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Heritage Civilization and the Jews
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1925 to 2000

British rule over Palestine was a force for modernization. The British invested considerable sums in developing the country's infrastructure. The Jewish community participated in public works projects, such as the construction of roads, and also established settlements, newspapers, and communal institutions.

However, the interwar years were also marked by violent discord between Palestinian Arabs, Jewish settlers, and British overseers. The burgeoning Arab nationalist movement saw the rapid increase of the Jewish population as a threat and demanded that the British authorities halt or limit Jewish immigration. The British acceded to their demands and severely curtailed Jewish immigration, even though the rise of Nazism was rapidly threatening the safety of Jews throughout Europe. In response, the Zionist movement became more militant, defying the British by sneaking in illegal immigrants, forming underground paramilitary organizations, and stockpiling weapons.

During World War II, Palestine's residents were apprehensive about the possibility of a German attack, especially after forces led by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel reached El Alamein in 1942. Despite their growing antipathy to the British authorities, Palestine's Jewish community actively supported the Allied war effort. Jews served in special units in the British army and fought in Egypt, Italy, and Europe.

The Holocaust galvanized both world and Jewish support for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. In 1947 the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two independent states --one Jewish; the other Arab. Jerusalem was to remain an international zone.

The Zionist leadership agreed to the plan but Arab leaders opposed it. On May 14, 1948, one day after the British withdrew their forces from Palestine, Jewish leaders declared an independent Jewish state. The country was left in a state of war, with forces from surrounding Arab states battling the Jewish inhabitants. A series of peace treaties signed in 1949 brought the conflict to an end.

The new state of Israel established itself as a parliamentary democracy, and, with aid from overseas Jewish communities and the United States, it lost little time in developing its infrastructure and economy.

Since its establishment Israel has absorbed many waves of immigration, from the European and Yemenite Jews who flooded its shores in the 1940s-1950s to the Ethiopian and Russian Jews who arrived in the 1980s-1990s.
Israel has managed to survive five more full-scale wars with its Arab neighbors, including the Suez Campaign (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), and the Lebanon War (1982).

The Six Day War, which brought hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule, had the most lasting consequences for both Israelis and Palestinians. As the debate within Israel over how best to achieve peace with its Arab neighbors intensified, the Palestinian resistance movement grew increasingly aggressive, adopting terrorism as its weapon of choice. In late 1987, unrest among the Palestinian population of the Israeli occupied West Bank erupted into several years of civil disturbances known as the Intifada.

International pressure on Israeli and Arab leaders to negotiate an end to the conflict has grown. A series of peace agreements negotiated during the 1990s led to hope that lasting peace was on the horizon. In autumn 2000, however, a series of violent clashes between Israelis and Arabs in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza raised grave doubts within both communities about the peace process and the future of relations between Israeli Jews and the Arab populations of the region.

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