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Near East Kingdoms

Levantine States


Jewish Diaspora (Israel)

Today's Israel and Palestine are irrevocably linked in terms of their history. The former was carved out of a large proportion of the already-expanded latter from 1948. Prior to that lies four thousand years of history, sometimes recorded, sometimes alluded to, and sometimes a complete mystery. Unpicking it to establish a relatively stable story has been the work of decades, and even today there are differences of opinion regarding many of the details.

The region in which both names came to be created was Canaan, which consisted of the long Mediterranean coastal strip between ancient Syria and Egypt. Today the northern part of this is known as the Levant. Various Semitic-speaking groups formed states in this region from around 3000 BC onwards. During climate-induced social collapse in the late thirteenth century BC, both a state known as Israel and a region known as Palestine emerged, giving both terms similar founding dates (very approximately), with the Phoenicians emerging to the immediate north during the same period.

Then came the beginnings of the Jewish diaspora and the age of great empires in the form of the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Eastern Romans, Islam, and the Ottomans, until the twentieth century saw the most recent phase of empire-building come to an end and individual sovereign states emerge. Until that happened both Judea and Palestine remained occupied territories.

By the time independence was regained, Jewish groups had been emigrating to and from Israel and Palestine for two thousand years and more, spreading them far and wide across the Old World in a number of generalised groupings. Despite these groupings being joined across those centuries by converted regional locals, most modern Jews still carry a marked Near Eastern heritage in their DNA. Connections between the separate groups have also helped to maintain elements of unified practice in synagogues.

The diaspora's recorded staring point is the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians in 721 BC. Samaria's ten Hebrew tribes were relocated, largely in Media in the Zagros Mountains. Their fate is largely unknown, although a great deal of educated guesswork has been published over many decades concerning which later groups may have been related to them. The two-part fall of Judah in 597 BC and 586 BC was better recorded. Thousands were relocated to Babylon, and even with later Persian permission to return to Jerusalem, some never did. This community formed the basis of the Babylonian Jews and many subsequent splinter communities.

Even before that, King Solomon may have witnessed the seeds being sown of later communities of Mizrahi Jews, Yemenite Jews, and Sephardi Jews, both in the early tenth century BC. The beginnings of the Ethiopian Jews can be detected in events around 400 BC, while Ashkenazi Jews largely formed through integration into the Roman empire in the first few centuries AD.

The earliest Indian Jews may have been shipwreck survivors during the first two centuries AD. The Karaite Jews and their Ananite forebears were in existence in the Near East by the seventh century AD and probably earlier, as were the Romaniote Jews in Greece and the Balkans. Chinese Jews were late in forming, having reached China via the Silk Road between the seventh and twelfth centuries AD.

The Arch of Titus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), from Encyclopaedia Britannica (Eleventh Edition, Cambridge (England), 1910), from Times Atlas of World History, Stacy Schiff (Maplewood, 1979), from A History of Palestine, 634-1099, Moshe Gil (Cambridge University Press, 1997), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Bible Atlas, and Jewish Encyclopaedia, and Gallus Caesar (15 March 351 - 354 AD), Thomas M Banchich (Roman Emperors Online Encyclopaedia), and Jewish History Sourcebook: Julian and the Jews 361-363 CE (Fordham University), and History: Foreign Domination (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, now available only via the Wayback Machine), and The Rouen Chronicles (View from the Left Bank), and Jewish Heritage Cultural Routes in Georgia.)

c.1000 BC

According to the Old Testament, the 'Queen of Sheba' visits Solomon of Israel, bearing riches, and is seduced by him. Nine months after her return from Israel she bears a son, Menelik. He subsequently visits Israel and from there travels to Africa to found the Ethiopian empire. Saba is not mentioned again in ancient sources.

Queen of Sheba
This medieval depiction of the queen of Sheba riding a horse unfortunately has no basis in fact as no images exist of the mysterious Arabic queen

However, tradition declares that Solomon sends Jewish merchants to Saba (today's Yemen) to prospect for gold and silver which will adorn the new temple in Jerusalem. Such a trade-related mission is entirely likely given the relations between the two states, but could these merchants and their families form the basis of the later Yemenite Jews? An alternative option is that Israel makes converts amongst Saba's population.

Solomon does complete the First Temple during his lifetime. The work is apparently handled by craftsmen from Sidon under King Hiram of Tyre. Solomon enters into a matrimonial alliance with Sidon and imposes taxes on Iberian exiles, presumably Israelites who have joined the Phoenician colonies in Iberia (such as Gadir), possibly the earliest claim for the existence of Sephardi Jews.

722 - 721 BC

After King Hoshea of Samaria stops paying tribute, the kingdom is invaded and eventually falls to Assyria. The ten (of twelve) Hebrew tribes in Israel are relocated by the Assyrians (27,290 inhabitants in all).

Samaria excavations
This general view of the 1933 excavations of the city of Samaria shows them while looking towards the north

A proportion of them are resettled in Media in the Zagros Mountains, forced to walk all the way, while a small community is later to be found in India in the form of the Bene Israel Jews, claimed to be part of this enforced movement via a shipwreck in the first two centuries AD.

It is often assumed that the rest may be massacred by the Assyrians, although it now seems more likely that they are eventually absorbed into general Assyrian society. Their contribution to the later Jewish diaspora is unknown.

597 BC

For its continued support of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar invades and occupies Jerusalem (with the help of Ammon), showing no hesitation in stripping the city of its treasures. The Judeans are made vassals under Babylonia, and ten thousand subjects are shipped to Babylon, including the ruling elite. This population forms the basis of the beginnings of the Jewish diaspora, and the formation of a group known as Babylonian Jews.

586 BC

Following conquest of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar II exiles the majority of the native populace, with many being taken into captivity in Babylon itself. Those who never return to Judah - Babylonian Jews - form the earliest basis of today's Mizrahi Jews classification.

Nebuchadnezzar II of Neo-Babylonia
Nabûkudurrius.ur, better known as Nebuchadnezzar II of Neo-Babylonia, gradually built up an empire which was based on seizing former Assyrian subject territories

Exiles can apparently be found across areas of northern and western Canaan, with Israelites in Sarepta and Judeans in Sepharad. Remarkably, a community of members of the Jewish Diaspora appears in the Caucasian kingdom of Colchis, later to be known as the Georgian Jews (although this is only the most popular of theories regarding the origins of this group).

539 BC

Persia's Cyrus the Great enters Babylon. Cyrus adopts an enlightened attitude to his subjects, allowing the Judeans to return to Jerusalem after officially handing over all their captured idols and treasures. He also proclaims that they can rebuild their temple. Not all return, however. Some prefer to remain, where they are later classified as Babylonian Jews.

459 BC

Ezra, a 'scribe', leads the second body of exiled Israelites back to Jerusalem from Babylon. He also writes the Book of Ezra, and according to tradition collects and edits the books of the Old Testament. Those who remain form the basis for today's classification of Mizrahi Jews, while smaller groups gradually head into the Arabian peninsula where they form the Yemenite Jews.

