The notion of the “Land of Israel” (“Eretz Yisrael” known in Hebrew) has been sacred to the Jewish people since Biblical times.
Various empires — including those of the Persians, Romans, Umayyads, and Ottomans — conquered the area until World War I when Britain took control of the area and subsequently declared it Mandatory Palestine in 1920.
Modern Jewish migration to the area (at the time Ottoman-ruled Palestine) began in 1881, and the movement to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel formally began with the birth of the World Zionist organisation in 1887.
On May 15th, 1948, the territory officially became an independent country: “Israel.”
In 1917, during World War I, Zionist volunteers assisted Britain's conquest of Palestine. Jewish immigration to the area increased thereafter.
The farming collectives would play a major role in agricultural innovation as Israel later became a world leader in sectors such as irrigation.
This led to a rise in anti-British activities and a decision by the Crown in 1947 to end their rule by the following May.
On November 29, 1947, the U.N. adopted a plan aiming to establish independent Arab and Jewish states, as well as an internationally administered zone including Jerusalem and surrounding areas.
The next day civil war broke out in Mandatory Palestine between the Jewish and Arab communities while the British planned their exit.
By April, 1948, the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organisation that would be succeeded by the Israel defence Forces, had turned the tide of the conflict.
The next day Israel's Arab neighbours — Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria – invaded what was the British Mandate the day before.
By the time Israel signed the last peace agreement with Syria in July of 1949, Israel controlled one-third more land than had been allocated to the Jewish State under the 1947 UN proposal.
Half a century later, things look quite different. Here's Tel Aviv, Israel's most populous city, as of January 23, 2012.
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