History of Israel: Pre-State through '48
While Israel was officially established in 1948, the country's history begins far earlier than when Ben-Gurion declared its independence. While it's debated when Israel's history should start, for the sake of this article, we're going to start with the First Aliyah in the late 19th century.
The First Aliyah (1882-1903)
During this period, Israel saw an influx of immigrants, largely from Eastern European countries. Most worked in agriculture and many founded moshavot where they lived and worked the land. Approximately 35,000 immigrants came to the land at the time, though they experienced hardship and some left the country within a few years of their immigration. There were four Aliyot later: the Second, mainly from Russia and Poland, the Third, mainly from Russia, the Fourth, from Poland, and the Fifth, mainly from Germany. These Aliyot happened through 1939, prior to the establishment of the State of Israel.
Theodor Herzl's First Zionist Congress (1897)
Convened in Basel, Switzerland, Theodor Herzl organized the First Zionist Congress in order to discuss the future of political Zionism and the possibility of founding a Jewish State. The central focus of the FZC was to form the Basel Program, which defined Zionism as such: "Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz Israel secured under public law."
Balfour Declaration (1917)
After the British took over ruling the land from the Ottomans in 1917, British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour wrote that "“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object".
Hebron Massacre (1929)
In August of 1929, there were two days of attacks by Arab residents of Hebron, followed by some attacks by Jews in return. At the time, there was a Jewish minority in the city and the riot represented one of the worst of the riots occurring during that period. At first, the attack was only on the Ashkenazi Jews of the town, but it later became an attack on the full Jewish community.
White Papers (1922-1939)
Three "White Papers," official reports by the British government, were published between 1922 and '39. The first, in 1922, reduced the size of the mandate to exclude the land east of the Jordan River, which eventually became Jordan, as well as establishing the criteria of ability to absorb new immigrants to moderate Jewish immigration to the mandate.
UN Partition Plan, Resolution 181 (Nov 29, 1947)
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly gathered to vote on Resolution 181, the Partition Plan for Palestine. The plan suggested dividing the land that had been designated British Mandatory Palestine into two states: an Arab state and a Jewish state, with a notable international zone around the city of Jerusalem. The plan was accepted by David Ben-Gurion and the Jewish leadership in the area, though some with reservations, but was unilaterally rejected by Arab residents and neighboring Arab countries. However, by a vote of 33 in favor, 3 against, and 10 abstaining, the resolution passed and there was official UN recognition of a Jewish state in the land.
Deir Yassin Massacre (February 1948)
In April 1948, members of the Jewish underground military unit known as the Irgun attacked the village of Deir Yassin, murdering some 100-120 Arabs. The actions of these few individuals were publicly and vehemently spoken out against by both the government and Jewish citizens. Arabs fled the neighborhoods surrounding Jerusalem as a result of the attack, which contributed to the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis.
State of Israel Declares Independence (May 14, 1948)
On the eve of May 14th, 1948, leaders of the Jewish community in the land of Israel gathered in Tel Aviv to hear David Ben-Gurion declare the independence of the new State of Israel just before Shabbat began. Immediately upon declaration, the newly-formed nation faced attacks from all of its neighboring countries. Today, Israel's independence is celebrated on the Hebrew date of its founding, the fifth of Iyar.