Babylon was forever diminished by its roles in two major uprisings in the fifth century BC and by its subsequent demotion in importance - even the arrival of the Greeks did not revive its fortunes (click or tap on image to view full sized)

410 - 400 BC

Correspondence between the Jews at Elephantine in Egypt and those of Jerusalem fully ceases in this period. With Persian influence having been removed from Upper Egypt in 410 BC, the Egyptians on Elephantine take the opportunity of destroying the Jewish Temple, convinced that the Jews have been collaborating with the occupying power. The Jewish community seems to move to western Abyssinia, in Ethiopia, where it flourishes as the Falasha Jews.

AD 68 - 73

Marcus Antonius Julianus fails to prevent the serious disturbances across Roman-controlled Judea from devolving into all-out warfare. Instead Vespasian (Titus Flavius Vespasianus) is appointed as overall commander, of senatorial rank. He and then his son besiege Jerusalem.

The subsequent destruction of the Second Temple marks the end of the Hellenic era as far as Jews are concerned. The remnants of the revolutionary Zealots are now holed up in Masada, the Sadducees have either disappeared or are about to, and the Essenes also vanish (perhaps because they have already moved so far away from Temple-based worship that they are no longer relevant). The age of Judaic sectarianism is over.

The Roman destruction of Jerusalem
Jerusalem was besieged for two years, with starvation, disease, and murder being the order of the day for the increasingly desperate inhabitants

Only two major groups remain: Christians and Pharisees. The early Catholic Christian faith is still largely indivisible from Judaic practice, but it is Christians who will gradually gain dominance in Judea, and then across the Roman world. The Pharisees and their Pharisaic Judaism will gradually mutate between the second and fourth centuries AD into Rabbinic Judaism.

The Ashkenazi Jews are also probably created at this time, as the first elements of Jewish communities in Roman Italy and along the Mediterranean cost are formed by the general exodus. Considering the fact that some of the Exile-period Jewish families had remained in Babylon, it is also likely that migration begins or is stepped up in that direction, increasing the population of what in modern times is labelled eastern or Mizrahi Jews (plus several sub-groups). The Georgian Jews of Kolkis are also known to receive a fresh boost to their population at this time.

The origins of the Karaite Jews of the Middle Ages in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and even Crimea, can probably also be placed within this time period. They develop out of the strict Ananites who are extinct by the tenth century AD.

Roman siege of Jerusalem AD 70
The Nabataeans are perhaps unknown for the part they played in the siege of Jerusalem in AD 67-70, however minor that part may have been, with their support going to the Romans against their long-standing regional rival


The Second Jewish Uprising or Second Roman War is led by Simon bar Kochba against Roman rule. He captures Jerusalem and establishes a short-lived independent state which he governs as nasi ('prince').

FeatureRoman armies under Emperor Hadrian which include the former Roman Governor of Britain, Sextus Julius Severus, raze Jerusalem and the emperor builds the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina on the site. A pagan temple dedicated to Jupiter is built on the site of the Jewish Temple Mount itself, and the Jews are driven out of Jerusalem (see feature link).


By this year Rome has forbidden Jews from entering Jerusalem. Christian pilgrims, though, are permitted entrance. Large Jewish communities now exist across the Roman empire, beginning (or furthering) a general Jewish diaspora which develops independently of events in the Near East. The end of the recent bar Kochba revolt especially sees a large exodus to the Judean Himyarite kingdom of today's Yemen, greatly increasing the population of Yemenite Jews there.

260 - 272

Crisis strikes the weakened Roman empire, with two major splinter states forming in the same year. The Rhine frontier collapses completely at around the same time.

Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus Goth depiction
The Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus depicts a Roman victory over Goths around AD 250, but victory in the many Roman-Goth conflicts of this period was just as likely to go the other way

The second of these splinter states is the Palmyrene Empire, which encompasses the Roman provinces of Syria, Palestine, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor. It is ruled as little more than an expanded kingdom by Queen Zenobia for her infant son Vaballanthus, with a capital at Palmyra.

These crises, and the expenditure required to bring them to resolution, means a great deal of increased taxation across the empire. The Jewish population of Palestine seems to be especially impacted.

Large numbers of Jews emigrate to Babylon and the more tolerant Sassanids (where they form a large ancestral contingent of modern Israel's Mizrahi Jews, which in turn eventually supplies the nucleus for the later Indian Jews). There, autonomous Jewish communities are allowed to flourish, with individuals able to lead full and rewarding lives.


According to twelfth century tradition, the nasi of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, Hillel II, decides to draw up the fixed Hebrew calender which remains in use to this day. His reasoning is that the increasing diaspora demands greater unity in terms of religious practices.

First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea, held in Rome in AD 325, decided upon the basic tenants of the Catholic Church, including the contents of the Bible

A ninth century letter reveals the fact that, although the calender is in use, holidays are still being observed at different times across various communities across the Jewish diaspora. The calender seems not to be finalised and fully accepted until the early tenth century when the Abbasids control Palestine.


The Roman empire finally divides permanently between the Eastern Roman and Western Roman portions, acknowledging a state of affairs which has already existed in practise for many years. Palestine and its population of Mizrahi Jews falls under the jurisdiction of the eastern half, as do the Byzantine Jews within the European section of the eastern empire.

404 - 425

From the start of the dynasty of Theodosius in Constantinople, first Emperor Arcadius, and then Theodosius II introduce changes to the equal rights as Roman citizens of the Byzantine Jews, gradually diminishing their position and standing.

Ravenna became an imperial city in 402, and remained Italy's capital under succeeding Gothic, Ostrogothic, and Eastern Roman administrations


One of the grandsons of Wallia, ruler of the tribal Visigoths, is Ricimer, the power behind the throne of the Western Roman empire during its last days. Allowed by the emperor to settle in southern Gaul in a treaty signed in 418, Wallia's successor, Theodoric, founds the kingdom of the Visigoths.

Although the kingdom is centred on Tolosa (Toulouse) in Gaul, it stretches ever deeper into Iberia. There the Visigoths take command of former Roman provinces which include Celtiberian peoples such as the Carpetani and Olcades. They also place on an equal footing both the peninsula's Christian population and its Jewish diaspora population of Sephardi Jews. As Arians themselves, the Visigoths may even prefer the Jewish population to the Catholic one as the former offers them no political enmity.


A Second Sassanid-Hephthalite War is launched by Shah Peroz, with Vakhtang I Gorgasil of Chosroid Iberia in support. Initially successful by chasing the Hephthalites out of Bactra, the war ends in the capture (again) of Peroz, with him agreeing to the payment of thirty mule packs of silver drachms as a ransom, parts of which he pays through imposing a poll tax.

Map of Central Asia and India AD 500
By the late 400s the eastern sections of the Sassanid empire had been overrun and to an extent occupied by the Hephthalites (Xionites) after they had killed Shah Peroz (click or tap on map to view full sized)

To meet the rest of the demanded sum he leaves his son Kavad as a hostage with the Hephthalites, along with a daughter and the chief priest. His tax-raising drive across the Sassanid empire may involve some communication with the empire's Jewish diaspora community of Persian Jews.

