Israel

Israel Destinations Travel Guide

Flag of Israel

Language: Hebrew, Arabic

Currency: Shekel (ILS)

Calling code: 972

 

Israel - officially State of Israel (in Hebrew: מְדִינַת יִשְרָאֵל) - is a sovereign country in the Middle East that It is located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Lebanon to the north, Syria and Jordan to the east, Palestine to the east in the West Bank and west in the Gaza Strip, with Egypt to the southwest and the Gulf of Aqaba to the south, in the Red Sea. With a population of almost 9 million inhabitants, 3 most of whom are Jews, Israel is the only Jewish state in the world. It is also home to Arab Muslims, Christians, Druze and Samaritans, as well as other religious groups and ethnic minorities. The capital, seat of government and largest city in the country is Jerusalem; The main economic and financial center is located in Tel Aviv-Yafo and the largest industrial center is located in Haifa.

 

The modern State of Israel identifies its roots with the ancient Land of Israel (ארץ ישראל Eretz Yisrael), a central concept for Judaism for more than 3000 years. After the First World War and during the partition of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations approved the British Mandate of Palestine with the intention of creating a "national home for the Jewish people". In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence, which was followed by the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 with the neighboring Arab countries, which refused to accept the UN plan. Successive victories in a series of subsequent wars confirmed their independence and extended the borders of the Jewish state beyond the provisions of the United Nations Partition Plan. Since then, Israel has been in conflict with many of the neighboring Arab countries, with several wars and decades of violence that continue to this day. Since its founding, the borders of Israel and even the right to exist of the State itself It has been subject to controversy, especially among its Arab neighbors. However, Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and efforts are being made to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinian National Authority.

 

Travel Destination in Israel

Ancient Acre or Akko is a historic part of the modern Acre that is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Holy Land.

The city of Aphek or Afek is located 15 km from Tel Aviv on a road 483. Its name is derived from a Hebrew word for "springs" as it was the main strategic feature of the town.

Appolonia Ruins of ancient Apollonia in Israel are situated on a beaches of the sea.

Ashkelon contains ruins from the Bronze Age to medieval Crusader fortifications.

Beit Alpha Synagogue hold some of the best preserved mosaics in the Middle East.

Ruins of Belvoir Castle built by the Crusaders is a textbook example of European military fortifications.

Ruins of ancient Scythopolis at Beth Shean in Israel will take a whole day to explore.

Bethlehem in Israel harbors Rachel's tomb and claims as a birth town of Jesus Christ.

Caesarea was a major ancient Roman port in the region and a seat of procurator. Including the most famous of all Pontius Pilate.

Capernaum is an ancient Jewish settlement where Jesus Christ led some of his sermons.

Ein Avdat National Park is an oasis of protected wild life in a vast Israeli desert.

Ein Gedi National Park is an oasis to the West of the Dead Sea in close proximity to Masada plateau and Qumran caves.

Ancient ruins of Eleutheropolis are situated not far from the Jerusalem.

Christian Orthodox monastery at Ein Fara is merely a small portion of a huge monastic community that once existed here.

Ein Karem was found during the Bronze Era, but it is particularly famous as a birth place of John the Baptist.

Gorny Monastery is a Russian Orthodox Monastery in Ein Karem, 7 km to the South West of Jerusalem.

Herodium is and ancient castle built by Herod the Great and his final resting place.

Jericho is probably the oldest site that was continually inhabitant by humans.

Jerusalem in Israel is without a doubt holiest city in the World venerated by three major World religions.

Jezreel Valley is a large valley in the south region of the Lower Galilee in Israel.

Mar Saba Monastery is one of the earliest Christian monasteries in the World. It is located 17 km (11 mi) East of Bethlehem in Israel.

Abandoned underground city of Maresha is probably more impressive than what is left above ground.

Masada is a palace of Herod the Great that became infamous as a site of Jewish struggle against the Roman empire.

Megiddo has been settled for the past 9000 years, but it became thanks to Bible as a site of the final battle between good and evil.

Mount of Beatitudes is famous as the site where Jesus Christ preached his famous teaching that became known as the Sermon on the Mount.

Nebi Musa according to the Muslim tradition is the resting place of Moses who died on the border of the Holy Land.

Massive medieval Nimrod Fortress holds strategic location on top of the mountain.

 Qumran is a home to an ancient Jewish groups that latter influences monastic movement in Europe.

Hippos/Sussita is an ancient archaeological site in Israel situated on the bank of Sea of Galilee.

Tabgha is the site where Jesus fed 5,000 followers with five loaves of bread and two fishes. 

Tiberias is a historic town located on the Western side of the sea of Galilee. 

Yardenit Baptismal Site is an alleged site of baptism of Jesus Christ as it was described in the New Testament. Actually the real site of baptismal is in Qasr el Yahud

Judaean Desert stretches from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. Despite its barren appearance it has one of the most historic buildings it the Holy Land.

 

Tips:
-this is not your state college, nobody cares about your solution for Middle East crisis. Stay Swiss for your own safety.
-mid-spring to early summer is probably the best time to go. It is usually warm during the day and semi-arid soil holds some moisture.
-drink plenty of bottled water
-cold beer is not available in Muslim quarters, alcohol also dehydrates your body by decreasing ADH (anti- diuretic hormone) so it is not the best way to cool yourself in a hot climate
- wear plenty of sunscreen
-cover your head and sunglasses. Sun can be unforgiving and affect you unexpectedly
-even in summer nights can be cold
-wear insect repellant

 

Etymology

For the last three millennia, the word "Israel" has denoted both the Land of Israel (Hebrew אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‏‎, Eretz Israel) and the entire Jewish people. The source of this name is the Book of Genesis, where the forefather Jacob, after a struggle with God, receives the name Israel: “And he said: what is your name? He said: Jacob. And he said to [him], from now on your name will not be Jacob, but Israel, for you have wrestled with God, and you will overcome men” (Genesis 32:27,28). Interpreters differ in the definition of the meaning of this word. According to one version, this name comes from the verb sara (to manage, to be strong, to have power given from above), thus forming a word meaning "Having power over forces." Other possible meanings are "Prince of God" or "Fight/Fight of God". Subsequently, the Jewish people descended from Jacob began to be called "Children of Israel", "People of Israel" or "Israelites".

The first ever mention of the word "Israel" was found on the Merneptah stele in ancient Egypt (end of the 13th century BC) and refers to the people, not the country.

