This week in Israeli history

Dalia Itzik presides over the opening of the Knesset in October 2008, while President Shimon Peres addresses the legislature. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, Government Press Office (GPO)

By the Center for Israel Education

Oct. 18, 1991: Israeli-Soviet thaw

The Soviet Union and Israel resume full diplomatic relations for the first time since June 1967. The two countries experienced a thaw while Mikhail Gorbachev led the Soviet Union and established consular ties in 1987. Israel had to agree to participate in the 1991 Madrid peace conference to gain full relations.

Oct. 19, 1948: 1st major naval battle

Three Israeli ships, the Haganah, the Wedgewood and the Noga, attack an Egyptian vessel unloading troops near Ashkelon in the first major battle for the Israeli navy. The Israeli ships shoot down two fighter planes and damage the Egyptian vessel, which has to be towed to Port Said. The engagement is part of Operation Yoav, a southern offensive that began Oct. 15 to open a route to the Negev. 


Oct. 20, 1952: Speaker Itzik born

Dalia Itzik, who in 2006 becomes the first woman to serve as the Knesset speaker, is born in Jerusalem to immigrants from Iraq. She is elected to the Jerusalem City Council in 1989, then is first elected to the Knesset in 1992 as a Labor Party member. After switching to Kadima in 2006, she serves as interim president from January to July 2007. She retires from politics in 2012.

Oct. 21, 1949: Netanyahu born

Benjamin Netanyahu, the ninth and current prime minister of Israel, is born in Tel Aviv. He spends much of his childhood in Philadelphia.

Oct. 22, 1952: First ambassador

Eliahu Elath, who was Israel’s first ambassador to the United States, presents his credentials to Queen Elizabeth II as he is elevated from minister (a position he has held since 1950) to become Israel’s first ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Oct. 23, 1868: Philanthropist born

Alfred Mond, a future member of Parliament and ardent early British Zionist, is born in England. The son of wealthy Jews, Mond is not raised as a Jew. He marries in the Anglican church and raises his children as Christians. But he uses his wealth to support Jewish settlement in Palestine, including the town of Tel Mond, and helps found the Jewish Agency.

Oct. 24, 1915: Husayn-McMahon correspondence starts

Sir Henry McMahon, the British high commissioner in Cairo, and Husayn Ibn Ali, the sherif of Mecca, begin an exchange of letters in which the British government promises to back Husayn’s bid to lead a restored caliphate in exchange for his support for the war against the Ottoman Empire. Palestine is not mentioned, but Husayn later claims that land is included in the area planned for Arab administration. 

Items are provided by the Center for Israel Education (, where you can find more details.