Peroz is known to conduct a pogrom against them during his reign which drives some of them eastwards, into Samarkand. There they coalesce in the later emirate of Bukhara to become known as Bukharan Jews. In turn it seems either to be Persian Jews or Bukharan Jews which provide the basis of the Kaifeng Jews.


It is during this century that Judaism, effectively (but in greatly simplified terms) the Jewish form of post-Second Temple Christian worship, cements its traditions and doctrines. The Babylonian Talmud, completed around 499 amongst the Babylonian Jews and generally known as 'the Talmud', forms one of the central texts of Rabbinic Judaism, the mainstream form of Judaism from this century onwards.

Elements of Jewish diaspora communities within the Eastern Roman empire face persecution during the sixth century. As a result many Jewish families emigrate, with some going east into the Sassanid empire with its better tolerance of Jews, and the first such groups heading into the mountain kingdom of Iberia. They live in new communities in the capital, Mtskheta, which are distinctive from the long-established homes of the Georgian Jews or Mountain Jews in Kolkis.

Byzantine coins of Justin I
Shown here are two sides of a type of coinage which was typical of that being issued under Eastern Roman emperors, Justin I and Justinian I, during the height of Eastern Roman power in the aftermath of the collapse of the western empire


Jews and Samaritans together slaughter many of Caesarea's Christians, and then attack Catholic churches. Governor Stephanus and his military escort are unable to do much more than take refuge in the governor's house where they are killed.

Amantius, governor of the east, is ordered to quell the revolt. The Church of the Nativity in Jerusalem is burned down, suggesting that the rebellion has reached Bethlehem, but no further damage is recorded. Perhaps a hundred thousand or so are killed during the Eastern Roman reprisals, and many others are driven into exile.

613 - 630

As part of the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602-628, the Battle of Antioch of 613 sees Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius defeated. The forces of Sassanid Shah Khusro II consolidate their recent gains and make further advances, entering Palaestina Secunda and Palaestina Prima with assistance from Jewish forces.

Sassanid policy in terms of its control of Palestine has changed by 617, switching from Jewish support to Christian support. Between 622-627 the military situation also changes. Heraclius gains the upper hand, driving the Sassanids back into Mesopotamia. An internal revolt in 628 replaces Khusro II and ends the war, allowing Heraclius to enter Jerusalem in 630.

The coming of the Sassanids as replacements for the Parthians meant an entirely new and more vigorous empire being created in the north-western borders of Saka-controlled lands

A promise by Heraclius to restore Jewish rights is quickly abandoned. Instead the emperor orders a general massacre of the Jewish population and driving many to flee to Egypt where they often, eventually, become part of the Beta Israel population. Byzantine Jews within the European section of the Eastern Roman empire also suffer reprisals, having exhibited a certain level of support for Jerusalem's cause.

617 - 1127

Either in the Tang dynasty period in China (arguably) or the Song dynasty period (certainly), the ancestors of the Kaifeng Jews arrive. Jewish traders do seem to be active in China in the ninth century (Tang dynasty restoration period), with them being proposed as the originators of the first wave of Jewish immigration into China, but any date for the start of a specific Kaifeng community is conjectural. Coastal trading settlements certainly do have Jewish populations, especially Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Yangzhou.


It is under the leadership of Umar I 'the Great' that Islam begins its rapid expansion outside Arabia. Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius is defeated, and Roman Palestine and Phoenicia are conquered in 636 and 637 respectively. The Roman province is no more, having been replaced by an Islamic-controlled Palestine.

Old Dongola
In a rare defeat during the seventh century, the invading Arab army found itself unsuccessful when it tried to take the fortress of Old Dongola during its second attempt to capture the kingdom

One immediate consequence is that Jews are allowed once more to settle in Jerusalem. Classed as dhimmis ('protected person'), they are grouped with Christians and Samaritans, all of whom the Muslims designate as 'peoples of the Book' (ahl al-kitab), meaning that they and Muslims alike base their worship on a book which their God has given to them, one which in essence is identical to the Koran.

However, Palestine also sees a large-scale influx of Arab tribes which soon comes to dominate life there and, being Muslim, they gain a degree of precedence over the 'protected persons'. Jews who do not join the diaspora, those who remain behind in Palestine or in the large colony in Babylon, form the basis of today's Mizrahi Jews classification.


Shortly before his death in a brief spell as caliph, Umar II champions the Islamic faith by espousing a return to its original principles. As part of these efforts he bans Jews from worshipping on Jerusalem's Temple Mount in Palestine. The policy remains in place for the next millennium or so.


Arabic tribes have been integrating themselves into Palestine during the past century. Notable amongst these are the Qays and the Yamani groups who begin a mutually-antagonistic feud under the Umayyads. In 744 the Palestinian tribes in general revolt against the caliph. As the position of caliph changes hands, Jewish families continue to leave the region in search of a safer existence, contributing further to the diaspora.

The Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is situated on a flat elevated plaza known to Muslims as al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf ('The Noble Sanctuary'), and to Jews as the Temple Mount (the site of the lost Second Temple)


Anan ben David is generally considered to be a major founding figure of the Karaite Jews. Around this date his father dies: Shelomoh ben Ḥisdai II, the 'exilarch' in Abbasid Babylon. Anan and his brother, Ḥananyah, are seen as the likely successors, with the latter being selected by the rabbis of the Babylonian Jewish colleges (the 'Geonim') and notables of the chief Jewish congregations.

Anan may refuse to accept the decision (unproven by modern scholars but strongly suspected), leading to a schism. Anan, backed by his followers, the Ananites, allegedly claims the title of 'exilarch', leading to a charge of treason by the city's Islamic authorities. The sentence is commuted to exile in Palestine. A synagogue is erected there which is maintained until the time of the Crusades. Ananite Jews gradually diffuse throughout Islamic territories.


Under the early rulers of Umayyad caliphs of Iberia, the region's Jewish diaspora population of Sephardi Jews prospers, with their culture and learning experiencing something of a golden age. They hold high offices, produce notable poetry and literature, and excel in transcribing Arabic texts into romance languages, thereby assisting lost knowledge from the ancient empires (especially Rome and the Sassanids) to re-enter Europe as it continues to recover from its dark age.

Sassanid troops fighting off Arabs during the Islamic invasion of Persia
This modern illustration (uncredited) shows Sassanid troops fighting off Arabs during the Islamic invasion of Persia, with the Arab conquest gaining them entry to eastern Iran and the Indo-Iranian provinces there


On 27 September as part of a concerted period of persecution against Jews and Christians, Caliph Al Hakim orders the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, a Christian holy site (his successor allows the church to be rebuilt, although persecutions persist).


Harold II of England is narrowly defeated by William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings (actually Senlac Hill, on 14 October). William invites the Jews of Rouen to enter the country so that feudal dues can efficiently be collected - this is England's first large-scale influx of members of the Jewish diaspora.

Initial Jewish settlement is in London alone, although Oxford sees settlement from about 1075. Given Rouen's long history of Jewish habitation since the Roman period, these are likely to be Ashkenazi Jews.

Later in the same year, the traditional tolerance and understanding between the ruling Muslims in Iberia and their Jewish subjects suddenly declines through one incident. The Granada Massacre of 1066 erupts on 30 December 1066 when a Muslim mob storms the royal palace in Granada.