The modern state was called "Medinat Yisrael" (Hebrew מדינת ישראל‎, English State of Israel - "State of Israel", in the USSR and in the post-Soviet space - distorted "State of Israel"). Other names were also considered: Eretz Yisrael ("Land of Israel"), Zion, Judea. In the first weeks of independence, the government of the new state chose the word "Israelis" (‏ישראלים‏‎ - Israelim) to refer to the citizens of the country. It was first mentioned officially in a speech by Israel's first foreign minister, Moshe Sharett.

 

History

ancient history
It is known that 1.5 million liters. n. Homo erectus lived on the territory of modern Israel, the remains of which were found on the territory of the archaeological site of Ubaidiya (Hebrew ‏תל עובדיה‏‎, Tel Ovadia). About 200 thousand liters. n. Neanderthals lived in this region. After that, people of the modern type appeared: the age of the bones of the alleged Homo sapiens from the Misliya cave (Carmel massif) is 175-200 thousand years, and the age of reliable sapiens from the Mano cave (Manot) is 51.8 ± 4.5 and 54.7 ± 5.5 thousand years.

In the 10-8th millennium BC. this territory was part of the area of ​​the Natufian culture, whose bearers for the first time in history began to cultivate cereals. About 9 thousand years ago, the Neolithic revolution began in these places and the first settlements appeared, including the ancient city of Jericho. The Canaanites, the first Semitic tribes, appeared here around the 4th-3rd millennium BC. For the next 2-3 thousand years, the territory was under the protectorate of Ancient Egypt.

Early history
The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is traced back to the biblical patriarch Abraham. According to the Bible, the Land of Israel was bequeathed to the Jews by God in order to become the "Promised Land" - here are all the sacred places of the Jewish people. The biblical tradition of the patriarchs may reflect the migrations of the Ivrim (Habiru) in the 2nd millennium BC and the events of the era of the Hyksos invasion of Egypt. The history of Abraham probably corresponds to the initial stage of the Hebrew migrations, and a massive migration takes place around the 13th century BC, as a result of which the late Bronze culture of Canaan is replaced by a new one. Around 1200 B.C. the Philistines, to whom the modern name "Palestine" goes back, penetrate the coast of the country. The establishment of royal power among the Jews and the emergence of the Kingdom of Israel, and later of the Kingdom of Judah, dates back to the 10th century BC.

Starting from the 8th century BC this territory successively came under the rule of Assyria, Babylon, the Achaemenid Empire (539-331 BC) and Macedonia (from 331 BC). In the III-II centuries BC was part of the Hellenistic states of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. In 142, the power of the Seleucids, torn by civil strife, completely freed Judea from tribute, in fact recognizing its independence, and further until 37 BC the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty ruled there.

From 63 B.C Judea became a vassal of Rome and was later turned into a Roman province of the same name. During the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135, the Romans massacred many Jews, forbade the rest to settle in Jerusalem, and renamed the province of Judea into Syria Palestine.

Following the division in 395 of the Roman Empire into Western and Eastern (Byzantium), Palestine went to the latter. In 614-629, Palestine was part of the Persian Sassanid Empire, who gave control of Jerusalem to the Jews for three years, but then returned the city to the Christians. After the return of Palestine under the rule of Byzantium, in 629-630, as a result of massacres and persecutions of Jews initiated by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, the Jewish presence in the region reached its minimum in the entire three thousand-year history, but never stopped completely. By the ninth century, Jewish communities reappeared in Jerusalem and Tiberias, and in the next two centuries, they sprang up in Rafah, Gaza, Majdal, Jaffa, and Caesarea.

Middle Ages
In 636-640, Byzantine Palestine was conquered by the Arabs. In the next six centuries, control over this territory passed from the Umayyads to the Abbasids, to the crusaders and back.

The Brief Jewish Encyclopedia divides the first era of Arab rule in Palestine into four periods: the conquest and development of the country (638-660), the Umayyad (661-750), Abbasid (750-969) and Fatimid (969-1099) dynasties. In 1099, the Crusaders founded the Kingdom of Jerusalem here. However, already in 1187, Salah ad-Din took Jerusalem, and in 1291 the last fortress of the crusaders, Acre, fell.

As part of the Ottoman Empire
In 1517, the territory of Israel was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under the leadership of Sultan Selim I. For 400 years, it remained part of the Ottoman Empire.

In the Ottoman Empire, Jews, having the status of "dhimmi", enjoyed relative civil and religious freedom, but were subject to restrictions on a number of activities, and were also required to pay special taxes. The livelihood of the Jews of Palestine at that time received mainly in the form of donations from abroad (halukkah).

At the beginning of the 18th century, one of the most significant attempts at aliyah from Europe and the renewal of the Jewish religious-national center in Jerusalem was made. At the head of this movement was Rabbi Yehuda Hasid, who arrived in Jerusalem in 1700 at the head of about a thousand of his followers, who came from various countries of Europe. However, Yehuda Hasid himself died suddenly after arriving in the country, and the community fell apart due to debts. For a long time after that, Jewish immigrants from Europe settled mainly in other holy cities for Judaism - Hebron, Safed and Tv.

 

At the beginning of the 18th century, one of the most significant attempts at aliyah from Europe and the renewal of the Jewish religious-national center in Jerusalem was made. At the head of this movement was Rabbi Yehuda Hasid, who arrived in Jerusalem in 1700 at the head of about a thousand of his followers, who came from various countries of Europe. However, Yehuda Hasid himself died suddenly after arriving in the country, and the community fell apart due to debts. For a long time after that, Jewish immigrants from Europe settled mainly in the other holy cities for Judaism - Hebron, Safed and Tiberias.

By 1800, no more than 300 thousand people lived in Palestine. The main places of concentration of the Christian population (about 25 thousand) were in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. 5,000 inhabitants were Jews (mostly Sephardic). The rest of the population were Muslims, mostly Sunnis.

By 1880 the population of Palestine was 450,000; this number included 24 thousand Jews, mainly living in Jerusalem (where they made up more than half of its 25 thousand population), Safed (4 thousand people), Tiberias (2.5 thousand people), as well as in Hebron, Jaffa and Haifa . Jerusalem became the largest city in the region.

