The name Israel comes from the Hebrew name יִשְׂרָאֵל (Yisra'el) meaning "God contended".In the Old Testament Israel, who was formerly named Jacob, (see Genesis 32:28) wrestled with an angel. Both the ancient and modern states of Israel took their names from him.
Israel’s history goes back to the dawn of civilisation, and has always been the target of invasions and wars with several countries. One of the main reasons behind these conflicts has been religion. While religion is not something this websites wants to debated, we do acknowledge that it’s religion that has been the hub of all its major conflicts, especially during what is described as its modern history.
During 63BC when the Romans first conquered Israel most historians agree that they used mercenary soldiers to boost up their numbers. Because of the vast area and number of countries the Romans ruled over they needed more manpower than what was available back in Rome. Therefore they needed to boost up their numbers as a means of continuing their domination. During their conquering of foreign countries the defeated armies were sometimes given a chance to join the Roman Army, instead of being killed. One would think it was an easy decision to make without any hesitation. In many cases they were even used to police their own defeated countries.
A similar situation cropped up in 1982 when the British defeated Argentina during the Falklands war. There were so many prisoners taken that the British Military were caught off guard not knowing what to do with them. The problem was resolved when they gave all the Argentinean officers hand guns, and told to control the law and order of their own men while it was worked out what to do with them.
There are numerous cases recorded in the United Kingdom of Roman soldiers going into villages and taking young men, who were then forced to fight for Rome. As long as the villagers did not object they were granted some sort of protection from the Romans. While the young men who were taken, were employed for a set number of years. Upon completion of this term and if they had been loyal to their word with Rome, they were even allowed to go to Rome as a citizen. It’s hard to work out if they could be truly classed as mercenaries, as they were fighting for a foreign country but within the country of their birth.
Then in 66-70AD the Jewish people stage a rebellion against their Roman rulers.
While in 73AD the Jewish people made their last stand against the Romans at Masada.
Between the years 132-135AD the Romans had become frustrated with the rebellion of the Jewish people and retaliated by forcing them to leave the region of Israel and renamed the area Palestine. In total the Romans ruled the area for 376 years.
During the 600’s the Arab nations moved into the area and conquered Palestine, a rule that was to last 465 years.
Between 1000 and 1200 the English Crusades with their Christian beliefs tried to claim the area and in particular the city of Jerusalem. Many of the Castles they built though out the country are still standing to this day.
1517 saw the country invaded and ruled continually by the Otterman Empire for the next 400 years, that lasted till 1917.
1564 and a Code of Jewish law (Shulhan Arukh) was published.
Around the early 1800s the Zionists started a movement to set up a Jewish state in Palestine.
1882 to1903 saw the first large-scale immigration of Jewish people into Palestine coming mainly from Russia.
During the late 1800s economic and political instability in Eastern Europe, saw many Jewish people leave the area leading up to the First World War. 2.5 million of them went to Palestine, while 2.5 million move west in Europe, and a further 2 million fled to the U.S.A.
In the early 1900s there was conflict between the Jewish and Arab populations in the area, causing many problems and killings.
1904/14 saw the second large scale immigration of Jewish people move to Palestine, comingmainly from Russia and Poland.
1916 and the Sykes-Picot Accords are signed, a secret British-French agreement to divide the post-war Middle East between them.
In 1917 the British conquered Palestine and brought about the end of the Otterman Empire. Almost immediately the British Minister for Foreign Affairs Arthur James Balfour issued a declaration supporting the Zionist cause. In exchange for support in the First World War, Britain promised Jewish people a national home in Palestine, without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of the non Jewish population. That became known as the ‘Balfour Declaration’. The British then went on to govern the country up to 1948 their rein over the country lasting a total of 30 years.
1920/32 saw the third large scale immigration of Jewish people into Palestine coming mainly from Russia.
1921 and Britain was granted a mandate to govern Palestine by the League of Nations. Transjordan is set up on three quarters of the Palestine land, while the other quarter was left for the Jewish National Home.
From 1922 to 1948 Britain ruled Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq under the League of Nations Mandates, while France controlled Syria and Lebanon.
1924/32 saw the fourth large scale immigration of Jewish people into Palestine as thousands of Polish Jews sort shelter from persecution.
1929 In the city of Hebron there was a Jewish massacre by Arab Militants.
1931 Etzel (Irgun) a Jewish underground organisation was founded to fight for home rule in Palistine.
1933/39 brought about the fifth large scale immigration of Jewish people into Palestine, as thousands of German Jews fled from persecution in their own country.
1939 and the British brought out a white paper severely limiting Jewish immigration in to the country, setting a maximum figure of 100,000.
1939 to 1945 saw the Second World War and the German Jewish people experienced the horrors of the Holocaust, when approximately 6 million were killed by the Nazis.
1944 a Jewish Army Brigade was formed as part of the British Fighting Force in Palestine.