After having conspired with neighbouring Almeria to become a vassal ruler of Granada, the Jewish vizier of Granada, Joseph ibn Naghrela, is killed and crucified, and then much of the city's Sephardi Jew population is massacred.

Jewish synagogue in Utrera, Andalusia, Spain
The importance of the 'extraordinary' archaeological find of a Jewish synagogue in Andalusia's Utrera was difficult to overstate, making it one of now only five such buildings across the whole of Spain to have survived


The start of the Crusades triggers a large-scale migration of Jews from territories in Western Europe into Poland. They are welcomed by the tolerant King Wladyslaw, being allowed to settle without any restrictions. This migration of Ashkenazi Jews forms the beginnings of what will become the nineteenth century's 'Pale of Settlement', which is when the descendents of the same Jewish settlers beginning to migrate away from Congress Poland, from 1881.

1098 - 1099

The county of Edessa is created in 1098, and Jerusalem is captured in 1099. Most of the city's non-Christian inhabitants are massacred in the process. Barricaded in their synagogues, the Jews defended their quarter, only to be burned to death or sold into slavery.

Some of the latter later have their freedom purchased by Jewish communities in Italy (possibly Ashkenazi Jews) and Egypt (later to be defined as Mizrahi Jews), with the redeemed slaves being taken to Egypt. Jerusalem's Jewish population takes decades to recover.

On the day of the victory, 15 July 1099, and still covered in the blood of their dead enemies, the Crusaders assemble inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to give thanks for their victory.

The coming of the Crusaders occurred at a time at which the Islamic world was deeply involved in factional in-fighting, and at first they were dismissed as being a mere Byzantine raid


The capture of Angeli dynasty Constantinople is the Fourth Crusade's 'success', and Latin emperors are established in the city. The Byzantines withdraw to Nicæa in Anatolia, but rival claimants also established holdings in Trebizond, Epirus, and Thessalonica so that, at one point, there are four claimants to the Byzantine throne, as well as the Bulgar and Serb states which also claim dominance over it.

For members of the Jewish diaspora who are citizens of the fractured empire, especially the long-term resident Romaniote Jews, conditions abruptly worsen. Anti-Semitic legislation is now more easy to pass in smaller states, and the Jews seem to bear the brunt of it.


Documents from this period indicate that around this year a total of three hundred rabbis from France and England arrive in Palestine in a group, some settling in Acre (ancient Akko), and others in Jerusalem. The opening up of the Levantine coastline to European trade and passage persuades many diaspora groups to return to their ancestral home.


The Mongols renew their control of the kingdom of Georgia with a new invasion which also sweeps away the last remnants of Khwarazm. Members of the Jewish diaspora in the east of the Caucasus start to head towards the western kingdom of Imeretia which retains its independence.

Mongol warriors
A modern depiction of Mongol warriors in the twelfth century, when Chingiz Khan led them across vast swathes of Asia to encounter and conquer much of what they saw


The Abuyyid Sultan as-Salih II Ayyub allies himself with the former emirate of Khwarazm against the turncoat Ismail of Damascus. At the Battle of La Forbie they defeated Ismail so that the Abuyyid sultan is able to reclaim the region for himself. He also now controls Palestine, bringing it back under Islamic control despite a concerted attempt by the Latins to stop him. The failure of that attempt cements Islamic control and ends European influence in the region.

Renewed Ayyubid control means a return to Jewish and Orthodox Christian settlement in the region, these having been banned for the later part of Crusader domination. The Jews are again accorded a certain measure of freedom, including the right to live in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock is converted back from a church into an Islamic structure.


Mameluke Sultan Baybars of Egypt conquers Palestine. The region is subsequently formed into the Damascus wilayah (district) under the overall rule of the Mameluke sultanate of Egypt. The wilayah is divided into three smaller sanjaks (subdivisions) with capitals in Jerusalem, Gaza, and Safed.

Palestine becomes a backwater under these reorganisations. Acre, Jaffa, and other ports are destroyed in fear of new crusades, and maritime as well as overland commerce is interrupted. By the end of the sixteenth century the region's towns are virtually in ruins, much of Jerusalem is abandoned, and the small and still-shrinking Jewish community is poverty-stricken.

Mameluke troops
These Mamelukes aided Shajar ad Durr in seizing the Ayyubid sultanate of Egypt and establishing a Mameluke sultanate with Aybak al Turkumani

The eventual Mameluke decline is also darkened by political and economic upheavals, plagues, locusts, and devastating earthquakes. Only repeated - if small - waves of immigration of Jewish groups from Europe, North Africa, and Syria into Palestine saves the Jewish population from extinction.


The Edict of Expulsion is issued by King Edward I of England on 18 July 1290 which serves to expel all Jews from England (probably Ashkenazi Jews for the most part, descendants of William of Normandy's initial Rouen colony of Jews). The edict is the culmination of up to two centuries of increasing anti-Semitism on the part of the country's Anglo-Norman overlords. Only the climb to power by Michael VIII Palæologus ends persecution, mainly because he needs the funds which Jews can raise.

1347 - 1350

The Black Death rips through Europe, killing about a third of its population. This has a major effect on the economy and on working practices, especially in England where the decimated peasant workforce is now able to demand freedom and pay for its services. The Jews are popularly blamed for the epidemic, but Pope Clement VI issues two papal bulls and urges the clergy to protect Jews.

Pope Gregory XI
Pope Gregory XI ended the 'Babylonian Captivity' by bringing the papacy back to Rome from its temporary home at Avignon where it had been dominated by the kings of France


The savagery of Pedro 'the Cruel' of Castile has led to a civil war in which his illegitimate brother, Henry of Trastámara, commands a coalition of nobles who challenge Pedro's authority, part of the Hundred Years War between England and France.

During the civil war Henry deliberately uses propaganda against the Sephardi Jews of Iberia, causing severe suffering in their communities. Even though he and his successors later rely upon the ability of Jews and conversos (Jews who convert to Christianity), and give Jews some royal protection, much anti-Semitism continues.


The new elective kingship in Poland governs a state which encourages relative liberalism within its borders. The state has already ensured a stable period of religious tolerism and social autonomy which has encouraged the settlement within the kingdom of a sizable Jewish population.

This increases along with the kingdom's borders, especially during the Poland-Lithuania commonwealth period. Poland becomes the European centre of Jewish culture, while England and Spain are expelling their own Jews (in 1290 and 1492 respectively).

Louis I of Hungary
Louis I of Hungary was a Piast descendent on his mother's side, and therefore a rightful claimant to the Polish throne


Alexandre son of Bagrat announces the independence of Imeretia and is crowned king. His subjects who form part of the Jewish diaspora, many of whom had already moved west to avoid the Mongols in the mid-thirteenth century, occupy poor and increasingly desperate communities on the Black Sea coast. They begin to submit as serfs in order to survive, a condition which their descendants will not escape until the nineteenth century.


Recent events have involved various incidents being initiated by Japanese pirates - wokou - who are based on Tsushima Island. The latest concerns a wakou raid on Ming China which has stopped off along the way to raid two Korean counties. The attack becomes a major political row between the two states.

