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Jewish history

Holocaust and Jewish state

Title page from a book of Jewish historyTitle page from a book of Jewish historyThe beginning of the 20th century saw a rapidly increasing Jewish population, particularly in the Russian Pale of Settlement, an area of western Russia where Jews were concentrated. Suffering from pogroms and poor living conditions, emigration from Eastern Europe especially to North America and Western Europe became a flood, with some 2.75 million Jews on the move between 1881 and 1917. Two major events took place in 1917 which would influence the direction of Jewish history: the Russian Revolution, which ended anti-Jewish laws and slowed the flow of migrants, and the British conquest of Palestine during World War I, which made possible the idea of a Jewish national home. The dark clouds of antisemitism, which continued to plague Jews in Europe at this time, were starting to gather, however.

Jewish demonstration against British policyJewish demonstration against British policy

British Mandate

Zionism, the movement to re-establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, became more than a dream in the early years of the 20th century. During World War I, Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire, was captured by the British from the Ottoman Turks, fighting on the side of the Central Powers. The Jews also received the promise of a "National Home" from the British in the form of the Balfour Declaration on the 2nd November 1917. This aim was included in the Mandate for Palestine, by which Britain was to govern the territory on behalf of the newly-created League of Nations.

The modern State of Israel was established as a Jewish state in 1948. This is enshrined in its Declaration of Independence and Basic Laws. One of these, the Law of Return, grants the right of Israeli citizenship to any Jew—defined as anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, and who does not profess any other religion—who requests it.

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