypt.

c.626 BC

Jeremiah composes at least part of his eponymous Biblical book at the start of his prophetic ministry.

609 – 608 BC

Jehoahaz II

Third son of Josiah. Ruled for 3 months.

608 BC

Necho of Babylon deposes Jehoahaz.

608 – 597 BC


Son of Josiah. Rebellion against Babylonian rule.

597 BC


Son. Ruled 3 months. Taken into captivity in Babylon.

597 BC

For its continued support of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar invades and occupies Jerusalem (with the help of Ammon), showing no hesitation in stripping the city of its treasures. The Judeans are made vassals under Babylonia, and 10,000 subjects are shipped to Babylon, including the ruling elite.

597 – 586 BC

Zedekiah / Sedecias

Son of Josiah. Babylonian puppet king.

587/586 BC

Zedekiah rebels against Babylonian overlordship and Jerusalem is sacked by Babylonia. Zedekiah himself is captured and forced to watch the execution of his children before his eyes are poked out. Much of the population is moved to Babylon. Judah becomes a province of Babylon. The First Temple is burnt to the ground after being pillaged.

Babylonian Governors of Judah
586 – ? BC

The first governor, Gedaliah, appears to have served in a high position within the Judahite royal court at least as early at 600 BC. An inscription with his name has been found at Lachish, to the south-west of Jerusalem. Other references to him suggest he supported a more conciliatory approach to the Babylonians. Gedaliah’s story is told in 2 Kings 25:22-26 and Jeremiah 39:13-14; and 40:1-41:18. He is introduced as Gedaliah son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, a prominent scribe of the period and the head of a household that supported both Josiah’s religious reforms and the prophet Jeremiah.

586 BC

Gedaliah ben Achikam

Babylonian governor of Judah. Based in Mitzpah.

586 – 538 BC

Gedaliah is killed by the remaining populace during a rebellion which is instigated by Baalis of Ammon. In retribution, even more of the population is shipped to Babylon. Jehoiachin and his successor are termed princes ofJudah while the tribes are held in Babylon.

Princes of Judah in Exile
597 – 539 BC

This was a period of occupation and overlordship for Judah, firstly from Babylonia, then Persia, the Greek empire, Ptolemaic Egypt, and the Seleucid empire in Syria, before the Maccabaean revolt gave the Judeans a free state once again, albeit a small one.

The shock of their defeat by Babylon went deeper than simply losing their territory and freedom. Their god, Yahweh, had been defeated by alien gods (although their own view was that they had been defeated for not being true to Yahweh and had failed to keep the Sabbath). Perhaps a radical change was needed in the way Hebrews worshipped. During this period, the books that made up the Old Testament were assembled from writings which covered the previous five or six centuries. However, the Hebrews who managed this were probably, and perhaps suddenly, leaning towards a monotheistic message, and a rejection of the polytheism that had gone before. The Old Testament is littered with examples of text that seems to have been amended to cover up that previous polytheism, even to the extent that Yahweh’s consort is obscured. It seems more likely that the true monotheism that Hebrews, Christians, and Muslims follow today was only truly solidified by the second century BC, perhaps during the Maccabaean period.

(Additional information by Sean B, from the BBC documentary series, Bible’s Buried Secrets, first broadcast 22 March 2011, and from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983).)

597 – 560 BC


‘Prince of Judah’.

560 – after 537 BC


‘Prince of Judah’. Became Persian governor in 539 BC.

539 – 538 BC

Persia‘s Cyrus the Great enters Babylon. Cyrus adopts an enlightened attitude to his subjects and allows the Judeans to return to Jerusalem, after officially handing over all their captured idols and treasures. He also proclaims that they can rebuild their temple. This policy is probably to encourage pro-Persian support in the Levant, a region which bears distinctly pro-Egyptian sympathies.

537 – 520 BC

Sheshbazzar is instructed by Cyrus the Great to begin construction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, sited over the ruins of the First Temple. He is supplied with the store of gold and silver vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had removed. In 520 BC, Zorobabel, Hebrew by birth of the House of David, is commanded to complete the now-stalled work on the temple. His superior would be Tattenai of Ebir-nāri.

520 – ? BC

Zorobabel / Zerubbabel

House of David. Satrap of Judah for Persia.

c.517 BC

The Second Temple is completed and the population at last know for certain that the Ark of the Covenant has been lost when it is not available to be re-sited inside the new temple’s Holy of Holies. They already had doubts, knowing as they did that it had not been taken into captivity with them.

Great Jews & High Priests of Judah
c.515 – 159 BC

From the time of Ezra and Nehemiah until the conquest of the region by Alexander the Great the religious leaders and teachers of the Jewish people were the Great Assembly and the Sopherim (the Great Jews or Great Priests), who could trace their descent from theJudges of pre-kingdom Israel. The great priests disappeared under Hellenic control, and it was realised that a new institution of a similar nature was required in order to maintain religious unity and teach the law, so the Sanhedrin was formed (the High Priests). However, under the Greek empire and its Seleucid descendant, Judean culture and religion was under pressure to Hellenise. The chronology down to the Greek conquest is disputed, but this version seems to be the most reliable.

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), and from External LinkEncyclopædia Britannica.)

c.515 – 490 BC

Jeshua / Joshua

Son of High Priest Jehozadak.

c.490 – 470 BC



c.470 – 433 BC



459 BC

Ezra, a ‘scribe’, leads the second body of exiled Israelites back to Jerusalem from Babylon. He also writes the Book of Ezra, and according to tradition collects and edits the books of the Old Testament.

446 – 433 BC

Nehemiah / Nechemiah

Persian governor of Judah. Author of the Book of Nemiah.