The wokou raids continue along the Chinese coast during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Ming authorities are ineffectual in fending them off with the result that the large coastal trading ports are badly affected. Jewish communities in all of them become extinct, largely leaving only the Kaifeng Jews in China.

Wokou pirates
Wokou pirates operated without restriction for a time in the early fifteenth century, until Joseon was able to pin them back quite substantially for a time

1420 - 1421

Austria gains part of the partitioned province of Istria. In the following year a pogrom is launched against Vienna's Jewish community.


The Byzantine capital at Constantinople is finally captured by Sultan Mehmed II, bringing to an end the last vestiges of the Roman empire and making Greece an Ottoman province. In order to restore the city to its former glory - and his new capital - Mehmed orders large-scale rebuilding work and for Muslims, Christians, and members of the Jewish diaspora (largely Romaniote Jews) from all over the expanding empire to resettle there.

The Jews in the city establish themselves well and remain highly influential there until they are superseded by a fresh wave of Jewish arrivals, mainly Sephardi Jews who are fleeing Spain's increasingly harsh treatment of them.


The Islamic Nasrids of Granada are finally defeated in 1492, marking the end of the Reconquista. In the same year, on behalf of the Castilian court, Christopher Columbus discovers the Bahamas, Hispaniola, and Cuba. The first Spanish Colony is founded on Hispaniola a year later.

The Alhambra Decree (also known as the Edict of Expulsion) sees the country's population of Sephardi Jews being expelled from Spain in the same year. The main reason is to prevent them from influencing the recent tidal wave of conversions to Christianity (involving over half the country's Jewish population since 1391).

Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain
The marriage in 1469 of royal cousins Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile eventually brought stability to both kingdoms but also presaged an era of Spanish dominance in world affairs

Further Jews convert to Christianity to avoid being kicked out of centuries-old homes. When looking for new places to settle, some of the remaining Jewish diaspora communities return to Palestine, usually to adopt local Jewish traditions and language, while others migrate (heavily) into Ottoman empire North Africa, and into France, Britain, and the Netherlands. A small number head to India where they join the Cochin Jews and some enter Ottoman-controlled Greece where they remain distinct from the embedded Romaniote Jews.

A few more convert to Christianity so that they can be allowed to return to Spain. A large contingent will later be categorised as 'Eastern Sephardi' thanks to their heading into Ottoman Europe and the Balkans. The choices taken here will result in categorisation into various Sephardic sub-groups by modern Israel, based largely on variants of Spanish spoken or new languages and practices adopted along the way.


The hand in marriage of the daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand, also named Isabella, is being sought by Manuel I of Portugal. Manuel is required to purify Portugal of Sephardi Jews as a condition of marriage. The kingdom subsequently embarks upon a period of enslavement, forced conversion, pogroms, and Jewish emigration whilst blocking the ports to prevent Jews from leaving the country.

Christians versus Moors
The Christian conquest of Iberia was a drawn-out process which covered several centuries of combat and slow advance, but in its later days it frequently spilled over into North African kingdoms which were supporting the 'Moors' in southern Iberia


The Polish constitution of 31 May - the Nihil novi - eliminates royal legislative powers. The king is no longer allowed to issue laws which regard matters where they are not directly related to the king's interests, his estates, or his own servants or staff (plus the country's Jewish population), without the approval and agreement of the nobility who are to be represented through two legislative chambers.

Also from around this point in time, Jews begin to arrive on the newly-created Spanish colony of Jamaica. They work mainly as indentured servants in sugar manufacturing but they will become an influential group in modern Jamaica.

1515 - 1517

Mameluke Egypt, Libya, Palestine, and Syria (an Egyptian Mameluke possession) are conquered. The Mamelukes continue to hold some control as vassals, under the overview of Ottoman Egyptian governors and Palestine governors, while the puppet Abbasid caliph, al Mutawakkil III, is transported to Constantinople by Ottoman Sultan Selim I Yavuz.

Some thousand Jewish families remain in Palestine, mainly in Jerusalem, Nablus (ancient Shechem), Hebron, Gaza, Safed (Tzfat), and the villages of Galilee. This community is comprised of descendants of an extensively-diminished number of Jews who have never left the region (and who will later be defined as Mizrahi Jews).

They are joined in small numbers by immigrants from North Africa and Europe who have probably saved the local population from extinction. Orderly government, until the death in 1566 of Sultan Suleiman 'the Magnificent' brings improvements and stimulates Jewish immigration. Some newcomers settled in Jerusalem, but the majority go to Safed which has a Jewish population of about ten thousand by 1560.

Ottoman coin
The early sixteenth century Ottoman conquest of Egypt (and Palestine) saw an influx of Ottoman coins, with this example being issued during the reign of Suleyman I the Magnificent (1520-1566)

1530s - 1570s

Although Italy does not possess the political cohesiveness to replicate Spain's general expulsion of 1492, various anti-Semitic acts are perpetrated in this period. Throughout the century members Jews in Italy gradually head north as the south becomes increasingly inhospitable to them. Then conditions in Rome worsen after 1556 and in the Venetian republic in the 1580s.

Some are Sephardi Jews who have found a home in Italy since 1492, but the majority are Romaniote Jews who have been in Italy since the time of the exarchate of Ravenna. Now both communities migrate away, into Ottoman-controlled Greece where they either join or sit alongside Romaniote Jewish communities there, or into Eastern Europe to join Ashkenazi Jews in tolerant Poland-Lithuania.


The existence of a Jewish population in China remains unknown to Europeans until the arrival of the Jesuits. In 1605 the Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci, is visited in Beijing by a Chinese official from Kaifeng. The official, Ai Tian, explains that he is a member of a thousand-strong Israelite congregation which worships one god. The congregation of Kaifeng Jews is unfamiliar with the word 'Jew' but it does possess a splendid synagogue.

Kaifeng in China
The basis for the city of Kaifeng was laid down in 364 BC, by the state of Wei during the Warring States period, although it was greatly rebuilt under the eighth century Tang

1648 - 1657

The Cossack-Polish War or Khmelnytsky Uprising sees a Cossack rebellion in the eastern parts of the Polish-Lithuanian voivodeship of Kyiv. Fighting against Polish domination of the region, the bloody and brutal war results in the creation of the Cossack Hetmanate. It also sees a massacre of around ten thousand members of the Jewish diaspora (consisting of Ashkenazi Jews), triggering a low-yield migration to Palestine.


One benefit of the creation of a 'Commonwealth of Britain' is that, in 1657, Oliver Cromwell rescinds the 'Edict of Expulsion' of 1290, ending the national banning of members of the Jewish diaspora (probably Ashkenazi Jews). The majority of initial resettlement most likely involves Sephardi Jews, expelled from Castille-dominated in 1492.


Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid leads a large group of about fifteen hundred Jews into Jerusalem, swelling the existing population there. A known Polish scholar and preacher, he and about thirty families have been travelling since 1697. Along the way they have picked up many more followers, but a particularly arduous voyage from Italy has killed about one third of their total number.

