What is the History of Judea and Samaria?

Biblical Beginnings – The land of Israel was originally settled by the pagan tribes, known in the Bible as the “Seven Nations” – the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Jebusites, Hivites, Perizzites, and Girgashites. But as God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the land of Israel was promised to the descendents of Jacob, the people of Israel.
In 1273 BCE, the people of Israel, led by Joshua, crossed the Jordan River and entered the land of Israel. In the ensuing years, the people of Israel conquered the land, which was divided among the 12 tribes of Israel.

First Exile and Return

The people of Israel lived in the holy land for the next 850 years without interruption, an era recorded in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, as well as prophetic books like Isaiah and Jeremiah. In 423 BCE, the first Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the Israelites were exiled from the land. 

70 years later, Emperor Cyrus of the Persian Empire (the successor to the Babylonian Empire), allowed the people of Israel to return to their land and rebuild the Temple. The Israelites who returned settled in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, overcoming opposition from tribes that had occupied the holy land during their absence.
The Second Temple stood for the next 420 years, during which time the people of Israel overcame Greek oppressors, a victory celebrated each year during the holiday of Hanukkah. Beginning in 61 BCE, the land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, came under the control of the Roman Empire. THe Romans, like the Greeks before them, oppressed the Jewish people and periodically forbade Jewish practices. In 66 CE, the Jewish people revolted against their Roman oppressors, but the Romans ultimately suppressed the revolt and destroyed the Second Temple in 69 CE. The Romans also renamed the region Syria Palaestina, after the Philistines, a group of ancient seafaring people who had once inhabited the coastal region that is known today as Gaza. The Jewish people rebelled again in 135 CE in the Bar Kokhba Rebellion, but this too was suppressed by the Romans, who slaughtered and exiled much of the Jewish population.

Second Exile and Ongoing Devastation

In the ensuing years, due to wars and oppression, the Jewish population of Israel dwindled dramatically. During this time, the center of Jewish life moved to the diaspora, as Jews settled throughout the world. For the next 1,900 years, though there was always a small community of Jews in the land of Israel, the vast majority of Jews lived in exile. 


After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, was ruled by a succession of foreign rulers, including the Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamluks and Turks. But as the prophet Ezekiel promised, the land of Israel would not give her abode and her fruit to any nation but Israel: 


“Now you, son of man, prophesy concerning the mountains of Israel, and say; O mountains of Israel, hearken to the word of the Lord. So said the Lord God: Since the enemy said about you, “Hurrah!” and “the high places of the world have become our inheritance…” So said the Lord God to the mountains and to the hills, to the streams and to the valleys, to the desolate ruins and to the deserted cities, which became a scorn and a mockery to the remnant of the nations that are around… I have raised My hand; surely the nations that are around you-they will bear their disgrace. And you, the mountains of Israel, will produce your branches, and you will bear your fruit for My people Israel because they are about to come. For behold I am for you, and I shall turn to you, and you will be tilled and sown. And I shall multiply men upon you, the whole house of Israel in its entirety, and the cities will be settled, and the ruins will be built up.” (Ezekiel 36:1-10)



For almost two millennia, the land of Israel languished in desolation, almost entirely bereft of inhabitants and produce. As Solomon Grayzel writes: “The actual state of Palestine had somehow come to stand for the miserable state of the Jewish people. Both were desolate; both were in hostile hands; both awaited God’s redemption.” Although many conquering nations were attracted to the holy land, all of them failed in their efforts to settle and inhabit the land. The land remained loyal to the Jewish people, waiting anxiously for their return.

Beginning of the Return: Modern Zionism

A small community of Jews lived in parts of Judea and Samaria, including Hebron, almost continuously throughout the Byzantine, Arab, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. A vibrant society of Jewish priests (kohanim) resided in Sussiya, Samaria, from the 4th Century until their enigmatic disappearance in the 8th century. Thousands of Jews, including the great Maimonides in 1165, made pilgrimages to Hebron and Jerusalem. .


But in the 19th century, Jews began to return in larger numbers to the land of Israel, establishing agricultural collectives, towns and cities. WIth establishment of the political Zionist movement in 1897, increasing numbers of Jews moved to Israel from all over the world, despite the challenges presented by the ruling Ottoman Empire. During this era, Jewish pioneers settled throughout the land, including parts of Judea and Samaria. Notably, Moshe Sharrett, Israel’s second Prime Minister, spent his childhood in Ein Sinya in Samaria in the early 20th century.


In 1917, just before conquering Israel from the Ottomans, Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, a public pledge declaring its aim to establish “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. Despite its promises to the Jewish people, Great Britain soon reneged on its promises to the Jewish people. As Jews continued to return home to Israel, the British did little to protect the Jewish pioneers from Arab terrorism. On August 24, 1929, a group of Arab rioters attacked the Jewish quarter of Hebron, the central city of Judea, killing 67 Jews and wounding 53. The rioters also raped and pillaged Jewish homes and businesses. The massacre was one of the deadliest attacks against Jews during the era of British control.

Despite the massacre in Hebron, Jewish pioneers continued to settle Judea and Samaria. After several failed attempts, Jewish settlers collaborated in 1943 to establish four distinct settlements in Judea: Kfar Etzion, Masuot Yitzchak, Ein Tzurim, and Revadim.

The Slaughter of Judea

From 1929 until 1948, Arab terror against the growing Jewish communities of Israel increased significantly. Unable and unwilling to keep the peace, the British made plans to withdraw from the land, handing responsibility for the region to the United Nations. On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution endorsing the proposed division of Israel into Jewish and Arab states. This pivotal decision subsequently paved the way for the official proclamation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.