446 – 444 BC

Nehemiah, probably of the house of Judah, is appointed governor of Judea by Artaxerxes I of Persia. Despite hindrance from Ammon, he commands that Jerusalem be rebuild and restored, and this process ends with the restoration of the city’s walls in 444 BC. After his period of governorship is over, he returns to Persia, but has to revisit Judea two years later to put right the abuses of power that have taken place in his absence.

c.433 – 410 BC



431 – 413? BC

Nehemiah / Nechemiah

Second governorship. Governed until his death?

Judea is annexed to the satrapy of Coele-Syria, and is governed by the high priest under the jurisdiction of the governor of Syria. The internal government of the country became more and more a hierarchy.

c.410 – 371 BC

Jonathan / Johanan

Son of Eliashib.

410 BC

Correspondence between the Jewish community at Elephantine in Egypt and Jerusalem ceases.

c.371 – 320 BC

Jaddua / Jaddus

Son. Sometimes identified as Simeon Justus.

333 – 332 BC

In 334 BC Alexander of Macedon launches his campaign into the Persian empire by crossing the Dardanelles. Much of Anatolia falls by 333 BC and Alexander proceeds into Syria during 333-332 BC to receive the submission of Ebir-nāri, which also gains him Harran, Judah, and Phoenicia (principally Byblos and Sidon, with Tyre holding out until it can be taken by force). AthuraGaza, and Egypt also capitulate (not without a struggle in Gaza’s case). With Judah having been captured, the Great Assembly and Sopherim disappear.

c.320 – 280 BC

Onias I

Son of Jaddua.

312 BC

Alexander’s former general, Ptolemy of Egypt, conquers Jerusalem and grants the people autonomy.

c.280 – 260 BC

Simon I the Just / Simeon Justus


c.260 – 245 BC



c.245 – 240 BC


Son of Jaddua.

c.240 – 218 BC

Onias II

Son of Simon.

218 – 185 BC

Simon II

Son of Onias II.

198 BC

Antiochus III of the Seleucid empire invades Coele Syria as part of the Fifth Syrian War and defeats Ptolemaic General Scopas at Panion near the source of the River Jordan in 200 BC. This gains him control of Palestine andPhoenicia, and Antiochus grants special rights to the Jewish temple state. The Sanhedrin is established around three years later, officiated over by the High Priests.

185 – 175 BC

Onias III

Son. Murdered near Antioch in 170 BC.

175 BC

As well as founding many cities and colonies across the empire, Antiochus IV also introduces a steady Hellenisation of the Seleucid empire, especially of its Oriental (eastern) peoples. Various eastern temple organisation are riled by this, and none more so than that of Palestine. They are loath to relinquish the relative freedoms that they have enjoyed since the time of Antiochus III. At this time they are divided into two parties, the orthodox Hasideans (the Pious Ones) and a reform party that favours Hellenism. Onias III now comes into conflict with the Seleucid authorities and is replaced by his brother and later murdered. The Seleucids believe they have the authority to appoint high priests of their choice, breaking the hereditary nature of the position.

175 – 172 BC



172 BC

Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV has been in favour of the reform party that is headed by Jason, but now his rival Menelaus is appointed in his place. This is in return for an even greater payment of tribute than that given by Jason for the post.

172 – 162 BC

Menelas / Menelaus

Originally called Onias, according to Josephus.

Onias IV

Son of Onias III.

Onias IV flees to Egypt and founds a temple at Leontopolis (which survives until AD 66).

167 BC

While Antiochus IV has been campaigning in Egypt, former high priest Jason has conquered Jerusalem, other than the citadel, and has murdered many adherents of his rival, Menelaus. Upon Antiochus’ return in 167 BC he storms Jerusalem and enforces its Seleucid Hellenisation. The city forfeits its privileges and is permanently garrisoned bySyrian soldiers. The Jews see this action as a defilement of Jerusalem. The Maccabaean revolt begins and a splinter state of Judea is formed, governed by rulers who do not belong to the Israelite royal houses.

Hasmonaean (Jewish Independent / Maccabaean) Dynasty
165 – 37 BC

Antiochus IV had tried to introduce Hellenic culture into Jerusalem as part of a steady process of Helenicising the entire empire, especially its eastern provinces. In Jerusalem the Sanhedrin itself became heavily Hellenised, but the populace in general distrusted such attempts to change their way of life. This distrust degenerated into open revolt when all worship of Yaweh was banned on pain of death, and an altar to Zeus Olympios was erected in the Temple itself.

The resulting Maccabaean revolt split Judea away from Seleucid control. Judas Maccabeus led the anti-Greek Jews and the angered Hasideans in a guerrilla war, and several times they were able to defeat Seleucid generals who had been sent to stop them. Judas refused a partial amnesty and instead conquered Judea, with the exception of the Acra in Jerusalem. In December 164 BC he was able to tear down the altar of Zeus and re-consecrate the Temple, and the Jews were able to recreate their own independent state based around Jerusalem.

(Additional information from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, and from External LinksEncyclopædia Britannica, andAppian’s History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at, and Diodorus of Sicily at the Library of World History.)

167 – 166 BC

Mattatia Maccabeus

165 – 160 BC

Judas Maccabeus

Freed Judea of Seleucid rule. Killed.

162 BC

The reign of young Antiochus V of the Seleucid empire is a busy one. Recognised by Rome in favour of his uncle, Demetrius, he and his regent, Lysias, then suffer the revolt of Timarchus, satrap of Media in 163 BC. They win a victory in the war against Judas Maccabeus at Beth-Zechariah in 162 BC, but then Antiochus’ advisor, Philip, revolts in Antioch. A peace treaty is agreed with the Maccabaeans, giving them favourable terms because the Seleucid troops are needed in Antioch and Media. Antiochus is killed by his own uncle before he can use those troops.

Jerusalem of the Hasmonaean period was an expanding city with a burgeoning population and a thriving spirit of independence that was supported by the lack of Seleucid coordination and ability to recapture the city


162 – 159 BC


High priest of Judah, seemingly with Seleucid backing. Died.