They are received with some suspicion and hostility by a very poor and downtrodden Jewish community of around two hundred Ashkenazi Jews and a thousand Sephardi Jews which relies on charity from abroad. The rabbi dies a few days after their arrival and the group gradually disperses across Palestine.

Jerusalem about 1900
Jerusalem in the mid-seventeenth century witnessed a tug-of-war in terms of control, with the Ottomans becoming more determined to stamp their direct authority over the region (shown here is a colourised photographic print of Jerusalem from about 1900)

1703 - 1705

The Naqib al-Ashraf Revolt (or uprising) sees the general population of Jerusalem rebel against the Ottoman authorities. Between May 1703 and October 1705 the revolt is led by Muhammad ibn Mustafa al-Husayni al-Wafa'i. An Ottoman siege results in al-Husayni and his chief followers fleeing the city, later to be captured and executed.

This event follows on very closely from the arrival of between five hundred to a thousand members of the Jewish diaspora from Europe in 1700 (although any potential connection between the two events is unclear). They join a very poor and downtrodden Jewish community of around two hundred Ashkenazi Jews and a thousand Sephardi Jews.


Imperial Russia begins operating an area known as the 'Pale of Settlement'. Initially this is small, but it increases greatly from 1793 and the Second Partition of the former Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.

By the mid-nineteenth century it incorporates modern Belarus (eastern Poland at the time), eastern Latvia, Lithuania, the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), and western Ukraine.

Having formerly been citizens of the defunct commonwealth, the Jewish population of the 'Pale' (mainly Ashkenazi Jews) is restricted from moving eastwards into Russia proper. This and the prevailing anti-Jewish sentiment being offered by the Russian authorities leads to a steady drip of Ashkenazi migration into Palestine, which gradually builds up the Jewish population there until it becomes substantial.

Russian troops of the Second Russo-Turkish War in 1787
The Second Russo-Persian War in 1787-1792 witnessed a continuation of imperial Russia's push to extend its borders southwards at the expense of the weakening Muslim powers

by 1800s

The Kaifeng Jews effectually become extinct in terms of practising their Jewish faith. They have been peacefully assimilated into the surrounding population of China over the course of two centuries until their numbers have dwindled to zero.

1804 - 1813

King Solomoni II is attempting to enlist Ottoman and Persian support for Imeretia in preparation for the anticipated Russian encroachment on his borders. The Russian commander in the region is Prince Pavel Tsitsianov. He marches his army into Imeretia and forces Solomoni to accept vassalage under the terms of the convention of Elaznauri, on 25 April 1804.

This effectively triggers a Russo-Persian War (1804-1813) which sees some early Persian victories followed by defeats, stalemate, and the effective loss of Dagestan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Territory which Persia officially surrenders at the end of the war includes a large swathe of the eastern Caucasus. The Jewish diaspora population here subsequently crystallises under the later definition of Mountain Jews.


Qasim al-Ahmad seizes Jerusalem after leading his forces from Nablus during an Arab revolt in Palestine. Less than a month later, Jerusalem is captured along with Damascus by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt (between May and June) on behalf of Muhammad Ali Pasha.

Muhammad Ali Pasha
The Ottoman wali, Muhammad Ali Pasha, saw the opportunity provided to him by the weakened Mamelukes and seized control, founding his own royal dynasty which ruled Egypt until 1953 (oil on canvas by Auguste Couder, 1840)

They are annexed to Egypt and Jerusalem subsequently operates on an autonomous basis. The Ottomans retain only nominal suzerainty. The relative freedom in the city now allows the first foreign consulates to be founded, and four Jewish synagogues are given permission to be renovated soon afterwards (in 1836).

1838 - 1840

The position of governor of Damascus falls vacant again, and on 10 October 1840 the Ottoman empire regains direct authority over the city and its territory, including Jerusalem. Despite this, increasing numbers of Jews begin to drift back to Jerusalem, and they become the subject of international political interest and support.


Expansion outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls has been gradual over the previous decade, but it now accelerates. Two more suburbs are started in 1869. Mahane Israel comes first, built by Jews from the Mahgreb in Africa (part of today's Mizrahi Jews grouping which covers all of North Africa's former diaspora communities, but heavily intermixed by this time with Sephardi Jews who had left Castile-dominated Spain in 1492, entering North Africa in large numbers).


The first modern-era wave of Jewish migrations back to Palestine begins with an event known as the First Aliyah. The Jews are fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, most notably in the territories of the Russian empire under Alexander III and his imposition of anti-liberalisation reforms.

Second Aliyah to Palestine
Poland-Lithuania's long-standing Jewish population was gradually forced to emigrate during the later Russian empire period, with most either going west or returning to Palestine

For the past century Russia has been operating an area known as the 'Pale of Settlement', largely territory to the west which has been acquired from the former Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. Today this forms Russia's western border region, and from 1791-1793 it has incorporated modern Belarus (eastern Poland at the time), eastern Latvia, Lithuania, the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), and western Ukraine.

The Jewish population of the 'Pale' (mainly Ashkenazi Jews) is restricted from moving eastwards into Russia proper and is now being discouraged from remaining in the western border regions of the empire. Some of their number end up elsewhere in the world, especially the USA, but also China where they form the Chinese Jews.

Several months prior to this event however, migration by Yemenite Jews to Palestine has already begun. Communities are drawn back from Ottoman-controlled Yemen by improving standards and employment, especially due to European backing in the region.

At this point the Jewish population of Palestine consists largely of Sephardi Jews who had arrived during the restored Islamic Palestine period and the subsequent Ottoman Palestine period, along with their inter-marriage relationships with Arabised Jewish families which had remained in the region since the Herodite period (if not always in Jerusalem itself), and Mizrahi Jews who have migrated from eastern parts such as the ancient city of Babylon. Mixed into this are a small number of Ashkenazi Jews who are mainly made up of strictly orthodox groups such as the Haredi.

Damascus Gate in 1860
This view of the Damascus Gate in 1860 shows that Jerusalem was still confined behind the Old City walls, afraid to develop outside due to the high levels of banditry


The question of a Jewish homeland is gaining international recognition, helped on by the founding of a political form of Zionism and the first meeting of the World Zionist Congress in this year, held in Basel in Switzerland. The impression of the Mütesarrifate of Jerusalem as an emerging country in its own right begins to grow in the mind of educated Arabs in the region.

1903 - 1914

The Second Aliyah to Palestine is triggered in 1903 by an anti-Jewish riot in the city of Kishinev (modern Chişinău), the capital of the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), part of the Russian empire. Something like forty thousand Jews settle in Palestine, although only half remain permanently.

Many others, evicted from their settlements in the 'Pale' head towards western Poland or America (something which is dramatically highlighted, if with a touch of artistic licence, in the film musical, Fiddler on the Roof, 1971. which has its final scenes set in 1905).


The Shiraz pogrom or Shiraz blood libel of 1910 is the result of increasingly aggressive anti-Jewish pogroms in Iran. The Jewish quarter in Shiraz is the victim of the 1910 pogrom, on 30 October 1910, although it also spreads to other towns. It is sparked by accusations that Jews there have ritually killed a Muslim girl.