Jewish Striving for Zion and the Rise of Political Zionism
There has always been a strong desire to return to Zion among the Jews living in the Diaspora. The Jewish community of Palestine was constantly nourished by visitors from the Diaspora, who were led there by religious (including messianic) motives. The Jewish community of Safed, numbering 14 thousand people by the end of the 16th century, was formed from refugees expelled from Spain. The first great wave of modern immigration, known as the First Aliyah, began in 1881, led by Palestinianophiles who dreamed of the return of the entire Jewish people to their historical homeland.

Theodor Herzl is considered the founder of political Zionism, a movement that aimed to create a Jewish state in the land of Israel. In 1896, Herzl published the book The Jewish State, in which he outlined his vision of the future Jewish state. The very next year, Herzl led the first World Jewish Congress.

The second aliyah began in 1904 after the Kishinev pogrom. During its course, 40 thousand Jews arrived in Palestine, of which a significant part later left the country, but still by 1914 the number of Jewish Yishuv in Palestine reached 85 thousand people. Most of the immigrants of the First and Second Aliyah were Orthodox Jews, but socialists who founded the kibbutz movement also arrived in Palestine.

British Mandate of Palestine
During the First World War, when British troops were fighting the Ottomans in the Sinai-Palestine campaign, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued a document that later became known as the Balfour Declaration. It declared that Britain "takes a favorable view of the restoration of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine."

In 1919-1923 (Third Aliyah), 40,000 Jews arrived in Palestine, mostly from Eastern Europe. The settlers of this wave were trained in agriculture and were able to develop the economy. The swamps of the Jezreel Valley and the Hefer Valley were drained and the land made suitable for agriculture. During this period, the federation of trade unions, the Histadrut, was founded. Arab protests against Jewish immigration escalated into pogroms, which contributed to the formation of the Jewish paramilitary self-defense ("Haganah").

In 1922, the League of Nations gave Great Britain a mandate for Palestine, explaining this by the need to "establish political, administrative and economic conditions in the country for the secure formation of a Jewish national home." Already at the very beginning of the mandate, the Arab riots in Jaffa forced Britain to restrict Jewish immigration. Part of the territory intended for the Jewish state was given over to the formation of Transjordan. At that time, the country was inhabited mainly by Muslim Arabs, but the largest city, Jerusalem, was predominantly Jewish. In 1924-1928 (the Fourth Aliyah), 85,000 Jews arrived in Palestine, of whom about 20,000 then left the country.

 

The rise of Nazi ideology in Germany in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, which brought 250,000 German Jews to Palestine. This period ended with the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939 and the publication by Great Britain in 1939 of the "White Paper", which effectively nullified Jewish immigration to Palestine. Other countries refused to accept Jews fleeing the Holocaust, and a ban on immigration to Palestine could be a death sentence for them. To circumvent the ban on immigration, the underground organization Mossad le-Aliya Bet was created, which helped Jews illegally get to Palestine and escape the Holocaust. At the end of World War II, the Jewish population of Palestine was 33%, compared with 11% in 1922.

The creation of the state and the first years of existence
After 1945, tensions between the mandate authorities and the Jewish Yishuv continued to grow. In 1947, the British government abandoned the Mandate for Palestine, announcing that it could not find a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations, created shortly before, adopted a plan for the partition of Palestine. This plan provided for the termination of the British mandate in Palestine and recommended the creation of two states on its territory: Jewish and Arab. Jerusalem and Bethlehem, according to the UN decision, were to become a territory under international control in order to prevent conflict over the status of these cities.

The Jewish Agency, which, among other things, performed some of the functions of the Yishuv government at that time, decided to accept the UN plan. On the contrary, the Arab League and the Arab High Council categorically rejected the UN plan to partition Palestine and said that the plan violated the rights of the majority population of Palestine, which consisted of 67% of non-Jews. Arab leaders vowed to make every effort to prevent its implementation.

On May 14, 1948, one day before the end of the British Mandate for Palestine, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of an independent Jewish state on the territory allocated according to the UN plan. The very next day, the League of Arab States declared war on Israel, and immediately five Arab states (Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Transjordan) attacked the new country.

After a year of hostilities, in July 1949, a ceasefire agreement was adopted with Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan and Syria, according to which the Western Galilee and the corridor from the coastal plain to Jerusalem, originally intended for the Arab state, also came under the control of the Jewish state. Jerusalem was divided along the ceasefire line between Israel and Transjordan. These temporary boundaries are called the "Green Line".

On May 11, 1949, the State of Israel was recognized as a member of the UN. The Arab state was not created; instead, the Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt, and most of the territories of Judea and Samaria, as well as East Jerusalem, which was supposed to remain under the control of the UN within the greater Jerusalem, were occupied and then annexed by Transjordan.

Before the outbreak of hostilities in 1948, about 750,000 Arabs lived in Palestine. During the Israeli War of Independence, hundreds of thousands of Arab residents of Palestine fled their homes located in the territory allocated, according to the UN resolution, for the Jewish state, and part of the territory allocated for the Arab state. Most of the Arab refugees settled in the rest of the territory defined by the resolution for the Arab state, many also emigrated to other Arab states. Only about 160,000 Arabs remained in Israel.

The Israeli authorities refused to let refugees return to their places of residence after the war, and the refugees' lands and real estate were confiscated by the State of Israel. In the Arab world, these events were called "al-Nakba" (Arabic ‎النكبة) - "Catastrophe". At the same time, anti-Jewish demonstrations and violent pogroms took place in Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iraq. As a result, over 800,000 Jews were expelled or fled from Arab countries to the newly created Jewish state. This process, according to the Israeli side, should be regarded as a mass exchange of population in the region, since the place of 600,000 Arabs in Israel was taken by 820,000 Jewish refugees. However, the main point of contention in the Arab-Israeli conflict was the fate of only the Arab refugees.

 

The first years of Israel's existence were marked by mass immigration of Jews who survived the Holocaust, as well as those who, fleeing persecution, left the Arab countries. From 1948 to 1958 Israel's population increased from 0.8 million to 2 million. Some of the immigrants were refugees and had practically no property with them. They were placed in temporary tent camps - "maabars". By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants lived in these tent cities. The need to resolve this crisis forced David Ben-Gurion to sign an agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany on reparations, which caused mass protests of Jews outraged by the idea of ​​cooperation with Germany.

Continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict
During the first decades of the existence of the Jewish state, Arab countries continued to challenge the legality of its creation, and Arab nationalists continued to call for its destruction.

