The Jewish State of Israel

The history of the Jewish people and the history of the State of Israel are closely connected. Here are some important events in that history. Match date/dates with each event.


a. Armistice agreements are signed with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon; Israel is admitted to the United Nation
b. Adolf Hitler comes to power in Germany.
c. After World War I, France and Britain divide up the Middle East.
d. Conflicts between Arabs and Jews continue.
e. The State of Israel is declared; hostilities break out between Israelis and Arabs.
f. The Holocaust results in the deaths of about six million Jews.
g. With Palestine under British rule, Jewish immigration to Palestine increases.

The Idol Seller

Abraham was a founder of Judaism. He was born around 1800 B.C.E. in the city of Ur. His father, Terah, made idols for people to worship. Abraham did not believe in idols; he believed in one god.

One day, Abraham was left to mind his father’s store of idols. He smashed all the idols except one, then put the hammer in that idol’s hands.

When Terah returned and saw the broken idols, he was furious. He shouted to Abraham, “What have you done?? Why did you smash my idols?” Abraham replied that the idols had gotten into a fight, and the idol with the hammer had broken the other ones. Terah said, “What nonsense! I made these idols – they have no life or power, they can’t do anything! You must have broken them!”

This answer gave Abraham the perfect argument to use with his father. What do you think Abraham said next?

The Empty Palace

Abraham was the first prophet of Judaism. According to the Midrash, a book of Jewish stories and aphorisms, Abraham was walking near the city of Ur when he saw an empty palace. For a moment he thought that the palace appeared before him like an illusion. Then he realized, of course, it was probably built by someone. In order for a palace to exist it must have been built. Likewise, Abraham reasoned that the world itself was made by something. This “something” is called God.

Do you think things can exist without having a beginning?

The First Covenant

Abraham was the first prophet of Judaism. According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and made a covenant, or agreement, with him.

God asked Abraham to do certain things. In return, he promised to take special care of Abraham’s descendants and to give them the land of Israel.

Abraham is sometimes called the patriarch of the Jewish people. A patriarch is a father or founder. In what way was Abraham the patriarch of Judaism?

Moses in the Basket

Around 1700 B.C.E., famine forced the Israelites to migrate to Egypt. Over tie, the Israelites became like slaves in Egypt. Around 1200 B.C.E., the pharaoh, or ruler of Egypt, started to worry about the Israelites. He was afraid they might rebel against him. To keep them weak, he ordered that all boys born to the Israelites must be thrown into the river to drown.

One woman who ha a son hid the baby as long as she could. When he was about three months old, she took a basket and made it as waterproof as she could. Then she put the baby in the basket and left him near the river’s edge.

The daughter of the pharaoh found the basket. She guessed at once that the baby was an Israelite. But she was moved by pity for the baby. She arranged to have the baby nursed – by his own mother, though the princess didn’t know this. Later she adopted the boy as her son. She named him Moses, which means “one who was drawn out,” because, she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

What kind of person do you think would try to rescue someone she didn’t know and take him into her own home?

Moses and God

In the Book of Exodus in the Bible, Moses’ first meeting with god is described. God tells Moses to call the Israelites together and to lead them out of Egypt. Moses answered:

“But,” objected Moses, “suppose they will not believe me, nor listen to my plea? For they may say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ (Exodus 4:1)

In response, God gave Moses a sign that would convince the Israelites that Moses had truly seen God.

If someone told you that he or she had seen God, would you believe them? What kind of sign would convince you?

The Ten Plagues of Egypt

According to the Bible, God promised to deliver the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Directed by God, Moses asked the pharaoh to release the Jews. The pharaoh refused. God then sent ten plagues to the Egyptians; Jews were not affected by the plagues.

First, the water in the Nile turned to blood. Then a wave of frogs covered the land. Next the dust of the earth was changed into gnats, which attacked people and animals. In the fourth plague, swarms of flies filled the air. Then came a disease that killed the Egyptians’ livestock. Next the Egyptians suffered from painful boils. In the seventh plague, severe hail killed people and animals. Then came locusts, which ate any crops that survived the hail. The ninth plague brought three days of utter darkness, so that people could not see to move around. In the tenth plague, the firstborn sons in all Egyptian homes died. Finally, the pharaoh agreed to let the Jews leave Egypt.

The pharaoh refused to let the Jews leave until the tenth plague. How do you think ordinary Egyptians felt about this? Imagine living through plague after plague. Would you want to keep the Jews in Egypt, or let them go?


The Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt after god sent ten plagues to the Egyptians. In the last plague, the firstborn son of every house in Egypt died. Speaking through Moses, God directed the Jews to do certain things. Death would pass over the house of anyone who obeyed theses directions. Jewish families were told to sacrifice a lamb and to mark their doors with its blood. They were then to roast the lamb, eating it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They were to dress as if they were traveling, with sandals on their feet and staffs in hand. God also told them that they should celebrate this event in the future by performing the same rite every year.

Moses explained, “When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ you shall reply, ‘This is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he spared our houses.” (Exodus 12 26:27)

Passover is still celebrated in Jewish homes today, 3000 years after the first Passover in Egypt. Why do you think this event is still celebrated?

The Commandments: A Moral Code

When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, they crossed the Sinai Desert. God called Moses to the top of Mount Sinai and gave him the Ten Commandments. These commandments formed the moral code for the Jewish people. Some were injunctions – things the people were told to do. Some were prohibitions – things they were told not to do.

Injunctions included keeping the Sabbath day holy and honouring one’s parents. Prohibitions included worshipping other gods, making idols, taking God’s name in vain, killing, committing adultery, theft, bearing false witness, and wanting things that belong to other people

Do you think these Ten Commandments are a good foundation for a code of conduct?

The Commandments: A Legal Code

The Ten Commandments combine religious and moral rules in a code for Jewish people. Many of the moral rules are now enforced by laws. Read the commandments.

1. You shall have no other gods but me.
2. You shall not make any idols.
3. You shall not take the name of your Lord in vain.
4. You shall remember and keep holy the Sabbath day.
5. Honour your father and mother.
6. You shall not kill.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods.

Which commandments are laws today?