Jewish History


The Jews are a people with a multitude of problems. From
the Israelite tribes to prosperous modern day Israel,
bigotry towards the Jews has been greatly evident. The
Jewish race has acted as the scapegoat for many crisis
throughout history including the black plague which swept
across Europe during the 14th century. The establishment of
Israel was the climax of what the Jewish people had been
striving to obtain for centuries. This, however, led to
many major conflicts between Israel and the Arab countries.
One of the most meaningful of these conflicts was the
Six-Day War. Earlier Jewish events such as the holocaust
have also had dramatic effects on world history.
For twelve years following 1933 the many Jews in Germany
were persecuted by the Nazis, who sought to blame German
ruination on the Jews. It began with the boycotting and
vandalization of Jewish businesses. By 1939, Jews were no
longer citizens, could not attend public schools, engage
nearly any business or profession, own any land, associate
with any non-Jew, or visit public places such as parks and
museums. The victories of the German armies in the early
years of World War II brought the majority of European Jews
under the Nazis. The Jews were deprived of human rights. At
first, the Jewish people were forced to live in Ghettos
which were separated from the main city. Then they were
moved to "Concentration Camps", where Hitler's plan of
genocide was carried out very efficiently. The total number
of Jews killed has been estimated at 5,750,000.
In Warsaw, where approximately 400,000 Jews had once lived,
the Jewish population was reduced to 60,000. They, nearly
unarmed, resisted the German deportation order and had held
back the regular German troops equipped with flame
throwers, armored cars, and tanks for nearly a month.
The horrific events of the holocaust have resulted in many
problems, but also in giving the Jews more world
recognition. After World War II and the holocaust, the
number of Jewish followers had greatly declined, and the
Jewish people still had problems finding jobs; they
essentially had to start their lives over. Almost all of
them had lost a close relative or a friend to the gas
chambers of the Nazi concentration camps. This put a
psychological strain on Jewish survivors as many no longer
had family and friends with them for support. However, not
all of the results of the holocaust have been bad. This
event has awakened the world to the needs of the Jewish
people; it has given them political power and justification
for some of their actions.
In May of 1945, the end of World War II was seen. Organized
Judaism in the European continent was damaged beyond
repair. The Jews were only able to concentrate on the
preservation of Israel and on bringing Nazi war criminals
to trial.
There is now a day of commemoration, Holocaust Day,
observed in Israel and elsewhere on Nisan (April) 19 and
20. These dates are considered the anniversary of the
beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The creation of Israel as a Jewish state on the former
territory of Palestine was the central political issue in
the Middle East for many years after World War II. A
movement was established to reestablish the Jewish national
state of Israel. This movement was called Zionism. The
Zionists were full of energy, enthusiasm, and skill which
led to remarkable accomplishments. Israel was a modern
European state in an underdeveloped area. This was a source
of both many problems and many achievements.
The Jews received vast amounts of financial and military
support from Western governments. The Israelis also
benefitted from a highly trained and motivated population
which created a unique nation-state.
It had taken the Zionists seventy years to purchase 7
percent of Palestine, but many of the nations of world felt
that they owed something to the Jews to compensate for
holocaust. The UN responded to this feeling by offering the
Zionists another 50 percent of Palestine. This area was
some of the most fertile land in the Middle East; it
included the citrus groves on which many of the Arabs
depended for their living. Because of this, the partition
plan was objected to by all of the Arab and Palestinian
Arab governments. However, the Zionists accepted the plan
and were supported by many Western nations. They were,
however, upset that Jerusalem was excluded from the Jewish
The formation of this new state in Palestine was greatly
important to both Jewish history and world history. It had
given some Jews a place to seek refuge from the Nazi
persecutions. However, after having fifty percent of
Palestine given to Israel, tension between the countries
was very high, and sometimes became violent. The Jewish
army, called Haganah (defense), was formed to protect
Israel from Arab attacks. To this day, that formation has
had many effects on all of the Middle Eastern countries,
and on other countries throughout the world who have tried
to be peacemakers.
The Six-Day War of 1967 was caused by Egypt's closure of
the Strait of Tiran, Israel's main link to the Indian
Ocean. This war was focused on the issue of Israel's
legitimacy. Withdrawal of UN troops after May 16 had
signified to the Israelis that they were responsible for
their own defense. War broke out in June. During the war
the Jews pushed Jordan's boundaries back to the Jordan
river, regaining control of Jerusalem. Syria was also
pushed back by a frontal assault through northeast Israel's
that soon threatened Damascus.
The United Nation security council executed a cease-fire on
June 11th. By this time the Arab states had lost much
territory, a lot of their productive capacity, and large
amounts of revenue. Their mental and political defeat set
the tone for the events of the following years. The defeat
of the Arab governments also gave power to the Palestine
guerrilla movement.
The Wailing Wall is one of Judaism's most honored holy
places. According to the original United Nation's partition
it was located in Jordan. The Six Day war returned it to
the Israelis.
As is clearly visible from these few examples, modern
Judaism has had a very traumatic history. These, however,
are only a small piece of all of modern Judaism's problems.
War and terrorism are still present, and continue to raise
tension between Israel and the Arab countries. During the
Persian Gulf War of 1991, Israel was continuously bombed by
Iraq. If Israel had fought back, many more Arab countries
would probably have joined with Iraq to eliminate the
common enemy. Even with advances such as the Middle East
Peace process, it appears terrorism and differences in
religion will always create tension and even war between
these countries. 

COLLI 1986
2. Israel & the Arabs: The June 1967 War
Facts on file, INC. New York, N.Y.
3. The Holocaust in Historical Perspective
Yehuda Bauer
University of Washington Press


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