Twelve Iranian Jews (or thirteen, accounts differ) are killed and around fifty more are injured, while thousands are robbed of everything they possess. An increased level of Jewish migration takes place after this, mainly focussed on a return to Palestine.

Jerusalem's Golden Gate
Jerusalem's Golden Gate was sealed at least fifteen hundred years ago, with a Muslim cemetery being laid in front of it because the Messiah is due to ride through the gate on a donkey

1914 - 1917

In Europe, the German empire moves swiftly to support its ally, Austria-Hungary, in a long-anticipated Great War (later more readily known as the First World War, or World War I). The Ottoman empire sides with them, with Britain, France, and Russia arrayed against them. As the majority of Jewish communities in Palestine have originated from the territory of now-hostile nations, they are expelled by the Ottoman authorities.

Mütesarrifate Palestine is taken by British and Hijaz forces from the crumbling Ottomans. The Jewish Legion (an unofficial name), has elements in the field of operations within the British army, although all are dismissed at the end of the war.

Four hundred years of Ottoman rule is ended and, in 1917, the British Parliament's 'Balfour Declaration' gives backing for 'a national home for Jewish people' in what is now mandate-controlled Palestine. Surviving expelled Jews are able to return, although many have suffered three years of incredible hardship.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 provides the reason for another wave of Jewish migrants into European-controlled areas of China. They settle in port cities, especially Shanghai and Hong Kong, the latter being a British colonial holding.

Arab Revolt 1916-1918
The 'Arab Revolt' of 1916-1918 was encouraged by the British as a diversion against Ottoman resistance which was also attempting to hold back the British main military advance, but even so the revolt played a vital part in destroying Ottoman hegemony over Arabia


Increasing Jewish migration and settlement into Palestine is stirring concern amongst Arab groups. During the Muslim Nabi Musa festival, speeches by Arab religious leaders lead to several attacks on Jews. There is fighting on both sides (the Nabi Musa Riots, or Palestine Riots), leading to nine deaths and dozens of injuries, and former members of the Jewish Legion defend their communities.

Jewish concern that the British military is not taking the situation seriously enough leads them to create their own 'shadow' administration and a security force called the Haganah.

1920 - 1923

Although it begins in December 1919, the Third Aliyah really picks up in 1920, resulting in a fresh wave of forty thousand Jews entering Palestine. The trigger for this migration is the October Revolution in Russia, although the fact that the largely neutral British rather than the Ottomans are now in control of Palestine makes it a much more enticing prospect than previously.

1924 - 1929

The Fourth Aliyah follows on from the third, delivering approximately a hundred thousand Jews into Palestine, mostly from Lithuania, Poland (up to half of them), Rumania, and Russia. Jewish communities undergo rapid development, especially in Tel Aviv, but economic crisis between 1926-1927 causes great hardship, forcing around 23,000 Jews to leave again.

King Faysal
King Faysal was photographed at Homs in 1919, standing third from the left, during an intensive period of negotiation and political manoeuvring to see who would control what in the post-Ottoman Near East

1929 - 1939

The Western Wall Uprising of 1929 in Palestine results from a Judo-Arab dispute about access to the Western Wall. Arabs kill 133 Jews, British police kill 110 Arabs, and a handful of Arabs are killed by Jews. The blame for the violence is laid largely at the door of the Arabs, who are feeling increasing social pressure due to the rapid increase of Jewish immigrants into the region.

As if to highlight this, the beginning of the Fifth Aliyah follows immediately afterwards, triggered by the rise of Nazism in Germany and the threat of war. The failed Weimar republic there has been swept away and the German constitution has been suspended. Central Europe is rife with political activity and violence at this time, largely driven by the Nazis (or at least used for their own ends).

The Arab Revolt of 1936-1939 in Palestine (later dubbed The Great Revolt or The Great Palestinian Revolt) sees a general nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against British administration. The spark for this uprising is the murder of two Jews by followers of the Syrian Muslim preacher, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, and a retaliatory murder by Jewish gunmen of two Arab labourers. They demand Arab independence and an end to open-ended immigration and land purchases by recent Jewish arrivals.

Nabi Musa festival
The Nabi Musa festival of 1920 prompted riots in Palestine between the majority Arabs and the minority, but rapidly burgeoning, Jewish population

1939 - 1945

Nazi Germany invades Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939, replacing its republic with the German 'Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia'. Slovakia is separated as the Slovak republic. On the day of the invasion, Sub-Carpathian Rus declares independence as Carpatho-Ukraine. Within three days it is occupied by its old master, Hungary, and remains so until Germany itself occupies Hungary in 1944.

Until then Hungary fights on the side of Nazi Germany in the Second World War, losing a large part of its army in Soviet Russia. The Germans occupy Hungary after the latter seeks an armistice. Hundreds of thousands of Jews and gypsies are deported to death camps in this period.

After some internal strife, fascists rule Rumania as part of the Axis Alliance with the Nazis. The country is governed by its pro-German dictator, with the king powerless. Antonescu's rule is marked by anti-Semitic atrocities, including racially discriminatory laws, deportations, and pogroms (although Queen Helen, mother of the king, does manage to have many anti-Jewish measures and orders rescinded).

Jews are seen by Germany's Adolf Hitler as racial pollutants. They are used by him and his followers as an excuse for all of the country's ills since the defeat of the First World War. The result is the 'Holocaust' (or 'Catastrophe', the term preferred by modern Israel).

German troops enter Poland on 1 September 1939
Nazi-led German troops are shown here progressing in good order through a Polish town on the first day of the invasion, 1 September 1939

To Hitler it is the 'final solution' in which six million Jews (not to mention hundreds of thousands of other Europeans, mostly Balts and Slavs) are systematically exterminated, generally in organised camps which are set up in occupied Poland and other eastern territories after 1939, but often too in ad hoc arrangements such as mass shootings in front of hastily-dug trenches.

Ashkenazi Jews, the predominant grouping in central and Eastern Europe, form by far the largest percentage of Jews killed. The Romaniote Jews of Greece are also heavily decimated by the Nazi purge. Luxembourg loses a sizable portion of its own Jewish community.

The true horrors of the Holocaust, while gradually coming to light for politicians and military leaders during the course of the Second World War, are generally unknown by the world until the camps are liberated in 1945.

1946 - 1947

Syria gains full independence from France with the withdrawal of the last of the colonial troops, five years after proclaiming their country independent, and two years after that independence is recognised. Syria progresses rapidly but continual changes of government and constitution make it unstable.

Colonel Sami al-Hinnaw
Colonel Sami al-Hinnaw was the second military ruler of the newly independent Syria in 1949, which was the first Arab country to suffer a coup following the war

In 1947 a riot in Aleppo results in the city's Jewish quarter being burned and seventy-five people being killed. Members of the Jewish diaspora now begin heading out of the country in large numbers, primarily heading to Lebanon.


The British Palestine Mandate comes to an end on 14 May. Before withdrawal of the remaining British forces can even start, the declaration of the state of Israel takes place on the same day. Much of the region is captured by well-prepared Jewish forces, with the remnant gradually being reduced to the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The modern state of Israel is quickly established. It offers a home for Jews of all groups, whatever their part in the Jewish diaspora and whatever their history across the two millennia or more since their ancestors had departed the region. The Arab-Israeli War breaks out, and takes a year to conclude, largely in Israel's favour. In this period some returnees prefer to settle in Lebanon, initially at least, with this still being a safe haven with protections for Jewish communities.