In 1956, Israel joined the British-French alliance to regain control of the Suez Canal, which had been nationalized by Egypt. After the capture of the Sinai Peninsula during the Suez Crisis, Israel was forced to retreat under pressure from the US and the USSR in exchange for guarantees for the passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal and their exit into the Red Sea.

In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan pulled their troops to the borders of Israel, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israeli ships from entering the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. In a radio speech, Egyptian President Nasser called on the Arab states to throw Israel into the sea. These actions became the reason for the leadership of Israel to launch a preventive attack and start a war that went down in history as the Six-Day War. Israel won a convincing quick victory in it, capturing the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

On October 6, 1973, on Yom Kippur (Judgment Day) - the holy day in the Jewish calendar when all Jewish believers are in synagogues - Egypt and Syria simultaneously attacked Israel, catching its government by surprise. Despite significant losses, the attack was repulsed, and then the Israeli forces moved the fighting into enemy territory before a ceasefire was reached. Although an internal inquiry into the circumstances of the war cleared the government of responsibility, public discontent forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

In 1978, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made a historic visit to Israel. This event was the first step towards the recognition of the state of Israel by the head of the Arab state. On March 26, 1979, Anwar Sadat and Menahem Begin signed the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, according to which Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and pledged to start negotiations on the creation of a Palestinian autonomy.

In 1982, Israel intervened in the Lebanese civil war in order to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) bases where attacks on Israel were being prepared. This operation was called the "Peace of Galilee", but later received the unofficial name of the First Lebanese War. The leadership and fighters of the PLO were forced to leave Lebanon, and in 1985 Israel withdrew troops from most of the territory of this country, except for the buffer zone, which remained under Israeli control until 2000.

In 1994, the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.

On July 12, 2006, the Lebanese Shia organization Hezbollah, supported by Syria and Iran, fired several rockets at Israeli settlements and attacked Israeli positions, capturing two soldiers. These actions were the impetus for the Second Lebanon War, in which Israel did not achieve a significant weakening of Hezbollah and curtailed the operation after the intervention of the UN.

Relations with Palestinian Arabs
After the end of World War II, the conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Jews escalated again. After the adoption in November 1947 of the UN plan to divide Palestine into two states, local clashes escalated into a full-scale war that ended with the declaration of independence and the victory of Israel. At the same time, the problem of Palestinian refugees arose.

From 1949 to 1967, Israel was constantly attacked by Palestinian militants ("fedayeen") from the territories occupied by Egypt and Jordan, as a result of which more than 450 of its citizens were killed.

 

The defeat of the Arab states in the Six-Day War in 1967 and Israel's gaining control of all territory destined for both the Jewish and the Arab state led to the growth of Arab radicalism and terrorism - the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) stepped up activities, the purpose of which was declared " armed struggle as the only way to liberate the motherland. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Palestinian terrorists launched the first wave of attacks against Israelis around the world. One of the most high-profile terrorist attacks not only during this conflict, but throughout the world, RIA Novosti calls the capture of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, which ended in their death. In 1970, after an attempt to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, Palestinian paramilitary organizations were expelled from Jordan and moved their activities to Lebanon. The Palestinians actively intervened in the civil war in Lebanon and created an enclave in the southern part of the country, from whose territory they carried out regular terrorist attacks on Israel and major actions of international terrorism. This led to the Israeli army's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon to Tunisia.

In 1987, increased friction between the Israeli authorities and the population of the territories gave impetus to the beginning of the First Intifada (uprising against Israeli rule). In its course, from November 1987 to August 1993, 157 Israeli civilians became victims of terrorist attacks, and another 4,195 Israeli citizens were injured. According to the press service of the IDF, 66 Israeli soldiers were killed, 4918 soldiers were injured. In the same six years, 808 Palestinians were killed and 16,824 injured by Israeli security forces. Another 985 Palestinians were killed by their compatriots. During the 1991 Gulf War, many Palestinian Arabs supported Saddam Hussein and welcomed Iraqi rockets fired into Israel.

In October 1991, after the defeat of Iraq, an international conference on the Middle East was held in Madrid, which for the first time was attended by representatives of Palestinians who regularly lived in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. After Yitzhak Rabin became Israeli prime minister in 1992, Israel promoted a policy of compromise with its Arab neighbors. Already in 1993, in Washington, in the presence of Rabin, PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton, peace agreements were signed, according to which the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was created, which gained control over part of the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip. In response, the PLO pledged to recognize Israel and stop terrorist activities.

Support for peace agreements by Israeli society began to decline as a result of a series of terrorist attacks that began already in 1994. In 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Despite losing confidence in the Oslo process, in the late 1990s, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu withdrew troops from Hebron and signed the Wai River Memorandum, which gave the Palestinians more self-rule.

In July 2000, with the mediation of US President Bill Clinton, negotiations were held at Camp David between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, who headed the PNA. At them, Barak proposed a plan to create a Palestinian state on 97% of the territory of the West Bank of the Jordan and the Gaza Strip, but Arafat rejected it. After the failure of the negotiations, the Palestinian Arabs launched the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the formal reason for which was the visit to the Temple Mount by opposition leader Ariel Sharon.

In 2001, Sharon became the Prime Minister of Israel. In August-September 2005, he implemented a plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the destruction of dozens of Jewish settlements and the expulsion of more than 7,000 people. He also began building a "security fence" between Israeli territory and the West Bank.

After the operation "Defensive Wall" carried out by Israeli troops in the spring of 2002, which largely eliminated the terrorist infrastructure, the scale of the Al-Aqsa Intifada decreased. It also lost its organized character due to the change of leaders: in 2004, the Israeli Air Force destroyed the leaders of the fundamentalist Islamist movement Hamas, Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Rantisi, and in November of the same year, Yasser Arafat died. At the same time, rocket and mortar attacks on the city of Sderot and adjacent kibbutzim from the de facto independent Gaza Strip became a regular occurrence.

According to the human rights organization B'Tselem, from the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000 to December 2008 (the start of Operation Cast Lead), more than 4,900 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli armed forces and civilians during Operation Cast Lead - almost 1400 and after its completion - about 3350; about 700 more Palestinians were killed in the internecine struggle. According to Israeli data, during the same period since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, more than 1,300 Israelis and citizens of other countries have been killed by the Palestinian side.