1944 to 1947 was a time that became known as the Jewish-British War. Several Jewish groups in Palestine tried to expel Britain from Palestine. At that time the Jewish mainstream fighters were lead by David Ben Gurion and were known as Haganah. They were later to become the basis of the first Israeli army. Two other separate military groups, Irgun Zvai Leumi led by Menachem Begin, and Lehi or better known as the Stern Gang led by Yitzhak Shamir resorted to assassination and bombings. Many British soldiers and Arab civilians are killed during this period.
By 1947 Britain conceded that it could not keep the peace in the area and handed the problem over to the United Nations. On the 29th November 1947 Resolution 181 was passed by the General Assembly voting to partition Palestine into Jewish and Palestinian states with an international enclave around Jerusalem. The British Mandate was also brought to an end. Arab leaders in the area rejected the plan and insisted on a united Palestine with a secular government. However, it was not long before fighting broke out between the Jews and Palestinians.
The day after the British left on 14th May 1948 the State of Israel was declared. At that time there were 6000,000 Jewish people living in the country. David Ben-Gurion became Israel's first Prime Minister and Defence Minister. His first act was to set up the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), and recruited the American mercenary David ‘Mickey’ Marcus to head its army.
Then on the 15th May 1948 Israel was invaded by 5 Arab neighbouring States, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon, who engaged in an escalating war to prevent the partition of Palestine, the creation of a Jewish state, and to stop further Israeli expansion into the proposed Palestinian areas. The main contingent of the Arab army was lead by the Jordanians under the command of British mercenary Major General John Bagot Glubb, who had become a pasha and was better known to him men as General Glubb Pasha.
17th May 1948 the Nation of Israel was established.
Between 1948/52 There was another mass immigration of Jewish people to Israel mainly coming from Europe and some Arab countries.
What followed has become known as the ‘War of Independence’ that took place between May 1948 and July 1949. What the United Nations had designated as the Arab state was eventually split into three parts, some was taken by Israel and incorporated into their new state, the Gaza Strip was held and governed by Egypt. While the largest remaining component commonly referred to as the "West Bank" of the Jordan River was held by Jordan. The United Nations had proposed that Jerusalem and other holy places become an internationally governed entity. However, during the fighting Jerusalem was divided into Israeli west and Jordanian east. When a truce was finally declared Israel came out on top owning most of the land, and classed its self as the victor.
Early in 1949 an armistice agreement was eventually signed by Israel with Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Jerusalem was divided and placed under Israeli and Jordanian rule. This was also the time when the Israeli First Knesset (parliament) was elected.
The 1949 defeat was a major humiliation for the Arab world. However, within a few years the governments of Egypt and Syria were swept away in military coups and the king of Jordan was assassinated.
11th May 1949 and the United Nations General Assembly passes Resolution 273 admitting Israel to United Nations as it's 59th member.
1950 and the ‘Law of Return’ was passed allowing any Jewish person from around the world, (with just a few exceptions), to settle in Israel.
1955 David Ben-Gurion becomes Israel's Defence Minister and later the Prime Minister for a second term in office.
1956 what became known as the Suez War, when Britain, France, and Israel attacked Egypt, over control of the Suez Canal, gateway to the far east. In doing so Israel took an opportunity and seized Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. While the US and USSR sat on the side lines and demanded Israeli, French, and British troops withdraw from the area.
June 1967 what became known as the Six-Day War led to Israel crushing Egypt, Jordan and Syria in just six days. Israel also re-captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan province from Syria, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. Jerusalem was finally reunited once again.
On 22nd November 1967 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 242 calling on Israel to concede territory captured during the Six-Day War. While Israel maintained the resolution actually implicitly recognised Israel's 1949 borders.
1968/70 Egypt wages an intense War of Attrition against Israel.
September 1970 militant Palestinian guerrillas (secretly assisted by Syria) tried to overthrow the Jordanian King Hussein. U.S.A. and Israel mobilised their forces to help Jordan if necessary. More than 3,000 Palestinians were killed during the fighting. After their defeat the Palestinian guerrillas moved their bases to Lebanon, a move that was to cause further problems for Israel a few years later.
6th October 1973 what became known as the Yom Kippur War took place when Egypt and Syria attempt to regain lost territories on Yom Kippur day (Day of Atonement), the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, when they launch a coordinated surprise assault against Israel, with the Egyptian army in the south crossing the Suez Canal, while the Syrian troops in the North penetrated the Golan Heights. Initially, they pushed Israel back from their defences, but a massive airlift of US arms to Israel tipped the balance. The Israel Defence Forces turned the tide of battle and repulsed the attackers, crossing the Suez Canal into Egypt, and advancing to within 20 miles of the Syrian capital, Damascus in the north.
