Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The State of Israel is a state in Asia, in the Middle
East, with a predominantly Jewish population, bordering
the Mediterranean Sea.
It is a geographically small country, but has a population
of over six million.
Israel's 1948 founding and continued existence has been
a source of many conflicts with its neighbouring countries,
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.
Israel is also currently experiencing an on-going dispute
regarding Palestinian territorial claims.
Official languages; Hebrew, Arabic
Capital; Jerusalem (disputed) #1
President; Moshe Katsav
Prime Minister; Ariel Sharon
Area; 20,770 kmē
Independence; May 15, 1948
Currency; 1 New Sheqel (NIS) = 100 Agorot
Time zone; UTC +2/+3
National anthem; Hatikvah
Internet TLD; .IL
Phone Calling Code; 972
Israel's history is both long and controversial.
Israel is considered the spiritual home of many Jews.
A Jewish state existed in the region for over a millennium
until expulsion by the Roman authorities in the second
The Romans then renamed the land to Palestine, as if
to say the land belonged to the Philistines instead
of the Jews.
It was conquered from the Romans by the Caliphate in
the seventh century and became populated by Arabs.
Following centuries of diaspora, the nineteenth century
saw the rise of Zionism, a desire to see the creation
of a Jewish State in the region.
Jews began moving to the Turkish and later British controlled
In 1947, the British government agreed to withdraw from
their mandate of Palestine.
The 1947 UN Partition Plan split the mandate into two
states, giving about half the land to each state.
Arab authorities rejected the plan.
On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed
in territory given for the Jewish state in the UN plan.
The armies of five Arab nations attacked the new state.
Israel captured an additional 20% of the mandate territory,
and annexed it to the new state.
Much of its Arab population subsequently ceased to live
within this area; at the same time, many Jews were made
refugees from the surrounding Arab nations. As with
many states, Israel has minority ethnic groups that
do not consider themselves properly part of the "Israeli
nation," though they do hold Israeli citizenship.
Prominent among these are the Israeli Arabs, many of
whom consider themselves as belonging to a Palestinian
How to adjust the Israeli state to accommodate the sense
of identity of this grouping, without endangering the
state's security or the sense of identity of those who
identify with the Israeli nation, is an important issue
in modern-day Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Detailed discussions on the related issue of Arab and
Jewish refugees may be found here: Palestine, Palestinian
refugee and Jewish refugees.
In 1967, the Six-Day War resulted in East Jerusalem,
the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip coming under Israeli
Interpretation of the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict
depends on how one interprets these events.
Israel is a constitutional, parliamentary republic.
The nation's head of state is the president, who is
a largely powerless figurehead.
The nation's head of government is the prime minister,
who is the leader of the majority party or ruling coalition
in the legislature but is appointed by the president.
Israel's legislative branch is a 120-member parliament
known as the Knesset.
Elections to the Knesset are normally held every four
years, but the Knesset can decide to dissolve itself
ahead of time by a simple majority.
Israel has no written constitution and its government
functions based on the laws of the Knesset and constitutional
All Israeli citizens have the right to vote and to run
The right of Israeli minorities to practice their religion
However, there have been some cases in which Israel
has been accused of denying certain rights to Arabs.
See Alleged apartheid in Israel for details.
Most Israelis over the age of 18 are drafted into the
military shortly after completing high school.
Service is for two or three years, and can widely vary,
depending on the soldier and current political climate.
Israel is possibly an undeclared nuclear power -- it
operates nuclear facilities and is believed by some
to be in the possession of nuclear warheads, while it
is not a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
no inspections from the outside take place, and the
nation maintains a public policy of "nuclear ambiguity".
Israel is technically at war with Lebanon and Syria,
with previous declarations of war never being repealed
by either side.
Israel is a country whose exact territorial boundaries
and borders are widely disputed.
The territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 war
are not included in the Israel country profile, unless
In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid
Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations are
being conducted between Israeli and Palestinian representatives
(from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip)
and Israel and Syria, to achieve a permanent settlement.
On April 25, 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula
pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.
Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan
were resolved in the 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace.
Bordered by Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, Jordan, the Red
Sea, Egypt, Gaza Strip and the Mediterranean Sea.
Climate: temperate; hot and dry in southern and
eastern desert areas.
Terrain: Negev desert in the south; low coastal
plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley.
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408
highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m.