In 2006, during the democratic elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Hamas movement, recognized by many countries as a terrorist movement, won. Since the Hamas leadership, having come to power, refused to recognize the agreements previously concluded by the PNA with Israel and disarm their militants, the EU and the US began an economic boycott of the Hamas government. In June 2007, as a result of an armed coup, Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip, declaring its intention to create an Islamic state there. In response, on June 14, PNA chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the government, introduced a state of emergency in the territory of the autonomy and took full power into his own hands. As a result of the outbreak of the war for power, Hamas retained its positions only in the Gaza Strip, while Abbas' supporters retained power in the West Bank. From that moment on, repeatedly, including in 2012 and 2017, it was announced that the conflict between Hamas and the leadership of the PNA had ended and that a government of national unity had been formed, but the contradictions remained unresolved.

In October 2007, Israel declared the Gaza Strip a "hostile state entity" and began a partial economic blockade of it. Since then, Israel has controlled the airspace and coastal areas of Gaza, as well as the movement of its inhabitants outside the sector and trade with the rest of the world, with the exception of the "Philadelphia Corridor" on the southern border of Gaza, which is controlled by Egypt. In addition to above-ground barriers and patrols, underground walls are being built to a depth of many meters, designed to prevent the digging of tunnels through which Palestinian militants enter Israel. As part of the blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010, the Israeli Navy intercepted the so-called "Freedom Flotilla" with humanitarian supplies at the entrance to the territorial waters, causing a sharp international reaction.

The internal political situation in the Gaza Strip is extremely unstable - under the control of Hamas, it remains a springboard for armed attacks on Israeli territory. In late 2008 - early 2009, Israel carried out a large-scale operation "Cast Lead" in the Gaza Strip, which, however, did not lead to the elimination of the Hamas regime. Two more large-scale military operations in the Gaza Strip - "Pillar of Cloud" and "Indestructible Rock" (carried out respectively in 2012 and 2014) - also ended only in tactical successes, not solving the main strategic task of eliminating the military and political potential of Hamas.

Other important events in the history of the state
The early 1960s were marked by the capture by Israeli intelligence of one of the most senior Nazi criminals, Adolf Eichmann, who was hiding in Argentina. Eichmann was the "architect" and implementer of the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" during World War II. The public trial of him became the most important stage in realizing the scale of the Holocaust of European Jewry and received international attention. Eichmann's death sentence was the second and last sentence of this kind to be carried out in Israel (the soldier who had been executed before him by the verdict of the field court was later rehabilitated).

An important milestone in the internal political history of Israel was the elections to the Knesset in 1977. As a result, the Likud party under the leadership of Menachem Begin won the majority of votes, for the first time taking control of the country from the Maarah bloc, which included the Labor party, which under various names had been in power without interruption since the founding of Israel. The era of one-party dominance in Israeli politics was replaced by a period of rivalry between the left and right blocs, which diverged along three main parameters (foreign policy, the role of the state and the market in the economy, and the relationship between religion and the state).

 

Mass repatriation in the 1990s

With Mikhail Gorbachev coming to power in the USSR and under pressure from the US government, the procedure for emigrating from the USSR was simplified. In 1989, mass repatriation from the USSR to Israel began. In the growth in the number of repatriates, the fact that since October 1989 the admission of Jewish refugees from the USSR was limited in the United States also played a role; manifestations of anti-Semitism also contributed to it.

In 1989-1990, more than 200 thousand repatriates from the USSR arrived in Israel (35.6 thousand people arrived in December 1990 alone). Repatriation slowed down in early 1991 when Israel came under rocket fire during the Gulf War. Nevertheless, the arrival of Jews from the USSR, and after its collapse from the new sovereign states, continued, and from 1992 to 2000, an average of 46,000 to 67,000 Jews from these countries and members of their families came to Israel annually. In total, over a million repatriates from the USSR and the CIS arrived in Israel during the Great Aliya period. The mass repatriation from the USSR-CIS also coincided with Operation Solomon, which took place in May 1991, when 15,000 Ethiopian Jews were taken to Israel in three days. Since the beginning of the 2000s, there has been a decrease in the volume of repatriation from the countries of the former USSR. So, in 2003, only 12.5 thousand people from the CIS and Baltic countries arrived in Israel for permanent residence. Of the 23,000 repatriates accepted by Israel in 2005, the share of immigrants from the countries of the former USSR was already less than 50%. A new increase in the rate of repatriation, in particular from Russia and Ukraine, began to emerge only in the middle of the next decade.

A number of repatriates fail to settle in Israel and leave the country. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2007, more than 100,000 repatriates returned to permanent residence from Israel to the CIS countries, and about 70,000 Israelis lived in Moscow alone. The number of repatriates who left the country in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century was approaching 35-40% of those entering Israel (in 2015 - 8.5 and 30 thousand, respectively). Of the 290,000 Israelis who left the country between 1990 and 2014, Russian speakers made up 38%.

 

State structure and internal politics

Еxecutive branch
Israel is a parliamentary republic, a democratic state with universal voting rights. The formal head of state is the President of Israel, but his duties, in addition to approving the candidacy of the head of the cabinet of ministers and recommending pardons for prisoners or reducing the sentence, are mostly ceremonial. The President is elected by the Knesset for a single term of 7 years. The limitation of powers to one seven-year term has been in force since 2000; in 1963-1998, the president could be elected twice for a five-year term.

The prime minister is the head of government, the maximum tenure of the prime minister in office is 4 years, until the next elections to the Knesset. In accordance with the Basic Law on Government, the President of Israel, within seven days after the end of the Knesset elections, after consultation with the leaders of the political parties that received representation, entrusts the formation of the government to one of the members of the Knesset, usually the leader of the faction that won the majority of seats in parliament. The candidate forms a government coalition, presents his own version of the composition of the cabinet, and, if he receives a vote of confidence, becomes the head of government. In the event that a candidate fails to obtain the support of a majority of Knesset members and form a government within 42 days after the election, the president has the right to transfer the mandate to form a government to another member of the Knesset. If a government cannot be formed, a new election is called.

From 1996 to 2001, the prime minister was directly elected by the citizens, the elections of the head of government were held in parallel with the parliamentary elections. During this time, Israeli citizens elected the prime minister in direct elections three times, until in 2002, Ariel Sharon, concerned about the increasing sectoral fragmentation in Israeli politics, passed a law to abolish them.

