This Day in History (29-Nov-1947) – U.N. votes for partition of Palestine

As part of the 19th-century Zionist movement, Jews had begun settling in Palestine as early as 1820. The effort to establish a Jewish homeland received British approval in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. During the 1930s, Jews persecuted by the Hitler regime poured into Palestine. The post-World WarII acknowledgment of the Holocaust—Hitler’s genocide of 6 million Jews—increased international interest in and sympathy for the cause of Zionism. The British mandate to govern Palestine, which had been in place since 1923, ended after the war, and, in 1947, the UN voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a small international zone. Arabs rejected the idea, but the plan moved forward and the British officially withdrew on May 14, 1948, and the Jewish National Council proclaimed the State of Israel.

Hostilities broke out almost immediately after the state of Israel was proclaimed. Neighboring Arab nations invaded, intent on crushing the newly declared State of Israel. Israel emerged victorious, affirming its sovereignty. By the cease-fire on Jan. 7, 1949, Israel had increased its original territory by 50%, taking western Galilee, a broad corridor through central Palestine to Jerusalem, and part of modern Jerusalem. The new border is called the Green Line. As many as 750,000 Palestinians either flee or are forced from Israel and settle in refugee camps near Israel’s border. The status of the refugees goes on to become a sticking point in further Arab-Israeli relations. The Palestinian defeat and exodus is known as the Nakba, or disaster.

The new Israel government was admitted to the UN on May 11, 1949. The remaining areas of Palestine were divided between Transjordan (now Jordan), which annexed the West Bank, and Egypt, which gained control of the Gaza Strip. Through a series of political and social policies, Jordan sought to consolidate its control over the political future of Palestinians and to become their speaker. Jordan even extended citizenship to Palestinians in 1949.

The conflicts around Israel and Palestine continued for years. In October 2011, UNESCO admitted the “State of Palestine” as a member.


This Day in History (26-Nov-1922) – Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon enter the tomb of Tutankhamun, the first to do so in 3,000 years

Over the past century, excavators had declared there was nothing left to find in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, Howard Carter and his sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, spent a number of years and a lot of money searching for a tomb they weren’t sure existed. In November 1922, they found it. They had discovered not just an unknown ancient Egyptian tomb, but one that had lain nearly undisturbed for over 3,000 years. What lay within astounded the world.

King Tutankhamen was enthroned in 1333 B.C. when he was still a child. He died at the age of 18 and thus made only a faint impression on the history of ancient Egypt. In the 13th century B.C., Tutankhamen and the other “Amarna” kings were publicly condemned, and most records of them were destroyed–including the location of Tutankhamen’s tomb.

Carter carefully explored the four-room tomb over several years, uncovering an incredible collection of several thousand objects. In addition to numerous pieces of jewelry and gold, there was statuary, furniture, clothes, a chariot, weapons, and numerous other objects that shed a brilliant light on the culture and history of ancient Egypt. The most splendid find was a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nested within each other. Inside the final coffin, made out of solid gold, was the mummified body of the boy-king Tutankhamen, preserved for 3,200 years. Most of these treasures are now housed in the Cairo Museum.

The discovery of King Tut’s tomb created an obsession around the world. Ancient Egyptian style clothes quickly hit the markets and appeared in fashion magazines. Even architecture was affected when Egyptian designs were copied into modern buildings. Lord Carnarvon became suddenly ill from an infected mosquito bite on his cheek. On April 5, 1923, within a week of the bite, Lord Carnarvon died. Just as quickly, newspapers were filled with the “news” of a curse. In all, it took Howard Carter and his colleagues ten years to document and clear out Tutankhamun’s tomb. After Carter completed his work at the tomb in 1932, he began to write a six-volume definitive work, A Report upon the Tomb of Tut ‘ankh Amun. Unfortunately, Carter died before he was able to finish.


