March: Painful Path to Arab-Israeli Peace
A TOAST BETWEEN PM BEGIN (R), U.S. PRES. CARTER AND EGYPTIAN PRES. SADAT AT THE BALL MARKING THE SIGNING OF THE PEACE AGREEMENT BETWEEN ISRAEL AND EGYPT. äù÷ú ëåñéåú áéï øàù äîîùìä îðçí áâéï (îéîéï) ìðùéà àøä"á â'éîé ÷àøèø åðùéà îöøéí àðåàø ñàãú (îùîàì), áðùó çâéâé ìàçø è÷ñ äçúéîä òì çåæä äùìåí áéï éùøàì ìîöøéí, ááéú äìáï áååùéðâèåï.

Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin share a toast at the ball celebrating the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt on March 26, 1979. (By Ya’acov Sa’ar, Israeli Government Press Office)

Compiled by the Center for Israel Education, March 2023

March has seen some of the worst moments in Zionist history. The first Arab-Jewish battle at Tel Hai in 1920 killed Joseph Trumpeldor. The War of Attrition forced Israel to pay a continual toll for its success in the 1967 war. Terrorist attacks on Tel Aviv’s Savoy Hotel in 1975 and along the Coastal Road in 1978 traumatized the nation. Six Arab citizens were killed in 1976 when land protests turned violent.

But March also brought what so far is the pinnacle of Israel’s quest to live in peace with its neighbors: the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. 

March 1, 1906 — Bezalel Opens

The first 40 students, all women, start classes at the new Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts, which aims to teach work schools, develop Jewish art, and create a style that combines traditions from East, West and the Land of Israel.

Video:Against the Canon: Voices of Diversity in Israeli Art

March 1, 1920 — Trumpeldor’s Martyrdom

Joseph Trumpeldor is among eight Jews killed defending Tel Hai in the northern Galilee from Arab raiders. Trumpeldor became a Zionist inspiration for the dying words attributed to him, “It is good to die in service of our country.”

March 1, 1922 — Birth of Rabin

Yitzhak Rabin, a career soldier-turned-diplomat-turned-politician-turned-peacemaker, is born in Jerusalem to recent immigrants to the Land of Israel.

Video:The Leadership of Yitzhak Rabin

March 1, 1980 — Condemned at the U.N.

For the third time in less than a year, the Carter administration does not veto a U.N. Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli settlements in the lands captured in June 1967. For the first time, the administration also doesn’t abstain, instead voting for Resolution 465, which “strongly deplores” settlement policies. As a result, many Jewish voters back Ted Kennedy instead of Jimmy Carter in the Democratic presidential primaries in New York and Connecticut three weeks later.

Document: U.N. Security Council Resolution 446

Document: U.N. Security Council Resolution 452

Document: U.N. Security Council Resolution 465 

March 3, 1939 — Mufti Rejects Majority-Arab State

Because he won’t accept any permanent Jewish presence, the mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, rejects a British proposal for a single, Arab-majority state in Palestine in 10 years.

Document: Izzat Tannous’ first-person observations on the mufti’s decision

March 3, 1950 — Iraq Lets Jews Go

Iraq ends a ban on Jews leaving for Israel as long as they give up their Iraqi citizenship. Israel organizes Operation Ezra and Nehemia, which flies out nearly 120,000 Iraqi Jews from May 1950 to January 1952.

March 5, 1891 — President Hears Plea for Jewish Home

William Blackstone, a Methodist lay leader and real estate investor, submits a petition to President Benjamin Harrison that calls for creating “a home for these wandering millions of Israel” in Palestine.

March 6, 1948 — Clifford Fights for Israel

Clark Clifford makes the case for U.S. support of Palestine’s partition and the end of an arms embargo against Jewish forces. He thus helps ensure President Harry Truman’s backing of Israeli independence despite State Department opposition.

March 6, 1975 — PLO Attacks Savoy Hotel

An eight-man amphibious PLO team attacks Tel Aviv’s Savoy Hotel. Commandos storm the hotel the next day, kill seven terrorists and capture the eighth. Eleven Israelis are killed.

March 8, 1949 — First Elected Government

David Ben-Gurion forms Israel’s first elected government through a coalition of his Mapai party, the United Religious Front, the Progressive Party, the Sephardi and Mizrahi Communities, and the Arab-led Democratic List of Nazareth.

March 8, 1969 — War of Attrition Begins

Egyptian forces launch an offensive against Israeli positions on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal, starting the War of Attrition, which lasts until August 1970.

March 9, 1914 — A Home for Hebrew U.

The World Zionist Organization’s Arthur Ruppin purchases Sir John Gray Hill’s estate atop Mount Scopus to serve as the campus of what becomes the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

March 9, 1932 — Power for Palestine

Pinhas Rutenberg and the Palestine Electric Co. open a hydroelectric power plant at Naharayim that supplies much of the electricity in Palestine until its destruction during the War of Independence.

March 10, 1970 — Who’s a Jew?

