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historical background
David Hare  

Though an independent state of Israel was established in 1948, the nation's history goes back much further.

Israelis trace the settling of the land to the 13th and 12th centuries BC. Israelites established a kingdom under Saul. The second king, David, made Jerusalem the capital circa 1000 BC.

old jerusalemPalestinians trace their roots in the region back 2000 years further, considering themselves descendants of the original Canaanites.

Subsequent centuries saw the area conquered by Alexander the Great and later governed under Roman, Byzantine, and Arab rule until the European Crusaders arrived in 1099 AD.

In the 16th century the Ottoman Turks embarked on a 400-year reign, building Jerusalem's Old City walls which still enclose the city's major Christian, Jewish, and Muslim sites.

At the end of World War I the Ottoman Empire dissolved, giving way to Great Britain's Mandate for Palestine. Israel gained its independence when the Mandate came to an end in May of 1948 with a United Nations-led partitioning plan for the region.

modern israel

End of British Mandate
The state of Israel is proclaimed (May 14). Five neighboring Arab states declare war on the new state the following day. Israel forms
david ben-gurionDefense Forces (IDF) and fights the War of Independence (May 1948-July 1949).

Photo: David Ben-Gurion declaring new state of Israel (1948)

Israel signs armistice agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon. Jerusalem is divided under Israeli and Jordanian Rule. The first Knesset (parliament) is elected, and Israel is admitted to the United Nations as 59th member.

Mass immigration from Europe and Arab countries.

Sinai Campaign
In the early 1950s, Egypt blocks Israeli ships from passing through the Suez Canal, a major international waterway. In July 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal, threatening British and French oil interests and western trade. Israel, Britain and France attack and Israel captures the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.

The U.S. voices strong opposition to the joint attack and urges Israel to withdraw from Egyptian territory.

National Water Carrier is completed, bringing water from Lake Kinneret in the north to the semiarid south.

Six-Day War.
On June 5, Israel attacks 1967 war Egypt and captures the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. Jordan attacks Israel and Israel captures the West Bank and the eastern sector of Jerusalem. Israel then captures the Golan Heights from Syria. The war ends on June 10.

Photo: Israelis take East Jerusalem in the 1967 War

Yom Kippur War
On Oct. 6, Egypt and Syria jointly attack Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Following a Soviet airlift to the Arab states, the U.S. sends an airlift to Israel.

Saudi Arabia leads the Arab world in an oil embargo on the United States and other western nations. The war officially ends on Oct. 22 but fighting continues on the Egyptian-Israeli front.

The Likud Party forms a new government after Knesset elections, ending 30 years of Labor rule. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visits Jerusalem.

Camp David Accords
President Jimmy Carter, Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin gather at U.S. presidential retreat to work out a framework for peace in the Middle East and a proposal for Palestinian self-government.

Prime Minister Begin and President Anwar Sadat sign a egypt treatypeace treaty and receive Nobel Peace Prizes. Sadat is later assassinated.

Photo:Signing of the Israel/Egypt Treaty (1979)

Widespread rebellion by Palestinians, known as the Intifada, begins in Israeli-administered areas.

Likud government returns to power following elections.

Israel establishes diplomatic relations with China and India. A new government is headed by Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor party.

handshake Oslo Agreement
A Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements for the Palestinians is signed by Israel and PLO.

Photo:White House ceremony post-Oslo (1993)

Yasser Arafat returns to Gaza after living in exile for three decades. Palestinian self-government in Gaza Strip and Jericho area implemented. Israeli-Jordan Peace Treaty is signed and Rabin, Peres, Arafat accept Nobel Peace Prizes.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated at a peace rally. Shimon Peres becomes prime minister. Broadened Palestinian self-government is implemented in West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Council is elected.

Benjamin Netanyahu surprises many by beating Shimon Peres in Israeli elections.

Palestinians elect Arafat President of the Palestinian Authority -- the governing body that rules the areas no longer under Israeli control.

Wye River Negotiations
After a week of heated negotiations, Israeli and Palestinian leaders sign a "land-for-peace" agreement.

Ehud Barak wins elections, declaring the "time for peace has come."

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