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Stormy Seas

Today we are sailing the Mediterranean Sea on our way to the Holy Land — Israel. We are experiencing an evening storm, with some wind and lightning in the distance. I am sitting on the deck watching the storm imagining how Jonah and his ship companions must have felt out in the open on a seemingly endless sea caught in a storm that threatened their lives. 

As I think of Jonah and the storm (and the fish that ate him), I think of the figurative storms that Israel has endured throughout history. So here’s a brief background on Israel to give us some understanding of the cultural and religious history of the Holy Land. 

Brief History 


In 5,000 BC, Canaanites flee their Mediterranean islands after disastrous earthquakes and settle in the land we know of as Canaan from the Old Testament. 


In the 1800s BC, God calls Abraham, and he and his family move from Ur (modern-day Iraq) to Canaan. Isaac and Ishmael are born. Isaac’s son Jacob becomes “Israel” and has 12 sons. 


After being enslaved to the Egyptians, the Israelites follow Moses as he leads the people of Israel out of slavery and out of Egypt in 1300.  They wander in the desert, through the Wilderness of Sin, Edom, and Moab for 40 YEARS before seeing and entering the Promised Land, which is Canaan around 1250 BC. 

Saul, David, Solomon

The first kings of Israel. King David is the greatest king of Israel’s history. After Solomon, the son of David, died, the kingdom of Israel split into two. Solomon has the first Temple built in Jerusalem to house the Holy of Holies — the Presence of God — in 950 BC.

Divided Kingdom

The kingdom of Israel splits into two: The Northern Kingdom of Israel (which is mostly the Galilee region) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (which includes the holy city of Jerusalem).


The Assyrian Empire conquers the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 720 BC and exiles 10 tribes. 


The Babylonian Empire conquers the Southern Kingdom of Judah in 586 BC. The first Temple, built by Solomon, is destroyed, and the rest of the Israelites sent into exile. 


King Cyrus of the Persian Empire conquers the Babylonians. He allows the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild their Temple in 538 BC. The second Temple is completed in 515 BC. 


In 332 BC Alexander the Great expands the Greek Empire and conquers Egypt and most of Persia and the Israelites. 


From 170–164 BC the Jews gain independence following the Maccabean Revolt.


The Romans conquer Greece in 146 BC. Israel falls to General Pompey and the Roman Empire in 63 BC. 


The exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown but scholars agree Jesus was born sometime between 4 BC and 0 AD. He was born in Bethlehem, where King David was born. He grows  up in Nazareth and begins his public ministry around the age of 30. His public ministry lasts 3 years before Jesus is arrested by the Jews, crucified by the Romans, dies, and Resurrects from the dead. 

Destruction of the Second Temple

The Jews rebel against the Romans from 66–73 AD. Romans destroy Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 AD. Many Christians are persecuted and executed for believing in Jesus and refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods since Jesus Ascended into Heaven. 


In the early 4th century, Roman Emperor Constantine converts to Christianity and allows Christians to worship freely without fear of retribution. This begins the Byzantine Empire. 


In 638 AD, Omar defeats the Byzantines, and Muslims rule over Israel which became Palestine. 


In 1099 the Crusaders launched by Pope Urban II defeat the Muslims and take Jerusalem.


Boys who were bought by Egyptian sultans to be soldiers revolted and took over Egypt. They take Israel from the crusaders in 1400.

Ottoman Turks

The Ottoman Empire defeats the Mamelukes and takes over Israel in 1516.


In 1917, the British defeat the Ottoman Turks and take Jerusalem and Israel.


The birth of the modern state of Israel. 


Pictures are from a special light show presentation about Israel, displayed against the Citadel of David in Jerusalem.


Holy Land Pilgrimage

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Follow Msgr. Lofton's group pilgrimage to the Holy Land: October 19th - November 4th.


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