160 BC

On 27 March, Judas Maccabeus defeats a Seleucid force under Nicanor at Adasa, killing the Greek general in the process. Is this when Ammon is conquered and drawn into the kingdom. In less than a year, Judus himself is killed at Elasa by another Seleucid force under the command of Bacchides. Jonathan Apphus succeeds his brother.

160 – 143 BC

Jonathan Apphus

Brother. Killed.

152 BC

The rebellion of Seleucid pretender Alexander Balas really gets underway in 152 BC. He is supported by Egypt andRome, both of whom are only too happy to see chaos and confusion within Seleucid territory, as well as byCappadocia. Jonathan Apphus of Judea also supports the rebel, and in return is recognised as high priest of Judah. This serves as official recognition of the Hasmonaeans and unites their leadership with the position of high priest. Judea subsequently enjoys several years of peace, especially when Seleucid ruler Demetrius is defeated near Antioch.

146 – 145 BC

The son of Demetrius, Demetrius II, begins a revolt against Alexander Balas, ruler of the Seleucid empire. Demetrius’ general, Apollonius, is defeated by Jonathan Apphus, but Alexander’s position grows increasingly tenuous. He attempts to flee at the start of 145 BC but is killed by Nabateans.

142 – 134 BC

Simon Thassi


142 BC

Seleucid rival claimant Antiochus VI has already been recognised in Antioch (in 145 BC), and Demetrius has been forced to flee to Seleucia near Babylon, although he only makes it thanks to soldiers from Judea who save his life. In 142 BC, despite the killing of Jonathan Apphus of Jerusalem, the Maccabees remain uncontested there once Demetrius recognises his successor and withdraws the Seleucid garrison for his war efforts. This, in effect, is a de facto recognition of Jerusalem’s independence.

134 BC

Antiochus VII is the last Seleucid emperor of the east. He invades Judea in 134 BC and besieges Jerusalem. John Hyrcanus is made high priest, but Antiochus makes no other intervention into the religious sphere of Jewish life. After the death of the Arsacid King Mithradates I in 132 BC, Antiochus goes on to launch a campaign to recover lost Seleucid domains in the east.

134 – 104 BC

John Hyrcanus I


126 – 123 BC

Despite the apparent victory of Seleucid pretender Alexander II at Tyre and Damascus, he is unable to conquer Syriaeven with the support of John Hyrcanus in Judea. Seleucus V has succeeded his father, although ‘only’ as co-ruler with his mother, Cleopatra Thea. The war goes on, mostly well to the north of Judea.

109 BC

The Seleucid civil war continues through 111-109 BC, while Antiochus IX and his ally, Ptolemy IX Soter of Egypt, support the Samarians against John Hyrcanus of Judea, until Rome intervenes on the side of the Jews and against Antiochus IX and the Samarians (of the former northern Jewish kingdom of Samaria). At the same time, Idumaea is drawn into the Hasmonaean kingdom.

104 – 103 BC

Aristobulus I


103 – 76 BC

Alexander Jannæus


93 BC

The Nabataean King Obodas defeats Alexander Jannaeus and gains control of the Hauran and Jebal Druze.Seleucid ruler Demetrius also involves himself against Alexander Jannæu, but he soon has to break off to return to the Seleucid civil war.

76 – 67 BC

John Hyrcanus II


67 – 63 BC

Aristobulus II


63 – 40 BC

John Hyrcanus II


63 BC

Rome invades Palestine, making it a province. Hyrcanus rules by Roman decree.

40 – 37 BC


Son of Aristobulus.

37 BC

The Herodite Dynasty, originating from Idumaea, is set up to control the area as a puppet state. The line of high priests continues, but is no longer in charge of Judea.

Herodite Dynasty of Judea
37 BC – AD 44?

Son of the Hasmonaean official, Antipater the Idumaean, Herod was set up as a puppet ruler by Rome. Despite being pro-Cassius during the civil war between the supporters of Julius Caesar and his murderers, Rome felt that it was important to retain Herod’s services in order to keep the anti-Roman nobility suppressed. Herod was able to appoint the governor of Idumaea as part of his duties. During various periods of his reign and that of his descendants, Judea was sometimes also given control of the client kingdom of Batanaea, just beyond the Golan Heights.

(Additional information by Dana Grohol, and from the BBC documentaries, The Lost Gospels and The Dead Sea Scrolls, both first screened in 2006, and from External LinkCatholic Online.)

37 – 4 BC

Herod the Great

FeatureBrought in from Idumaea to rule.

37 BC

Herod begins the renovation of the Temple, and the expansion of the Temple Mount.

c.11 – 6 BC

Jesus, the son of Mary and her husband, Joseph the carpenter (whatever his role in the actual conception of the child), is viewed by some of his peers in Judea as the messiah foretold in the Old Testament. The exact dates relating to him are uncertain, but the year of his birth is traditionally accepted as being 11 BC or 7 BC. However, the census of Quirnius is held in 6 BC, which is the event that forces Mary and Joseph to return home when the former is heavily pregnant.

The birth most likely takes place around September, as there is mention of sheep and shepherds being out overnight. In winter the sheep would have been kept indoors overnight so the temperature is clearly too warm for this, and the weather is still convenient for travel. The name of the newborn child is probably more correctly pronounced as Joshua or Yeshua in the original Hebrew, before being passed through Greek, Latin and English.

4 BC – AD 6

Herod Archelaus

Son of Herod. Puppet under Roman Procurator’s rule.

AD 6? – 34


Son of Herod. Puppet. Also governed Batanaea.

26 – 36

Pontius Pilatus (Pilate) is appointed as the fifth Roman prefect or procurator of Judea. The ‘Pilate Stone’, a carved limestone block found by archaeologists at the site of Caesarea Maritima in 1961, confirms Pilate’s existence outside of the New Testament. It is likely that Caesarea Maritima serves as his main centre of operations

c.30 – 33

FeatureGenerally accepted by historians to be a healer, Jesus starts to preaches the restoration of God’s kingdom (probably meaning a restoration of the church organisation within Judea, He is soon viewed with suspicion by the Jewish authorities, along with the occupying Romans, and is arrested, tried and executed by crucifixion about AD 33, the operation being ordered by the Jewish government, and overseen by the Romans.