The Knesset amends the definition of a Jew in the Law of Return to cover anyone “born of a Jewish mother or who has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.” The right of return also applies to their children, grandchildren and spouses.

Document: Law of Return

March 11, 1978 — Coastal Road Massacre

Eleven Palestinians arriving by boat from Lebanon carry out one of the worst terrorist attacks in Israel’s history, the Coastal Road Massacre. They kill 38 civilians, including 17 children, in an attack meant to derail Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations.

March 14, 1972 — Dairy for Equal Rights

Israel’s Black Panthers, who seek equality for Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, steal crates of milk meant for wealthy Jerusalem neighborhoods and hand them out in poor neighborhoods.

Video:The Sephardim: Making the State, Politics and Culture

March 15, 1939 — Irgun Radio Begins Broadcasting

Kol Tzion HaLokhemet (“Voice of Fighting Zion”), the underground radio network operated by the Irgun, broadcasts for the first time to spread news the British would censor.

March 15, 1972 — Hussein’s Federal Plan

Jordan’s King Hussein proposes a Jordanian-Palestinian federation encompassing the West Bank and Jordan under his monarchy, but Israel, the PLO and other Arab states reject the idea.

Document: Jordan drops claims to the West Bank in 1988

March 17, 1992 — Defense for Human Rights

The Knesset enacts Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, adding a statement of support for core human rights to the laws that serve as a substitute for a constitution.

Documents: Basic Laws

March 20, 1899 — Jewish Colonial Trust Incorporated

The Jewish Colonial Trust, proposed at the First Zionist Congress and approved at the Second, is incorporated in London to finance the growth of a Jewish home in the Land of Israel.

March 21, 2016 — Final Yemen Airlift

The Jewish Agency secretly brings 17 Yemeni Jews to Israel, completing an effort in recent years to sneak out roughly 200 Jews amid a civil war. About 50 Jews remain of an ancient community that numbered roughly 50,000 when Israel gained independence in 1948.

March 22, 1945 — Arab League Forms

Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Transjordan sign the Arab League Constitution after five days of discussions in Cairo. Yemen signs on in May. In support of Palestinian Arabs, the League launches an economic boycott of Jewish products in December 1945.

March 23, 1915 — Jewish Corps for British Army

A Jewish unit of the British army, eventually known as the Zion Mule Corps, is formed in Alexandria, Egypt. The idea comes from Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Joseph Trumpeldor is the highest-ranking Jewish officer.

March 23, 1941 — Ben-Gurion’s Zionist Policy

David Ben-Gurion presents the Jewish Agency Executive with a pragmatic approach to building a state, including educating Jews worldwide, embracing Palestine’s Arabs as neighbors and preparing for an influx of World War II refugees despite the 1939 British limits on immigration.  

Document: Guideline for Zionist Policy

Document: 1939 White Paper

March 24, 1966 — Israeli TV Is Live

An instructional program in math targeting seventh- and ninth-graders in 32 schools becomes Israel’s first TV broadcast, 10 years behind neighboring Jordan and six years behind Egypt.

March 24, 1993 — President Weizman

Ezer Weizman, a nephew of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, is elected the seventh president. An advocate of peace and supporter of Arab citizens, he serves until July 2000.

March 25, 1950 — Saudi: We’ll Never Recognize Israel

The Saudi deputy foreign minister, Sheik Yusuf Yassin, tells a visiting American diplomat that the Arabs will never have a relationship with Israel. “We shall never admit a Jew in Saudi Arabia, and we shall never admit anyone traveling on an Israeli visa.”

Document: Abraham Accords of 2020

Video: Ken Stein and Nachman Shai on the meaning of the Abraham Accords

March 26, 1979 — Peace With Egypt

The process that started with Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in November 1977 and included the Camp David Accords in September 1978 results in Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter signing the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty at the White House.

Document: Peace treaty

Document: Camp David Accords

Video series:Carter’s Search for Middle East Peace,” “13 Days at Camp David 1978” and “Egypt-Israel Peace” 

Video: The 40th Anniversary of the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty: Lessons Learned” 

March 28, 1932 — 1st Maccabiah Games

The first Maccabiah Games open with athletes from 18 countries in Tel Aviv. The Maccabi World Organization grows out of an international federation of Zionist sports clubs established in 1903.

March 28, 2002 — Arab Peace Initiative

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdullaziz proposes that the members of the Arab League implement normal relations with Israel if Israel withdraws from all lands occupied since 1967. The League adopts the proposal, but it gains no traction. 

Document: Saudi proposal

March 30, 1976 — 6 Israeli Arabs Die in Land Protests

Protests over the planned government seizure of Arab land in the Galilee turn into riots in which six Israeli Arabs are killed. Land Day represents the first widespread protests by Israel’s Arab citizens.

March 31, 1979 — Back-to-Back Eurovision Titles

Israel wins the Eurovision Song Contest for the second consecutive year as Gali Atari and Milk & Honey with “Hallelujah” follow the 1978 triumph of “A-Ba-ni-bi” by Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta.

Video:Eurovision Contest