Legislature
The Knesset, the unicameral Israeli parliament, has 120 members. Political parties that have overcome the percentage threshold (from the elections to the 19th Knesset is 3.25%) are represented in it in proportion to the results of national elections according to party lists. Parliamentary elections are held every four years or more frequently, subject to the support of a simple majority of deputies for a decision on early elections. In exceptional cases, the Knesset may also decide to extend its term (for example, the elections to the 8th Knesset were postponed due to the Yom Kippur War).

The duties of the Knesset include passing laws (including the Basic Laws), overseeing the activities of the government, approving ministers, and electing a number of other officials, including the president and State Comptroller. The Knesset has the power to remove immunity from any of its members, to remove the president, State Comptroller and Prime Minister from office, and to pass a vote of no confidence in the government, which requires at least 61 votes of deputies.

Judicial branch
Israel has a three-tier judicial system. The lower level are the magistrates' courts located in most cities of the country. Above them are the district courts located in six Israeli districts. They hear appeal cases and also function as courts of first instance. The third, highest level is the Supreme Court, located in Jerusalem. It also has a dual role, both hearing appeals and serving as the court of first instance, the High Court of Justice. He performs the latter role by considering the appeals of both citizens and non-citizens of the state against the decisions of state authorities.

The Israeli system of law combines English common law, civil law, and Jewish law. It is based on the system of stare decisis (precedents) and the so-called adversarial system, when the parties present evidence to the court. Court cases are heard by professional judges, not juries. Marriages and divorces are under the jurisdiction of religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze and Christian. The Knesset Special Committee, members of the Supreme Court and the Israeli Bar have the right to elect new judges.

Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court for fear that its decisions will be biased due to international political pressure.

Political parties
The division of parties in Israel into "left" and "right" is due to positions on a number of key issues, the most important of which, unlike most European countries, is not socio-economic, but foreign policy (including such an aspect as secure borders). However, the themes of relations between the state and religion and the rights and obligations of individual ethnic and sub-ethnic communities also play a role, as a result of which, among the political parties of Israel, not only left, right and center, but also religious and Arab are traditionally distinguished.

 

Until 1977, all Israeli governments were formed by a center-left bloc, usually with the participation of religious parties. After the “electoral coup” of 1977, there has been constant rivalry in the political arena between the “broad left” and “broad right” blocs, concentrating respectively around the Labor and Likud parties, which occupy positions somewhat closer to the center than their allies. From 1984 to 1990, due to the equality of power between the two blocs, the country was ruled by the so-called governments of national unity. The introduction in 1996 of a system of direct elections for the prime minister, parallel to parliamentary elections, led to increased "party polymorphism" and an increase in the number of small sectoral parties and lists in the Knesset, on which the leaders of the largest parties began to depend more when forming coalitions. Ariel Sharon's attempt to create a new "party of power" uniting moderate right-wing and left-wing leaders failed - the Kadima party, created for the 2006 elections, quickly squandered its credibility and barely passed the electoral barrier seven years later.

Legal system
Until 1922, the basis of the legal system of the region was Majalla - the Ottoman codification (1869-1876). With the British Mandate for Palestine in 1922, Ottoman law was gradually replaced by British law, and from 1948 by Israeli law. However, Majalla was finally abolished only in 1984 by a special Israeli law. In 1980, the Law on the Fundamentals of Law was passed, which finally secured the independence of the Israeli legal system from the British one.

The 1948 Declaration of Independence set October 1 of that year as the date for the adoption of the Israeli constitution. However, the constitution as a single document of the highest legal force in Israel was not created, due to disagreements on many issues in Israeli society. Some Israeli scholars believe that the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel can be regarded as a constitution, since it includes a list of political and civil rights in the form in which it is recorded in a number of democratic constitutions in force in the world, however, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Declaration Independence does not have the force of constitutional law. A role similar to the role of the constitution in Israeli law is played by the Basic Laws of Israel, devoted to different legal areas and adopted one by one since 1958.

An essential feature of the Israeli legal system is the inclusion of elements of Jewish religious law, although Israeli law is not identical with religious law. The area in which religious legislation has been fully incorporated is personal status. Under the jurisdiction of religious courts (Jewish, Muslim, Druze and Christian) are acts of civil status (marriage, divorce, burial)[146]. Under a 1957 law, Israel's High Court of Justice (Hebrew בית משפט גבוה לצדק‎, High Court) is empowered to determine the scope of the jurisdiction of religious courts by assigning or withdrawing specific cases from them.

The desire of Israeli society for a compromise acceptable to religious and non-religious circles, as well as for the preservation of national traditions in the state and public life of the country, found expression in the so-called status quo, which had developed even before the emergence of the Jewish state:
the jurisdiction of the religious courts over the personal status (marriages and divorces) of the members of each community;
recognition of Shabbat as an official day of rest for Jews;
observance of kashrut requirements in all state kitchens (including in military and police units and hospitals);
autonomous network of religious schools.

The principles of the Halacha have partially influenced immigration law.

Human rights
Israel's Declaration of Independence proclaimed that the new state "will be founded on the foundations of freedom, justice and peace ... It will realize complete social and political equality of all its citizens without distinction of religion, race or sex. It will ensure freedom of religion and conscience, the right to use one's native language, the right to education and culture. It ... will be true to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” At the same time, since its founding in Israel, there was no law on human rights. It was only in 1992 that two Basic Laws of Israel were adopted - on freedom of occupation and on the dignity and freedom of man, on the basis of which a full-fledged bill of rights was subsequently built. The "constitutional revolution" in Israel was seen in international academic circles as a major human rights achievement; however, a number of Israeli government actions and laws passed during the period of the right-wing religious coalition in power have raised criticism and doubts that Israel's status as "the only democracy in the Middle East" remains a reality.

 

The Washington-based non-governmental organization Freedom House in its 2018 report gave Israel an overall score of 2 out of 7 (on a scale from 1 - "most free country" to 7 - "least free country"). For the political freedoms component, Israel in this report received the highest score of 1 out of 7, for the civil liberties component - 3 out of 7, which was in particular due to the adoption in 2017 of laws restricting the activities in the country of organizations that support the campaign to boycott Israel. However, in the West Bank, most of which is under Israeli military or administrative control, Freedom House has a rating of 6 out of 7, and a political freedom rating of 7 out of 7 (the lowest possible score); The organization places the blame for this state of affairs with rights and freedoms both on the Israeli side and on the authorities of the Palestinian National Authority. In Reporters Without Borders' annual press freedom rankings, Israel was ranked 87th out of 180 countries in 2018. Although the Israeli press is generally described as free (a rare phenomenon in the Middle East), military censorship and violations of the rights of Palestinian and foreign journalists, especially in terms of coverage of the situation in the Gaza Strip, lower the rating.