Jesus of Nazareth
The teachings of Jesus (whatever his true nature) drew a large following amongst the occupied peoples of Judea and inspired the creation of a new church


c.33 – 42

Whether the plans of Jesus had included founding an entirely new church or not, this is what happens, although its birth is clouded in obscurity. Looking at the so-called lost gospels which are later discovered in modern Egypt, it seems that Jesus may have intended Mary Magdalene, a disciple (and more controversially, perhaps even his wife – the Gnostic Gospel of Philip describes her as Jesus’ ‘companion’ – which has the same meaning), to head his movement (either to restore the Judean church or to become the focal point of his new church).

Mary is supported by Jesus’ brothers, most notably James, but according to the Gnostic writings of the second or third centuries, tensions have long existed between Peter and the male disciples on one side, and Mary and possible female disciples on the other side. Now that Jesus is not around to keep the peace, a power struggle apparently ensues between them. Ultimately, the group headed by Peter wins. Mary and James and their more inclusive church are sidelined, and a male-dominated, hierarchical church emerges, with Peter at its head. He is later acclaimed as the first official Bishop of Rome.

At the same time, one of the best known legends regarding the beginnings of the British Church is the visit paid by Joseph of Arimathea following the death of Jesus. Joseph is only mentioned in this role for the first time in the ninth century, in the Life of Mary Magdalene which is attributed to Archbishop Rabanus Maurus of Mainz (766-856). Earlier writers fail to say anything about it, so its veracity is open to a very large degree of doubt.

FeatureAccording to myth, legend, and later stories, Joseph travels west, presumably following the ancientPhoenician trading routes to Gaul. He lands at Messalina (Marseille) where he delivers to safety Mary Magdalene and her infant child, the offspring of Jesus (whose descendants, it is claimed, marry into theMerovingians and feature in the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and Da Vinci Code controversy). According to William of Malmesbury in his Chronicle of the English Kings, Joseph travels on to reach south-west Britain where later literature claims he founds Glastonbury Abbey.

34? – 39

Herod Antipas

Son of Herod. Puppet.

39? – 44

Agrippa I

Grandson of Herod. Puppet.

40 – 43

Apostle Peter leads the first Christians in Galilee in AD 40. By the following year, the expansion of Jerusalem continues under Agrippa l. James leads the Jerusalem Christian community in AD 43.

Roman Judea
AD 44 – 636

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from External LinkListverse.)

66 – 73

The First Jewish Uprising against Rome leads to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (AD 70). The Roman general Titus crushes the revolt, and many Jews are taken as captives to Rome. In AD 68, Josephus begins hisHistory of the Jewish War. By AD 73, the revolt reaches its bloody conclusion at the Masada fortress near the Dead Sea, when it is finally captured by Rome after the defenders commit mass suicide.

132 – 135

Simon bar Kochba

Leader of the Second Jewish Uprising.

132 – 135

FeatureThe Second Jewish Uprising is led by Simon bar Kochba against Roman rule. He captures Jerusalem and establishes a short-lived independent state. Roman armies under Emperor Hadrian which include the former governor of Britain, Sextus Julius Severus, raze Jerusalem and the emperor builds the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina on the site. A pagan temple dedicated to Jupiter is built on the site of the Jewish Temple Mount itself, and the Jews are driven out of Jerusalem. By AD 136, although Rome forbid Jews to enter Jerusalem, Christian pilgrims are permitted entrance.

The reasons for the uprising are unknown, but Roman treatment of the Jews is generally suspected as being the main cause. Another reason may be the establishment of the pagan temple and the colony of Aelia Capitolina. This appears to be named after the Emperor Hadrian, whose full name is Publius Aelius Hadrianus. Conversely, both these two reasons may be the results of the revolt – punitive action taken by Hadrian after the event.

Hadrian inscription
The missing half of the inscription to Hadrian was found recycled into a floor around a cistern opening, north of the Damascus gate in Jerusalem


The suspicion that construction of Aelia Capitolina is begun before the revolt is supported by an archaeological discovery in 2014. Excavating north of the Damascus Gate, a large limestone fragment is found that commemorates Hadrian. The other half of the fragment had already been found in the 1800s. In its original form, the stone slab may be part of a gateway, but at some point it is recycled into a floor around an opening for a cistern. It is dedicated to Hadrian in 129-130 by Legio X Fretensis and states ‘To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus… high priest, invested with tribunician power for the fourteenth time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the Tenth Legion Fretensis Antoniniana’.

132/133 – ?

Sextus Julius Severus

Former Governor of Britain.


The centre of Jewish life moves to Galilee. Rabbi Judah HaNasi presides over a reconstituted Sanhedrin, or high court.


Palestine falls under the jurisdiction of Eastern Roman empire.

Islamic Palestine
AD 636 – 1810


Jerusalem falls to the Islamic empire.

674 – 677

The capital of the Islamic empire moves to Damascus and an Arab aristocratic government is established there. Syria is divided into four districts: Damascus, Homs, Jordan, and Palestine.


In the same year as Iraq is brought fully back under Umayyad control, the Dome of the Rock is completed in Jerusalem, on the site of the former Jewish Second Temple (destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD 70). It survives to this day, making it the oldest existing Islamic building in the world, and probably the holiest.

The Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem



As his reward for the successful Abbasid conquest of Fustat in Egypt, Saleh ibn Ali ibn Abdullah is made wali of Palestine.

751 – 753

Saleh ibn Ali ibn Abdullah

Wali of Egypt (750, 753-755) & Syria (753).


al-Hakam ibn Da’ban

Defeated by Saleh.