This Day in History (12-Aug-30 B.C.) – Cleopatra Commits Suicide as Octavian Advances on Alexandria

In 51 BC, Ptolemy Auletes died and left his kingdom to his eighteen year old daughter, Cleopatra, and her younger brother. According to Egyptian law Cleopatra had to marry to her younger brother Ptolemy XIII, twelve years old then. By 48 BC, Cleopatra had alarmed the more powerful court officials of Alexandria by some of her actions. A group of men overthrew her in favor of her younger brother. Meanwhile Roman knight Caesar captured Alexandria. Cleopatra had herself smuggled in through enemy lines rolled in a carpet. She was delivered to Caesar. Caesar fell in love with her and killed Ptolemy XIII. Cleopatra was now the sole ruler of Egypt. But she had to marry her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, who was eleven years old. During July of the year 46 BC, Caesar returned to Rome and brought Cleopatra over. The conservative Republicans were very offended when he established Cleopatra in his home. Caesar also openly claimed Cleopatra’s son as his son. Many were upset that he was planning to marry Cleopatra regardless of the laws against bigamy and marriages to foreigners. Caesar was assassinated outside the Senate Building in Rome. After Caesar’s murder, Cleopatra fled Rome and returned to Alexandria.

When she met Mark Antony, another Roman knight in 41, she charmed him such that he decided to spend the winter with her in Alexandria. Late in 40 BCE, she gave birth to a son and daughter. In 37 BCE, Antony, on his way to attack Parthia, returned to Alexandria to rekindle the romance with Cleopatra and made the city his home for the rest of his life.  Marrying her according to the Egyptian rite, the two conceived another child. In Rome, In 31, Roman noble Octavian would defeat Antony in a pitched sea battle off the coast of Actium.  Moving to land, the Roman armies began pushing toward Alexandria.  Clearly no longer able to maintain her place as the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra ended up dead on August 12th – whether by the asp or a toxic drink is still up for debate to this day.  Cleopatra’s death opened the door for Rome to be the dominant power in the Mediterranean for centuries to come.



This Day in History (9-Apr-1957) – Suez Canal cleared for all shipping

The Suez Canal is considered to be the shortest link between the east and the west due to its unique geographic location; it is an important international navigation canal linking between the Mediterranean sea at Port said and the red sea at Suez. The idea of linking the Mediterranean sea with the red sea by a canal dates back to 40 centuries. The first who dug it was Senausert III, Pharaoh of Egypt (1874 B.C.). This canal was abandoned to silting and reopened several times until 640 A.D.

The first efforts to build a modern canal came from the Egypt expedition of Napoleon Bonaparte, who hoped the project would create a devastating trade problem for the English.  but they miscalculated a difference of ten meters between the two sea levels and gave up the idea, as it would sweep away the Nile Delta. In 1858 ‘Universal Company of the Maritime Suez Canal’ was formed with authority to cut a canal and to operate it for 99 years, after which ownership would return to the Egyptian government. Excavation of the canal actually began in 1859 and completed in 1869 when the barrage of the Suez plains reservoir was breached and waters of the Mediterranean flowed into the Red Sea and the canal was opened for international navigation.

Under the terms of The Convention of Constantinople signed in 1888, the canal was opened to vessels of all nations without discrimination, in peace and war. After World war II, Egypt had proposed to build Aswan dam on Nile river to prevent flood sitations. Dam was being funded by USA. However during Israel conflict USA withdrew the dam funding in July 1956. Egypt president Gamal Abd El Naser’s response was the nationalization of the Suez Canal on account of expiry of lease period of Suez Canal company. That same day, Egypt closed the canal to Israeli shipping. In October, Israel invaded the Egyptian Sinai. Britain and France landed paratroopers along the Suez Canal. The Egyptian forces were defeated, but they did block the canal to all shipping. The three allies had attained a number of their military objectives, but the Canal was now useless and heavy pressure from the United States and the USSR forced them to withdraw. The Suez crisis is widely believed to have contributed significantly to Britain’s decline as a world power. Suez canal was reopened in 1957.