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Israel facts and history in brief

Middle East

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.

Medinat Yisrael
Official languages; Hebrew, Arabic
Capital; Jerusalem (disputed) #1
President; Moshe Katsav
Prime Minister; Ariel Sharon
Area; 20,770 kmē
Population; 6,700,000
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 century.
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 region.
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 nation.
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 control.
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 conventions.
All Israeli citizens have the right to vote and to run for office.
The right of Israeli minorities to practice their religion is protected.
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 otherwise noted.
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 m.
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.)

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 military aid.
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 nationality.
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.[1] 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.[2]
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.[3]
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.[4]

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 & April 25
Nissan 21 Passover Pesach between April 2 & May 1
Iyar 5 Independence Day Yom Ha-Atzmaut between April 16 & May 15
Sivan 6 Pentecost Shavuot between May 16 & June 14

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

External links

Government of Israel

o      O       o

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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
(see Copyrights for details).
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