754 – 755

Saleh ibn Ali ibn Abdullah, wali of Egypt, is the uncle of Abbasid Caliph Abdullah as Saffah, but the caliph dies in 754. Saleh’s brother, Abdallah, launches a revolt in Syria against the new caliph, claiming that he himself is the rightful successor. Saleh refuses to join his brother’s revolt. Instead he enters Syria to help suppress it, defeating Abdallah’s governor of Palestine, al-Hakam ibn Da’ban. Abdallah is also defeated and is forced to submit to the new caliph.

877 – 878

Abbasid troops are sent against Ahmed ibn-Tuluh, governor of Egypt, because he has failed to send enough tribute to Baghdad. Defeating them, the following year he invades and captures Palestine and Syria.


The Tulunids in Egypt are weakened by this stage following years of mismanagement of the country. Egypt is invaded and Wali Shayban retreats to Fustat where he surrenders on 10 January 905. The Tulunid dynasty of governors and semi-independent rulers is ended and loyal and obedient Abbasid governors are installed.


Thanks to the murder of the Aghlabid ruler of Ifriqiyya, Abdullah, and Ziyadat’s massacring of his brothers and uncles, the Aghlabids have lost all prestige in the eyes of the people. Ifriqiyya is conquered by the Fatimids, who quickly also conquer MoroccoSyriaAlgeria, and Arabia. Ziyadat escapes, but dies in Palestine while failing to secure support to recapture his territory.

933 – 935

Abbasid control of Egypt proves to be short-lived when the country falls under the control of the Mameluke dynasty of Turkic governors who are allowed to rule in a semi-independent manner. From 935, under the Turkic slave soldier, Muhammad ibn Tughj al Ikhshid, Egypt also gains control of Palestine and Syria.

fl 1028

Anushtegin ad-Dizbari

Also Anushtakin al-Duzbari. Governor of Palestine & Syria.

1028 – 1029

The Arab rebellion in Syria is crushed by the newly-appointed Fatamid Turkish governor of Syria and Palestine, Anushtegin ad-Dizbari, with victory coming in 1029. The success gives the new governor control of Syria, which is not something that pleases his Fatamid masters. However, his authority and leadership is welcomed by the people of Damascus itself, who are probably relieved to find some stability after several years of uncertainty.


Anushtegin ad-Dizbari is exiled to Aleppo where he dies, giving his Fatamid masters revenge for his success of 1029.

fl 1072

Badr al-Jamali

Former governor of Syria. First Fatamid military vizier.


Desperate to resolve the ongoing situation in Cairo, Caliph al Mustansir recalls General Badr al-Jamali. He successfully puts down the various rebel factions, clearing out much of the Turkic presence at the same time. However, the caliphate has been seriously weakened by the revolt. Badr al-Jamali becomes the first military vizier of the caliphate (along much the same lines as the magistri militum of the late Western Roman empire, and they dominate the caliphate in much the same way as the late Roman emperors had been dominated). The military viziers become the heads of state in Egypt in all but name, with the the caliph reduced to the role of figurehead.

1071 – 1099

Jerusalem is conquered by the Seljuq Turks.

1096 – 1244

The First Crusade. The County of Edessa is created in 1098. Jerusalem is captured in 1099.

1228 – 1229

The Fifth Crusade hits the region and Jerusalem is ceded to the Christians at Acre while the Ayyubids squabble amongst themselves. For allowing Jerusalem to fall into Christian hands, al Kamil I (Nasir ad Din) of Egypt is vilified by many Muslims, but it brings peace with the Crusaders.

From the moment of his accession in 1227, al Nasir II of Damascus has faced opposition from his uncle, al Kamil I. The latter attacks him, taking Jerusalem (before handing it over to the Christians) and Nablus. Appealing to another uncle, al Ashraf, the ruler of Harran, al Nasir is betrayed when both uncles team up. Damascus is besieged between late 1228 and June 1229, when it falls. As agreed, al Kamil takes Palestine and al Ashraf gains Damascus and the north, acknowledging his brother as overlord. Al Nasir is compensated with the emirate of Kerak in the Transjordan.


As Salih II Ismail of Damascus is quickly reconciled with an Nasir Dawud after the latter has fallen out with Ayyub. Together they decide to curtail Ayyub’s ambition to conquer further Ayyubid territories. In July, Ismail reaches an agreement with Jerusalem so that the Crusaders will protect southern Palestine from Ayyub’s possible attacks. The price is high, though, as he is forced to cede all of the land west of the Jordan (won by Saladin in 1187), including Gaza, Jerusalem, and Nablus, along with his own fortresses at Hunin, Safad, and Tiberias. He is denounced throughout the Arab world for his actions.


Judah is ruled by the Abuyyids.


The Jews are expelled from Spain. Looking for new places to settle, some Jewish communities return to Palestine. During the course of the subsequent century they put down roots in the major cities in the region including Jerusalem.


Ottoman Sultan Selim I is impressed with Djanbirdi al-Ghazali and his loyalty to his former Mameluke masters until they bore no true authority during the Ottoman invasion. The former viceroy of Hama is made governor of the province of Damascus which includes a great deal of the Levant between central Syria and Palestine and Transjordan. His first act is to subdue the Turkmen nomads in the region so that the pilgrim caravan can travel safely to Mecca.

? – 1660?

‘Arab Hasan Pasha

1660? – 1663

Husayn Pasha

Son. Deposed and executed by Musa Pasha.

1663 – late 1670s

Musa Pasha

Brother. Stood down his post.


Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid leads a large group of about 1,500 Jews into Jerusalem, swelling the existing population there.

Mütesarrifs of Jerusalem
AD 1810 – 1917

The mütesarrifs were the lieutenant-governors of Jerusalem during the Ottoman empire period of rule in the region. Overall governance of modern IsraelLebanon, and Syria was initially handled by the wali of Damascus, with the mütesarrifs acting as sub-commanders in various regions. Jerusalem’s territory covered southern and central Palestine and included the cities of Beersheba, Bethlehem, Gaza, Hebron, and Jaffa.