Even before Israel formally declared its independence, five Arab nations invaded the new Jewish State. On May 13, 1948, the day before Israel declared its independence, the Jordanian  Arab Legion attacked Kfar Etzion, the leading Jewish settlement in Judea from four different directions. Within the span of a single day, the settlements succumbed to the onslaught, and tragically, 127 out of the 133 defenders who surrendered were mercilessly massacred by the Arab forces. The next day, as Israel declared its independence, the other three Jewish communities in Judea surrendered.


Miraculously, the young State of Israel survived the Arab onslaught of 1948. Tragically, however, Judea and Samaria, the Biblical heartland of Israel, was conquered by Jordan. For the next 19 years, from 1948 to 1967, the children of those who had died defending Judea could only gaze from a distance at the ancient oak tree nestled within Gush Etzion. This tree poignantly represented their yearning to reclaim their homes in Judea.

The Liberation of Judea and Samaria in the 6-Day War

In 1967, the Arab nations of Egypt, Syria and Jordan declared war on Israel. Miraculously, Israel defeated all of its enemies with a crushing victory that took only six days to complete. In addition to conquering the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai Desert from Egypt, Israel liberated the old city of Jerusalem and the regions of Judea and Samaria from Jordan. Israel’s triumph in the Six Day War marked a pivotal moment, restoring Jewish authority over the region for the first time since before the Temple’s destruction in 69 CE. 

During the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria, from 1948-1967, the Jordanians did almost nothing to develop the region. The Arab population was quite small, and only began to increase after Judea and Samaria was liberated by Israel in 1967. Approximately 400,000 people from Jordan, Syria and North Africa entered the area between 1976 and 2000. They initially arrived in Judea and Samaria on tourist visas, but then stayed because of Israel’s success in improving social and economic conditions for both Jews and Arabs in the region.

In the ensuing decades, Jewish pioneers began to reestablish communities in the biblical heartland. Since 1967, the Jewish population has flourished, despite the constant threat of Arab terror, with over 500,000 Jews now living in Judea and Samaria.

The Tragedy of Oslo

Beginning in 1993, a left-wing Israeli government signed a series of accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with the goal of achieving peace between Israel and the Arabs living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Accords involved the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the division of Judea, Samaria and Gaza into separate zones of control, allowing the PA to govern many of these territories.

Tragically, the Oslo Accords accomplished the opposite of what its planners hoped to achieve. The Accords have endangered Israelis by allowing the PA to govern these territories, which predictably became havens for terrorist activities. The implementation of Oslo immediately led to a series of horrific suicide bombings and attacks on innocent Jews. The legacy of the Oslo Accords is grim. Since the Accords were signed thirty years ago, Arab terrorists have waged an incessant war against Israel. As of August 2023, 1,675 Israelis have been murdered since the Oslo Accords were signed, and many thousands more have suffered severe injuries.

Instead of bringing peace, the Oslo Accords have only encouraged Arab terror. Palestinian Arabs continue to glorify terror in the media and in their educational systems.

The Struggle Continues

Judea and Samaria is now home to a large and thriving Jewish community of over half a million people. Before our eyes, the pioneers of Judea and Samaria are fulfilling Biblical prophecy, rebuilding the towns and cities of their forefathers and making the land flower once again.

Despite living in the shadow of constant Arab terror, the Jewish pioneers of Judea and Samaria remain strong. God has called His people to come home – and they will not be stopped by evil.

Situated in the very heart of modern day Israel, Judea & Samaria lie alongside Israel’s eastern boundary with Jordan, to the north and south of Jerusalem. The media often refers to this area as “The West Bank,” for it lies on the west bank of the Jordan River dividing the modern State of Israel from Jordan. The area is often compared to the shape of a kidney bean.

Read More

Judea and Samaria are critically important to Israel for two reasons:

God Promised Judea & Samaria to Israel’s Forefathers – Judea & Samaria is the very heart of the homeland that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for their descendents, the children of Israel.

Judea & Samaria are Essential to Israel’s Security – Judea and Samaria’s location at the very heart of Israel make Israeli sovereignty over this area essential to Israel’s national security.

Read More

The Complex Political Status of Judea and Samaria In the 1967 Six-Day War, in its victory over Jordan and other Arab nations, Israel liberated Judea and Samaria. Israel, however, was governed primarily by secular leaders who were not yet ready to embrace Israel’s biblical homeland. Instead of annexing Judea and Samaria, they remained “controlled territories.” Tragically, Israel’s indecisiveness and unwillingness to embrace its history and heartland has led to decades of Arab terror and attempts to drive the Jewish people out of Judea and Samaria.

Read More
The Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria are under attack. Islamic terrorists murder Jewish men, women and children in Judea and Samaria every week.  Radical activists around the world work night and day to undermine the Jewish people’s claim to their biblical heartland. The European Union and the United States quietly support these attacks on Judea and Samaria, sending hundreds of millions of dollars in “aid” to the Palestinian Authority, where it is used to fund terror against Israelis. 

Read More
Following the Hamas atrocities of October 7, 2023, in which Hamas brutally murdered over 1,200 innocent Israelis, President Biden and his administration have repeatedly declared their support for the creation of a Palestinian state within the framework of a “two-state solution.” On November 26, 2023, President Biden said: “A two-state solution is the only way to guarantee the long-term security of both the Israeli and Palestinian people.” He added that his administration “will not give up on working towards this goal.”

Read More