Criticism of politics in Judea, Samaria and Gaza
The policy pursued by the State of Israel in the controlled territories causes wide public outcry and sharp criticism from a number of politicians, the UN, Western foundations and non-profit human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Domestically, the government's actions are criticized by human rights organizations such as B'Tselem. The reports of these organizations contain numerous allegations of torture in Israeli prisons, the disenfranchisement of Palestinians, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the aggressive behavior of Jewish settlers, which the Israeli army turns a blind eye to.

Israeli officials claim that the United Nations and human rights organizations apply double standards to Israel in matters of human rights. They claim that Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East, but most of the human rights criticism in the region is directed against Israel. Political scientist Mitchell Bard writes that Israeli law prohibits arbitrary arrests and protects the rights of the accused, and the judiciary is independent of the government; he also denies the existence of political prisoners in Israel.

 

Foreign policy

Israel maintains diplomatic relations with 158 countries (most recently established in February 2014 with the Cook Islands) and has over 100 diplomatic missions. Only two members of the Arab League have had regular relations with Israel for a long time - Egypt since 1979 and Jordan since 1994. Even the change of regime in Egypt and the coming to power of the Muslim Brotherhood only led to a decrease in the level of diplomatic relations between the two countries, but not to their break. Mauritania established full-fledged diplomatic relations in 1999, but in January 2009 announced a freeze on political and economic relations with Israel in connection with the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip. Two other members of the Arab League, Morocco and Tunisia, had diplomatic relations with Israel until 2000, but with the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, they were temporarily suspended; At the same time, the Israeli trade mission in Oman was closed. In August 2020, the UAE announced the full normalization of relations with Israel, followed soon after by Bahrain. Under Israeli law, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are enemy states and Israeli citizens are not allowed to visit these countries without special permission from the Ministry of the Interior. Since 1995, Israel has been a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, which stimulates interaction between the seven Mediterranean countries and NATO members.

Iran had diplomatic relations with Israel during the Pahlavi dynasty, but cut all ties after the Islamic Revolution. Turkey and Israel did not maintain full diplomatic relations until 1991, although they interacted in every possible way since 1949, from the moment Turkey recognized Israel. However, after the Israeli operation "Cast Lead" in 2009 and the conflict with the capture of the "Freedom Flotilla" in 2010, relations with Turkey deteriorated sharply.

Israel's closest allies include the United States, Britain, Germany and India. The United States recognized Israel de facto the very next day after the declaration of independence - May 15, 1948, and subsequently Israel received the status of the main US ally outside NATO. In 2018, the US Embassy in Israel was moved to Jerusalem, prompting a number of Latin American countries to follow suit; before that, for more than a decade, there had not been a single foreign embassy in the city that Israel had proclaimed its capital. Close ties between Israel and Germany include interactions in science, education, military partnerships, and close economic ties. India began full diplomatic relations in 1992 and has been encouraging military and cultural cooperation with Israel ever since. The UK has maintained full diplomatic relations with Israel since its formation and also has strong trade ties.

Israel has been an associate member of the EU since 1995. Due to its geographical location and political structure, Israel is an important participant in the Mediterranean Union project and the Barcelona process of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.

On November 24, 2021, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that he had signed a memorandum of understanding in the defense field with the Moroccan minister-delegate to the head of government for national defense, Abdellatif Louditi, in Rabat.

 

Physical and geographical characteristics

Geographical position
Israel is located in the southwest of Asia, it is washed by the Mediterranean Sea from the west, it borders the Gulf of Aqaba of the Red Sea in the south, it borders on Lebanon and Syria in the north and northeast, respectively, in the southwest it borders on Egypt, in the east it is internationally recognized the border runs along the Jordan River and along the Green Line of 1949.
Israel, due to various factors, refrains from officially defining its borders; a number of Israeli jurists believe that the territory is not an obligatory element of the state at all.

There are several options for determining the territory of Israel:
Resolution of the UN General Assembly No. 181/11 of November 29, 1947, which was not recognized by the Arab countries and was not implemented by them, remains the only international legal document that fixes the territory of the Jewish state. The document provided for the inclusion in the Jewish state of Eastern Galilee, the Jezreel Valley, most of the coastal plain, the Negev desert; to the Arab state - Western Galilee, the mountains of Judea and Samaria (with the exception of Jerusalem), part of the coastal plain from Ashdod to the border with Egypt. Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to become territories under international control.
The sovereign territory of Israel, formed as a result of the 1949 War of Independence and recognized de facto by most countries in the world, is approximately 20,770 km², of which 2% is occupied by water.
The territory to which Israeli sovereignty was later extended, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 km².
The territory currently controlled by Israel, including the land under the control of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank, occupied during the Six-Day War, is 28,177 km².

The Egyptian-Israeli border is established along the border of the mandated territory of Palestine and is fixed by an agreement of March 26, 1979. The Jordanian-Israeli border is fixed by the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of October 26, 1994 along the border line between the mandated territory of Palestine and the Emirate of Transjordan with some minor differences.

Israel has no official borders with Lebanon and Syria. The UN-recognized Blue Line separates Israel and Lebanon. The territory of the Shebaa Farm is disputed. The role of the border between Israel and Syria is played by the "ceasefire line" established at the end of the Yom Kippur War (1973). The UN has created a buffer zone along this line.

Controlled (occupied) territories
In 1967, as a result of victory in the Six Day War, Israel gained control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. In accordance with the resolutions of the General Assembly and the UN Security Council, based on the Charter of the organization, these territories were declared occupied. In this regard, the basis for negotiations to resolve the conflict was the UN Security Council Resolution No. 242 of November 22, 1967, which proclaims two basic principles:
1) the withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from the territories occupied during the recent conflict,
2) the cessation of all claims or states of war and respect and recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized frontiers, free from the threat or use of force.

The Sinai Peninsula was returned by Israel to Egypt in 1979 as a result of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

Shortly thereafter, Israel announced the annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The relevant laws adopted by the Knesset on July 30, 1980 and December 14, 1981, fully extended Israeli civil law to these territories, and their population was granted the right to obtain Israeli citizenship. This annexation, however, did not receive diplomatic recognition from other states, and the UN Security Council, in resolutions 478 and 497, condemned the annexation and declared Israel's actions "null and void and without international legal force."