The mütesarrif of Jerusalem was not generally resident in Jerusalem. They preferred nearby Ramla for this, a city founded between 705-715 by the Umayyad caliphs, probably Sulayman (the city today is inside the borders of Israel). This is perhaps not surprising, as Jerusalem (and the Holy Land in general) had declined to a backward state. The land outside the city was largely deserted and poor, with banditry a common problem. Plagues were an even more common problem, sometimes taking a heavy toll in lives. Cities and towns other than Jerusalem and Gaza dwindled, and entire villages in the largely rural economy were abandoned.


Kanj Ahmad Agha


Abdul Karim Agha


Hakimoglu Mustafa Agha


Sülayman Afand


Ali Afand


Muhammad Sa’d

Acting mütesarrif.


Ismail Bey


Uthman Agha

1826 – 1827

Abdul Ibrahim Agha


Ismail Afand


Safi Muhammad Agha

1827 – 1831

Abdullah Pasha

Governor of Gaza and Jaffa (1818-1821).


Mustafa Afand


1829 – 1831

Abdul Ibrahim Agha


1831 – 1840

Husaum `Abd al-Hadi



Sheykh Said al Mustafa



Yahya Bey



Muhammad Sa’ad Agha

Mütesarrif. Ousted by an Arab revolt.


Qasim al-Ahmad seizes Jerusalem after leading his forces from Nablus during an Arab revolt in Palestine. Less than a month later, Jerusalem is captured along with Damascus by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt (between May and June) on behalf of Muhammad Ali Pasha. They are annexed to Egypt and Jerusalem subsequently operates on an autonomous basis. The Ottomans retain only nominal suzerainty. The relative freedom in the city now allows the first foreign consulates to be founded, and four Jewish synagogues are given permission to be renovated soon afterwards (in 1836).

Despite being the favoured residence of the mütesarrifs, Ramla was not especially well-developed in the nineteenth century outside the residence itself



Qasim al-Ahmad

Captured Jerusalem during the Arab revolt.


Muhammad al-Qasim bin Qasim al-Ahmad



Yusuf al Qasim bin Qasim al-Ahmad



Jabr Abu Ghosh


Mustafa Agha al Sa’ad


Muhammad Ali Agha al Dizdr

1838 – 1840

The position of governor of Damascus falls vacant again, and on 10 October 1840 the Ottoman empire regains direct authority over the city and its territory, including Jerusalem. Despite this, increasing numbers of Jews begin to drift back to Jerusalem, and they become the subject of international political interest and support.

1838 – 1839

Ahmad Agha al-Asal al Dizdr

1841 – 1842?

Mehmed Tayyar Pasha

1843? – 1843

Reshid Pasha

In office until Dec.

1843 – 1844?

Haider Pasha


As’ad Pasha

1845 – 1847

Mehmed Pasha Kibrizli

1847 – 1848?

Mustafa Zarif

1847 – 1849

Bahri Pasha

1849 – 1851

Adham Pasha


The district of East Jerusalem outside the Old City walls is only able to begin to appear after 1850 when theOttoman authorities allow structures to be built within 850 metres of the walls. Construction is not begun immediately, however, and probably takes more than a decade to become appreciable.

1851 – 1853

Hafiz Ahmed Pasha

1853 – 1854

Rashid Pasha


Yakub Pasha Osmanoglu

Between Mar-Oct.

1855 – 1857?

Kiamil Pasha

1857 – 1864

Surayya Pasha


Jerusalem has become an intensely crowded city within its old walls. Sir Moses Montefiore, an AngloItalianphilanthropist in the Holy Land, builds an almshouse in what becomes the Mishkenot Sha’ananim district, and settlement outside the walls begins. The migration out of the Old City is slow at first, with many scared of bandit raids against the undefended suburb. A gate built around it which is locked at night assuages some of the fear, while payments smooth the way for the rest.

Damascus Gate in 1860
This view of the Damascus Gate in 1860 shows that Jerusalem was still confined behind the Old City walls, afraid to develop outside due to the high levels of banditry



Mehmed Hurshid Pasha

1864 – 1867

Izzet Pasha

1867 – 1869

Nazif Pasha

1869 – 1871

Mehmed Kamil Pasha


Two more suburbs outside the Old City are started. Mahane Israel comes first, built by Jews from the Mahgreb in Africa. Nahalat is next, built by a cooperative of Jewish families in the Old City. The fear of banditry has been replaced by now with a spirit of building new and better neighbourhoods in a rapidly expanding Jerusalem.

1871 – 1872

Ali Bey

1872 – 1873

Nazif Pasha

Second term of office.

1873 – 1874/75

Mehmed Kamil Pasha

Second term of office. Died 1879.

1874/75 – 1876

Ali Bey

Second term of office.

1876 – 1877

Faik Bey

1877 – 1889

Rauf Pasha


The first modern-era wave of Jewish migrations back to the Holy Land begins with an event known as the First Aliyah. The Jews are fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, most notably in the territories of the Russian empire under Alexander III and his imposition of anti-liberalisation reforms.

1890 – 1897

Ibrahim Hakki Pasha


The question of a Jewish homeland is gaining international recognition, helped on by the founding of a political form of Zionism and the first meeting of the World Zionist Congress in this year, held in Basel in Switzerland. The impression of the mütesarrifate of Jerusalem as an emerging country in its own right begins to grow in the mind of educated Arabs in the region.

1897 – 1901

Tevfik Bey

1901 – 1902

Mehmed Çevad Pasha

1902 – 1904

Osman Kazim Bey

1904 – 1914

The Second Aliyah to Palestine is triggered in 1903 by an anti-Jewish riot in the city of Kishinev (modern Chişinău), the capital of the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), part of the Russian empire. Something like 40,000 Jews settle in Palestine, although only half remain permanently.

