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May 12, 1943 — Mitzpe Gevulot Marks Move Into Negev
Ten Jews in tents establish Mitzpe Gevulot, the first of three agricultural outposts in the first phase of Zionist settlement of the Negev, where the Jewish National Fund has been buying land since the 1930s. The Gevulot residents soon erect a tower and fortified walls as part of a strategy of extending the Jewish footprint in Palestine in case of partition. Gevulot settlers experiment with grain cultivation, irrigation and water conservation.
May 13, 1984 — Morocco Holds Jewish Conference
Moroccan King Hasan II convenes the two-day Conference on the Jewish Communities of Morocco, where about twenty thousand Jews remain. Despite doubts from Jews about the king’s intentions and criticisms from Syria for undermining Arab solidarity and the Palestinian cause, the conference in Rabat draws thirty eight Israelis, including eight Knesset members, and sparks improving Morocco-Israel relations during Hasan’s remaining fifteen years as king.
May 14, 1948 — Israel Declares Independence
David Ben-Gurion, the chairman of the Provisional State Council, reads Israel’s Declaration of Independence on a Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv. In many ways paralleling the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Israeli document includes a synopsis of Jewish history, expresses the state’s intentions toward its inhabitants (Jewish and non-Jewish) and its neighbors, and makes the case for a Jewish state under international law.
May 15, 1967 — ‘Jerusalem of Gold’ Premieres
Naomi Shemer’s “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”) premieres as one of five Jerusalem-themed songs unveiled at the Voice of Israel Song Festival. Shemer says the phrase comes from a Talmudic legend about Rabbi Akiva, who dreamed of giving his wife a “Jerusalem of gold,” or jewelry. The song is an instant hit, and Shemer adds a stanza about Jerusalem being under Israeli control after the war the next month.
May 16, 1916 — Sykes-Picot Pact Splits Ottoman Lands
British diplomat Mark Sykes and French diplomat Charles Georges Picot, a former consul in Beirut, complete a secret pact known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which France and the United Kingdom agree to divide the former Ottoman Empire territories in the Middle East after World War I. The League of Nations endorses the agreement, under which Britain establishes its mandate in Palestine and takes control of Transjordan and Iraq.
May 17, 1939 — British Restrict Jewish Immigration to Palestine
The British government issues the 1939 White Paper, which enacts extreme restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchases in Palestine. The White Paper signals the British willingness to relegate Jews to permanent minority status in a future Arab-controlled state, even after Kristallnacht six months earlier highlighted the existential threat to European Jewry. Illegal Jewish immigration, known as Aliyah B, ramps up in response.
May 18, 1965 — Spy Eli Cohen Is Executed
Syria hangs Israeli spy Eli Cohen in a public square in Damascus. Cohen, who had infiltrated the highest levels of Syrian society and government as businessman Kamel Amin Thaabet, was arrested in January while transmitting secrets to Israel on an illegal radio. He was sentenced to death in March. Cohen’s accomplishments include revealing the locations of fortifications in the Golan Heights, vital intelligence in the June 1967 war.
Items are provided by the Center for Israel Education.