During the war violent anti-Jewish riots had broken out in Morocco's Oujda and Djerada, with forty-four Jews being killed (part of the overall Mizrahi Jews grouping). Following the war's end a total of eighteen thousand Moroccan Jews leave the country for Israel. Further migrations follow but in much smaller numbers.

Official declaration of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948
The white-haired, sixty-two year-old David Ben-Gurion proclaims the declaration of the creation of the state of Israel, doing so in the small art museum on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv in 1948

Ashkenazi Jews have already returned in large numbers whilst also entering the USA in equally sizeable numbers. Sephardi Jews trickle back in some numbers, while still retaining large communities in Western Europe. Indian Jews, Cochin Jews, and Bene Israel Jews also return home in heavy numbers, leaving their diaspora communities in India greatly reduced in size. Karaite Jews return home in large numbers, but they still have sizeable communities in Turkey, across Europe, and in the USA.

Around thirty-eight thousand Jews live in Libya in 1948. However, temporary Nazi occupation during the war has resulted in a generally lower tolerance of these communities after the war's end. Pogroms continue through 1948, but outwards migration is allowed in 1949, with around thirty thousand leaving Libya for Israel, approximately eighty percent of the entire Jewish population.

A similar situation exists in Egypt, with the 1945 anti-Jewish riots in Cairo being a particularly dangerous low point. Following the war's conclusion around twenty thousand Jews leave Egypt to return to Israel.

1949 - 1950

'Operation On Wings of Eagles', colloquially known as 'Operation Magic Carpet', sees the great majority of the Yemenite Jews rescued from constant persecution in Yemen. Between June 1949 and September 1950 it carries forty-nine thousand Yemenite Jews to the new state of Israel.

David Ben-Gurion and Harry Truman
David Ben-Gurion (right), Israel's first chairman of the 'Provisional State Council' in 1948 and also its first prime minister, chats to US President Harry Truman (left) and Abba Eban

1951 - 1952

Operation Ezra and Nehemiah sees between 120,000-130,000 Iraqi Jews airlifted to Israel via Iran and Cyprus. This massive emigration is one of the last grand acts of modern Israel's formation period. It takes place during a one year window of opportunity in which Iraq permits a large-scale departure of its Jewish citizens, all part of the modern Mizrahi Jews classification. The operation is named after Ezra and Nehemiah, leaders of the Jewish second return from Babylon in 459 BC.


Attempting to free Algeria from French rule, the long and bloody Algerian War of Liberation begins with the National Liberation Army (FLN) fighting using guerrilla tactics. Non-Algerian communities begin to emigrate in large numbers, whether Muslims, Christians, or Jews. Many of the latter prefer France, although a sizable number do end up in Israel.

1955 - 1956

Jewish migration back to Israel peaks at about seventy-five thousand in all, just as Morocco achieves independence. Such migration is banned in 1956, but around eighteen thousand Mizrahi Jews still find their way out.

Tunisia takes no steps against emigrating members of the Jewish diaspora, having had a relatively stable and prosperous relationship with them. However, Tunisian independence in 1956 certainly does turn a small emigration into a much larger exodus to Israel so that, by 2022, the Jewish population in the country is minimal.

Habib Bourguiba
Habib Bourguiba was a progressive dictator, someone who introduced substancial reforms and freedoms in Tunisia while also suppressing political opposition and securing a presidency for life

1956 - 1957

Israel occupies the Sinai peninsula as part of its efforts against Egypt in the Suez Crisis. While its objectives are achieved as part of an agreement with France and Britain, Israel is pressured into withdrawing by the United Nations and even more especially by the USA, which fails to support any of its allies in this affair.

UN peacekeepers are positioned in the Sinai to act as a buffer between Israel and Egypt. Immediately after the conclusion of the crisis, migration spikes in Egypt's Jewish diaspora, leaving an increasingly small community of Oriental Jews behind it as it heads to Israel.


With Israel's Mossad agency secretly agitating within Morocco to end the migration ban on Jews, Operation Janchin is financially backed by a US-based Jewish organisation. The fifty million dollars of funding they supply help to organise undercover migration out of Morocco. The Moroccan king abandons the ban with the result that over seventy thousand Jews leave in the next three years.


Algeria wins independence from France, in a fight which has cost the lives of more than a million Algerians. The Algerian state is proclaimed on 3 July 1962, but Algeria's democracy is often hard-line and dictatorial in nature. The country's remaining Jewish community is not permitted citizenship, so it promptly abandons Algeria wholesale, dividing itself largely between France and Israel.

Algerian independence
The Algerian Liberation Front was the political and military organisation which united Algerians for their revolutionary war and which led to independence in 1962


The Alhambra Decree (also known as the Edict of Expulsion) of 1492 is formally rescinded in Spain on 16 December 1968. The move is following Vatican City's Second Vatican Council in 1962-1964 which had worked to revise the liturgy and reform the church's approach to the modern world. In reality it simply formalises a century of open worship in the country by members of the Jewish diaspora.


Regulations on immigration are loosened in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This allows massive numbers of Bukharan Jews to leave, with Israel or the USA generally their selected destination. By the 1990s the region has almost exhausted its centuries-old Jewish communities.


Thanks to behind-the-scenes manoeuvring by the newly-elected president of the Russian republic, Boris Yeltsin, on Christmas Day 1991 the USSR's President Gorbachev announces the termination of the Soviet communist state. The Soviet republics become independent sovereign states, while millions of ethnic Russians suddenly find themselves living in foreign countries, and large numbers of Jews suddenly opt to emigrate to Israel.

Boris Yeltsin in 1991
Boris Yeltsin won mass popular support during his leading role in thwarting the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991

At the same time, large numbers of Georgian Jews and Mountain Jews emigrate from independent Georgia to create communities in Israel. Over subsequent years these disparate communities gradually integrate into Israel's general population.

In the same year Syria joins the US-led First Gulf War to oust Iraq from its occupation of Kuwait. In the same year, following the 'Madrid Conference' to reignite the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the USA pressures Syria to ease its extremely tight restrictions on its Jewish diaspora community.

In the following year Syria does so, allowing exit visas to be granted on the condition that holders do not emigrate to Israel. The country's several thousand Jews head mainly for the US and a large Syrian Jewish community in South Brooklyn, New York. Others head for France and Turkey. Only a handful of Jews remain in Syria, mainly older people.

Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat
The famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat (right) in 1993, overseen by US President Bill Clinton, seemed to presage a new beginning in Palestine, but Rabin's assassination in 1995 soured matters


Persecution of the Falashas in Ethiopia has steadily increased, so Israel begins covert airlifts of Falasha populations, taking them back to their homeland. Despite attempts by the Ethiopian government to put a halt to this, the airlift is completed by 1999 with all of the Falashas being removed to Israel. This is perhaps the final organised action to end the Jewish diaspora, with other overseas communities largely happy to remain where they are.

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