1904 – 1906

Ahmed Reshid Pasha

1906 – 1908

Ali Ekrem Bey

1908 – 1909

Subhi Bey

1909 – 1910

Nazim Bey

1910 – 1911

Azmi Bey

1911 – 1912

Çevdet Bey

1912 – 1913

Tahir Hayreddin Bey

1913 – 1915

Ahmed Macid Pasha


The hanging of a number of patriotic intellectuals by Jamal Pasha, wali of Damascus, is intended to put an end to local opposition to the 1908 Ottoman programme of Turkicisation in the region. Instead it has the opposite effect, raising tensions and nationalistic feeling against the Turks.

Arab Revolt
With the Ottoman empire fading in power and prestige, the time was ripe for the Arab Revolt, led by the Hashemites and TE Lawrence


1916 – 1917

Midhad Bey

1916 – 1917

Palestine, the ancient land of the Philistines, is taken by the British from the crumbling Ottomans, and in 1917 the the British Parliament‘s ‘Balfour Declaration’ gives backing for ‘a national home for Jewish people’ in Palestine.

British Governors of Palestine
AD 1917 – 1948

Palestine emerged from four hundred years of Ottoman rule during the First World War, when the Arab Uprising, led by Faysal, son of the sharif of Mecca and British Army officer T E Lawrence combined with a British military thrust from Arabia under General Allenby to dislodge the Ottoman forces. The British numbers were swelled by five battalions of Jewish volunteers who formed the Jewish Legion (which saw action in the Jordan Valley in 1918). In 1917, the British Parliament‘s ‘Balfour Declaration’ – announced by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour – gave backing for ‘a national home for Jewish people’ in Palestine. More recently, extremist opinion has decried what it sees as Britain’s pro-Arab stance of the time, while the Arabs themselves see it as ‘a fateful promise from those who do not own to those who do not deserve’, according to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2016.

Once the chaos of war had settled down, mandates were granted to Britain and France, the two main victors of the First World War. They were to administer the captured territories in the Middle East, until some form of independent control could be established. The situation at the end of the war was very unstable, with a serious risk of the region descending into factional fighting and further chaos, so the mandates served a very real purpose despite their later controversy. The British mandate covered modern JordanIsrael, and Palestine, while the French mandate covered Syria and Lebanon. Eventually, the modern nations of the Middle East were established and Britain and France were able to withdraw.

1917 – 1918

Sir Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby

First British military administrator, Dec-Jun.

1918 – 1919

Sir Arthur Wigram Money

From Jun-Jun.


H Watson

Acting administrator, Jun-Dec.

1919 – 1920

Sir Louis Jean Bols

From Dec-Jul.


On Palestine’s northern border, Faysal becomes ruler of the United Kingdom of Syria on 7 March 1920. However, the San Remo conference of April gives the mandate for Syria to France and the French immediately move to end Faysal’s Arabic government. Faysal also refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the newly created sate of Lebanon, which takes a large slice of Greater Syria’s coastal territory. Eventually, Faysal is exiled.

Nabi Musa festival
The Nabi Musa festival of 1920 prompted riots in Palestine between the majority Arabs and the minority, but rapidly burgeoning, Jewish population


In Palestine itself, increasing Jewish migration and settlement into the region is stirring concern amongst Arab groups. During the Muslim Nabi Musa festival, speeches by Arab religious leaders lead to several attacks on Jews. There is fighting on both sides (the Nabi Musa Riots, or Palestine Riots), leading to nine deaths and dozens of injuries, and former members of the Jewish Legion defend their communities. Jewish concern that the British military are not taking the situation seriously enough leads them to create their own ‘shadow’ administration and a security force called the Haganah.

1920 – 1925

Sir Herbert Louis Samuel

First British High Commissioner, Jul-Jun.

1920 – 1923

Although it begins in December 1919, the Third Aliyah really picks up in 1920, and results in a fresh wave of 40,000 Jews entering Palestine. The trigger for this migration is the October Revolution in Russia, although the fact that theBritish rather than the Ottomans are now in control of Palestine makes it a much more enticing prospect than previously. In 1922, Britain assumes official governance of Palestine under the terms of its League of Nations mandate. The following year, Transjordan is separated from Palestine.

1924 – 1929

The Fourth Aliyah follows on from the Third, delivering approximately 100,000 Jews into Palestine, mostly fromLithuaniaPoland (up to half of them), Rumania, and Russia. Jewish communities undergo rapid development, especially in Tel Aviv, but economic crisis between 1926-1927 causes great hardship, forcing around 23,000 Jews to leave again.

1925 – 1928

Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer



Sir Harry Charles Luke

Acting high commissioner, Jul-Dec.

1928 – 1931

Sir John Robert Chancellor


1929 – 1939

The Western Wall Uprising of 1929 results from a Judo-Arab dispute about access to the Western Wall. Arabs kill 133 Jews, British police kill 110 Arabs, and a handful of Arabs are killed by Jews. The blame for the violence is laid largely at the door of the Arabs, who are feeling increasing social pressure due to the rapid increase of Jewish immigrants into the region. As if to highlight this, the beginning of the Fifth Aliyah follows immediately afterwards, triggered by the rise of Nazism in Germany and the threat of war.


Mark Aitchison Young

Acting high commissioner, Nov-Nov.

1931 – 1938

Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope



Sir William Denis Battershill

Acting high commissioner for Sir Arthur, Sep-Nov.


On 7 July the British ‘Peel Commission’ recommends partitioning Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. Emir Abdullah of Transjordan supports this as it means the Arab section will be incorporated into his territory. While the Jews accept the commission’s findings reluctantly, the other Arabs nations do not, and it is eventually dropped.

1938 – 1944

Sir Harold Alfred MacMichael


1944 – 1945

John S Surtees Prendergast Vereker


1945 – 1948

Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham

Nov-May. Final high commissioner.