Natural resources: copper, phosphates, bromide,
potash, clay, sand, sulphur, asphalt, manganese, small
amounts of natural gas and crude oil.
Natural hazards: sandstorms may occur during
spring and summer.
Environment - current issues: limited arable
land and natural fresh water resources pose serious
constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial
and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial
and domestic waste, chemical fertiliser, and pesticides.
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification,
Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban,
Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol,
Marine Life Conservation .
Geography - note: there are 231 Israeli settlements
and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in
the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 24 in the Gaza Strip,
and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 1999 est.)
Government of Israel
Israel has a technologically advanced market economy
with substantial government participation.
It depends on imports of crude oil and gas, grains,
raw materials, and military equipment.
Despite limited natural resources, Israel has intensively
developed its agricultural and industrial sectors over
the past 20 years.
Israel is largely self-sufficient in food production
except for grains.
Diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural
products (fruits and vegetables) are leading exports.
Israel usually posts sizeable current account deficits,
which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad
and by foreign loans.
Roughly half of the government's external debt is owed
to the US, which is its major source of economic and
The influx of Jewish immigrants from the former USSR
topped 750,000 during the period 1989-1999, bringing
the population of Israel from the former Soviet Union
to 1 million, one-sixth of the total population, and
adding scientific and professional expertise of substantial
value for the economy's future.
The influx, coupled with the opening of new markets
at the end of the Cold War, energise Israel's economy,
which grew rapidly in the early 1990s.
But growth began slowing in 1996 when the government
imposed tighter fiscal and monetary policies and the
immigration bonus petered out.
Those policies brought inflation down to record low
levels in 1999.
As of 2001, 81% of Israel's population is of Jewish
Among Jews, 26% have at least one Israeli-born parent,
37% are first-generation Israelis, 27% are immigrants
from the West, and 30% are from developing countries
in Asia and Africa, including Arab countries. 6%
of Israeli Jews define themselves as haredim (ultra-orthodox
religious); an additional 9% are "religious"; 34% consider
themselves "traditionalists" (not strictly adhering
to Jewish halacha) ; and 51% are "secular".
Among the seculars, 53% believe in God.
Arabs make up 18% of Israel's population.
Within this group is a minority of Palestinian Christians
who make 9% of the Israeli Arab population.
There are also a number of smaller minorities, including
Druze (1.5%) and a tiny Armenian community.
As of 2001, 201,000 Israeli citizens live in settlements
in the West Bank and 7,000 in the Gaza Strip.
They are subject to Israeli law and lead lives similar
to other Jewish Israelis.
Tishri 1 Head of the Year Rosh Hashanah between
Sept 6 & Oct 5
Tishri 10 Day of Atonement Yom Kippur between
Sept 15 & Oct 14
Tishri 15 Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) Sukkot
between Sept 20 & Oct 19
Tishri 22 Assembly of the Eighth Shemini Atzeret
between Sept 27 & Oct 26
Nissan 15 Passover Pesach between March 27 &
Nissan 21 Passover Pesach between April 2 & May
Iyar 5 Independence Day Yom Ha-Atzmaut between
April 16 & May 15
Sivan 6 Pentecost Shavuot between May 16 & June
1948 Arab-Israeli War (see also: 1949 Armistice Agreements)
1956 Suez War
1967 Six Day War
1970 War of Attrition
1973 Yom Kippur War
1982 Lebanon War
1990/1 Gulf War
1 Jerusalem is Israel's officially
designated capital, and the location of its presidential
residence and parliament.
However, most countries do not recognise this designation,
considering the status of Jerusalem an unresolved issue
due to what they perceive as illegal Israeli actions
both in designating the city to be its capital and in
its capture of the Eastern half of Jerusalem (and subsequent
"reunification") from Jordan during the Six Day War.
They believe that the final issue of the status of Jerusalem
will be determined in future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations;
these states instead recognise Tel Aviv, the original
capital for a time in 1948, as the continuous legitimate
capital, and as a result keep their embassies there.
2 For a short period in the 1990s the
prime minister was directly elected by the electorate.
This change was not viewed a success and was abandoned.
Balfour Declaration 1917
1922 Text: League of Nations Palestine Mandate
1947 UN Partition Plan
1978 Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel
1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel
Camp David 2000 Summit between Palestinians and Israel
This information was updated & correct in December
2003 E. & O.E.
All text is available under the terms of the GNU
Free Documentation License
Copyrights for details).
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