On 22nd October 1973, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 338, calling on Israel to concede territory captured in both the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. While the Arab oil states took their own stance by proclaiming an oil boycott against all countries assisting Israel.
1975 Israel became an associate member of the European Common Market.
1978 and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the U.S. sponsored Camp David Accords, leading to a peace treaty, which they eventually signed on 26th March 1979.
1982 Israel invades Lebanon to drive out the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters who were attacking northern Israel. This was the same group that had earlier been forced to move out of Jordan back in September 1970.
1987 a Palestinian uprising against Israel began in the West Bank and Gaza.
1993 the P.L.O. and Israel agree to recognise each other's existence. The treaty is known as the Oslo Accords.
1994 and Jordan and Israel finally sign a peace treaty.
This violent history has continued right up to the present day, and if the past is anything to go by, it’s looking like the countries future will not be any different from its past. Israel’s relationship with its neighbours is still on a knife edge as it has been during its entire history, and sadly its religion that’s at the heart of the problem.
Getting back to mercenary involvement, it’s been mentioned earlier that the Romans used them to conquer most of Europe and the Mediterranean area. And it’s a fair guess that other invading forces over the years have also chose to do the same.
However, two of the most famous mercenaries of that era who fought in the middle east area actually faced each other during the 1948 war that lead to the establishment of the state of Israel.
David ‘Mickey’ Marcus was recruited from the USA to help design and carry out a plan that would see Israel the victor over its Arab invaders. Marcus was born of Jewish parents on George Washington’s birthday in 1902. In 1920 he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and worked his way to the top, but not without the problems associated with being Jewish. During the Second World War he moved around with the top men of that time. People like Roosevelt, Churchill and Chiang in Cairo during November 1943. While later in Teheran with Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. During the D-day landings on the 6th June 1944 he parachuted into France at night ahead of the invasion force. At the end of the war Marcus was promoted and made head of the War Crimes division in the Pentagon, having been an advocate for human rights for most of his life. Then in the spring of 1947 he left the service and took up a career with a private law practice.
However, it was not long before he was recruited by Major Shlomo and returned with him to Israel where he drew up a plan and strategy to help Israel become victorious over the Arab nations. Something he did successfully. Sadly on the last evening of the war after an agreement had been reached that the war would end at 10am Israeli time on 11th June 1948. Marcus took a walk in the darkness chatting to some of the sentries around his camp. However, unbeknown by him one of the sentries changed and forgot to mention to the relieving sentry that Marcus was out there walking around. Upon his approach to the new sentry he was shot dead. This tragedy has also gone down in history as he was the very last person from both sides who died during the war.
His coffin was flown back to America for burial draped with the Israeli flag. However upon its arrival and before the coffin was removed from the aircraft the Israeli flag had been folded and removed, and was replaced with the American Flag. He was laid to rest at the West Point cemetery and he has the distinction of being the only West Pointer of more than 3000 soldiers buried in that cemetery to have been killed while fighting under a foreign flag. (or at least up until that day).
There is a short Biography on this website that you might like to read about David ‘Mickey’ Marcus. There is also a good book about Marcus that’s also worth a read titled ‘Merc” by Jay Mullin and Robert K. Brown. In hard cover it was published by MacMillan publishing Co Inc. in 1979. While later 1980 it was Published by ‘First Signet Printing as a paperback.
The other mercenary mentioned earlier was Major General John Bagot Glubb, who became a pasha and was better known by his men as General Glubb Pasha. Glubb was the leader and architect of the Arab invading forces against Israel. He was born in Preston Lancashire on 16th April 1897, the son of an army officer and himself a graduate of the Royal Military Academy. He also served in France during the First World War. Glubb resigned his British army commission in 1926 to become an administrator for the Iraqi government, where he lived among the Bedouins, spoke their language, understood their customs and worked for their greater good.
On 30th November 1947, the Arab Legion lead by Glubb began operations in support of supply convoys to Arab forces around Jerusalem. Glubb tried to distance his force from direct involvement in the fighting until May 1948, when the Jews of the Etzion Bloc, a group of settlements on the road north of Hebron, attacked Arab reinforcements and supplies destined for Jerusalem. On 4th May 10 days before the British Palestine Mandate expired, Arab tanks, armoured cars of the Desert Patrol and riflemen drawn from the Arab locals stormed the four Jewish settlements that comprised the Etzion Bloc.
With an end to the declared war on 9th January 1949, King Abdullah (one of Glubbs main employers), backed by the Arab Legion which by now was around 6,000 strong, annexed East Jerusalem, Hebron and Nablus, and changed his country's name to the Arab Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. He also severed all ties with Britain. Having lost the war the Arabs repaid Glubb by getting rid of him, thus ending many years of his close ties with several Arab countries. This was also the only defeat he suffered in a life time of active service. There is a short Biography on Glubb Pasha on this website, but it’s worth searching for him on line, quite an extraordinary man.
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