Following the conclusion of the Second World War, in which Jordan has remained a staunch ally of Britain, the British mandate for Transjordan comes to an end. The emirate’s independence is announced on 25 May, as the ‘Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan’ on Palestine’s eastern border.


The British mandate in Palestine comes to an end on 14 May. Before withdrawal of the remaining British forces can even start, the declaration of the state of Israel takes place on the same day.

Modern Israel & Palestine
AD 1948 – Present Day

Israel and Palestine are irrevocably linked in terms of modern history, as the former was carved out of a large proportion of the latter in 1948. The modern state of Israel is situated on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, and is neighboured by Lebanon to the north, Syriato the north-east, Jordan to the east while also encompassing the West Bank on three sides (the core of any future Palestinian state),Egypt to the south, and the Palestinian Gaza Strip to the south-west, along the Mediterranean coastline. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are all that remains of Palestine.

With general support from Britain and the USA, on 29 November 1947 the United Nations adopted a resolution to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. British troops staunchly maintained their peacekeeping role until 1948, despite extreme provocation from militant Jewish groups who were intent on hurrying things along. As soon as the British ended their mandate duties on 14 May 1948, on the very same day leading Jewish figure David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of a Jewish state.


David Ben-Gurion

First of the three chairmen of the Provisional State Council.

1948 – 1949

Chaim Weizmann

Chairman May-Feb, but arrived in Israel on 20 Sep 1948.


Yosef Sprinzak

Acting chairman for Weizmann until his arrival.

1948 – 1949

David Ben-Gurion makes his proclamation of the creation of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948, the last day of theBritish mandate. British troops are already pulling out, aware that the region is about to erupt into violence. On the following day the neighbouring Arab states of EgyptIraqJordanLebanon, and Syria attack Israel, prompting the start of the Arab-Israeli WarSaudi Arabia sends its own military contingent to support the Egyptians. The war lasts for a year before a ceasefire is agreed. The Green Line is established – temporary borders which can be generally agreed by all sides. Egypt gains the Gaza Strip while Jordan controls East Jerusalem and the West Bank region, but an estimated 700,000 Palestinians have been expelled or have fled their homeland, mostly to enter southern Lebanon or Jordan.

David Ben-Gurion and Harry Truman
David Ben-Gurion (right), Israel’s first chairman of the Provisional State Council in 1948 and its first prime minister chats to US President Harry Truman (left) and Abba Eban


1948 – 1949

On 17 May 1948 David Ben-Gurion becomes the state of Israel’s first prime minister. In the following year, on 17 February 1949, Chaim Weizmann is elected as the state’s first president. Israel proclaims Jerusalem as its capital on 13 December 1949 (which is put into force on 23 January 1950), but most foreign embassies remain in Tel Aviv.

1956 – 1957

Israel occupies the Sinai peninsula as part of its efforts against Egypt in the Suez Crisis. While its objectives are achieved as part of an agreement with France and Britain, Israel is pressured into withdrawing by the United Nations and even more especially by the USA, which fails to support any of its allies in this affair. UN peacekeepers are positioned in the Sinai to act as a buffer between Israel and Egypt.


Displaced Arab Palestinians create various resistance groups, the most important of which is the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), which is committed to restoring the former Palestine. Its most famous chairman is Yasser Arafat (1969-2004), who is succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas.


Amid ever-increasing tensions and acrimonious relations with Israel, Egypt expels the UN peacekeepers from the Sinai and announces a partial blockade of Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Expecting further military action, several Arab states begin to mobilise their troops. Israel sees this as reason enough to launch a pre-emptive attack against Egypt, IraqJordan, and Syria, triggering the Yom Kippur War. Jordan loses the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a third of the kingdom, while Israel also gains the Golan Heights and the ancient region of Bashan from Syria, and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and also temporarily occupies the Sinai peninsula for a second time. However, the state suffers heavy losses during the short campaign, and public anger forces the prime minister to resign.

1973 – 1975

The Oil Crisis grips the industrialised world when the Arab oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, put pressure on theUSA to withdraw its support of Israel by withholding oil supplies. The attempt eventually fails.


The ‘Raid on Entebbe’ takes place on 1July 1976 when Israeli commandos daringly rescue 102 hostages who are being held by PLO guerrillas at Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport.


The Israeli parliament passes an act entitled The Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel, otherwise known as the Jerusalem Law. It seems to suggest that Israelis can settle the occupied West Bank at will, and some political commentators certainly take it that way.


Under Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation recognises Israel’s right to exist in peace and rejects terrorism, in return for which Israel officially recognises the PLO as the official representative of the Palestinians still in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Displaced Palestinians have already recognised Israel’s existence in 1988.

Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat
The famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat (right) in 1993, overseen by US President Bill Clinton, seemed to presage a new beginning in Palestine, but Rabin’s assassination in 1995 soured matters



Two years after for formation of the Palestinian Authority, the semi-autonomous state of Palestine is set up by a joint Israeli/Palestinian/US deal.


Persecution of the Falasha in Ethiopia has steadily increased, so Israel begins covert airlifts of Falasha populations, taking them back to their homeland. Despite attempts by the Ethiopian government to put a halt to this, the airlift is completed by 1999 with all of the Falashas being removed to Israel.


With Lebanon more stable than at any time in a generation, Israel launches a military attack on 12 July, which lasts for a month and seriously damages the country. The Second Lebanon War is caused primarily by Palestinian militants firing rockets at Israeli targets from inside Lebanon, but the war is a military and political disaster for Israel.


Towards the end of the year, Israel enters into the Gaza War after a ceasefire between it and the militant Palestinian group Hamas collapses. The fighting last for three weeks and leaves the Gaza Strip devastated. Israel announces a unilateral ceasefire, while Hamas announces a ceasefire of its own, opening the border crossings and withdrawing.

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