 

Although the rest of the territories seized in 1967 were not annexed by Israel, Israel disputes their designation as occupied. The official position of Israel is that these territories are legally disputed, since they did not previously belong to any state in the world, Israel received them as a result of a defensive war and has a historical right to them, backed up by a League of Nations mandate. At the same time, Israel recognizes the claims of the Palestinian Arabs to these territories and therefore believes that sovereignty over these territories should be settled through peace negotiations. A number of Israeli and foreign politicians and lawyers adhere to a similar position.

In 1967, after the Six Day War, a movement was created to restore the historic Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (on the West Bank of the Jordan River), as well as in the Gaza Strip. Their creation was actively encouraged by the Israeli government, and in 2015 (after their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005) the population of the settlements of Judea and Samaria was about 580 thousand people and grew by more than 4% annually. The UN has called the existence of Jewish settlements illegal and contrary to the Geneva Convention. Their existence and further construction is one of the most contentious issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are predominantly populated by Palestinian Arabs, among whom a significant proportion are refugees. From 1967 to 1993, the population of these territories was under the administrative control of the Israeli military administration with elements of local self-government at the municipal level. After the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the subsequent creation of the PNA, the territory of the Gaza Strip, with the exception of 12% of the territory occupied by Israeli settlements, was transferred under its control. The territory of the West Bank of the Jordan River was divided into three zones:
A - full civilian and military-police control of the PNA, 18% of the territory, more than 55% of the Palestinian population of the West Bank of the Jordan River;
C - joint military control of the PNA and Israel and civilian control of the PNA, 21% of the territory and 41% of the population;
C - partial civilian and full military control of Israel, 61% of the territory and 4% of the Arab population

The security fence erected in 2003 separating the West Bank from Israeli territory has significantly reduced the number of terrorist attacks. At the same time, according to the Palestinians, it hinders economic activity and movement around the area. The International Court of Justice recognized in an advisory opinion the construction of the Separation Barrier as violating international law. This decision was supported by an overwhelming majority of votes of the UN General Assembly. In some cases, Israel has agreed to move the security fence to make it easier for Palestinian Arabs to access their land. In 2005, as part of the unilateral disengagement policy, Israel eliminated its military and settlement presence in the Gaza Strip, but the armed confrontation between the Hamas movement that controls the Gaza Strip and Israel continues.

 

Geology and relief

Topographically, the territory of Israel can be divided into four zones[49]:

Coastal plain with a width of 1 to 32 km with a flat coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, complicated in the north by Cape Carmel and Haifa Bay;
mountains and hills of Galilee (including the Carmel ridge, which stretches southeast from Haifa and the highest point of the Galilee mountains - the peak of Meron), Judea and Samaria;
the Jordan Rift Valley, which includes the lowest place on land (403 m below sea level);
the Negev plateau.

The arid limestone plateau of the Negev occupies the entire territory of Israel south of the Judean Desert (between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea), up to the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba. This plateau is characterized by various forms of arid denudation and rock erosion. For Israel and the Sinai Peninsula, craters (“makhteshim”), or “erosion circuses”, are unique. Located in the Negev, the Ramon crater is the largest crater of its kind in the world, its length is 40 kilometers and its width is up to 10 kilometers.

Minerals
Until the 2000s, it was believed that Israel was not rich in natural resources. However, large discoveries of natural gas and shale oil have changed this assessment.

Israel's prospective oil resources (excluding shale oil) are estimated at 4.2 billion barrels. Shale oil reserves are estimated at 250 billion barrels, which is comparable to the proven oil reserves in Saudi Arabia.

Since 2008, offshore natural gas has been commercially produced, its total proven reserves are estimated at 1,037 billion m³.

The country has unprofitable copper deposits. Phosphorites, sulfur, manganese, limestone, marble are mined. The waters of the Dead Sea contain significant amounts of potassium salt and bromine.

 

Climate

The Great Russian Encyclopedia characterizes the climate of Israel as a whole as humid Mediterranean. However, the proximity of the sea in the west, the vast desert in the south, and several mountain ranges create a number of zones, the microclimate of which differs sharply from the average. So, in the Galilee, 1080 mm of precipitation falls per year, in the vicinity of Eilat, on average, there is 20 mm of precipitation per year, 700 mm falls in the mountains of Judea and 100 mm in the east of the Negev.

The temperature in Israel varies widely, especially during the winter. In mountainous regions it can be cold, sometimes it snows. Mount Hermon often gets snow in the winter, while Jerusalem usually gets at least one snowfall a year. At the same time, the Mediterranean climate prevails on the Coastal Plain with cool, rainy winters and long, hot summers. Extreme temperatures were recorded in June 1942 (54°C in the Beit She'an valley) and February 1950 (-13°C in the Beit Netofa valley in the Lower Galilee); the highest temperature during the existence of the state - 47 ° C - was also recorded in the area of ​​​​the city of Beit Shean. From May to September, precipitation in Israel is rare.

 

Water resources

The country's water resources are limited. With the beginning of the XXI century in Israel there is an acute shortage of water. Under the terms of the peace treaty, Israel supplies fresh water to Jordan, which in dry years turns into a shortage of fresh water for the supplier country itself.

The largest river in the country is the Jordan, which is 322 km long. The Jordan flows from north to south through Lake Kinneret (Tiberias) and flows into the Dead Sea[49]. The Jordan is one of the four rivers that do not dry up in summer, along with the Kishon, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea near Haifa; the Alexander Yanai River, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea north of Netanya, and the Yarkon, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea near Tel Aviv.

Lake Kinneret, 21 km long and 10 km wide, is the largest freshwater lake in the country. Its area is 166 km². The Dead Sea, with a salt content of more than 330‰, is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. The level of the Dead Sea is lowering due to the use of the Jordan flow (from 395 m below sea level in 1970 to 418 in 2006).

On average, 6 km³ of precipitation falls in Israel per year. Groundwater contains significant impurities of bicarbonates, which makes them hard. In the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, the available fresh water resources were estimated at about 1.8 km³ per year. This is the sum of what small rivers, streams and springs give (1.1 km³), the Yarkon River and its tributaries (0.215 km³), 0.32 km³ attributable to the Israeli part of the Jordan River, and 0.18 km³ received for through rainwater harvesting, wastewater treatment and seawater desalination.

 

Water desalination

The first plant for the desalination of brackish water and water from the Dead Sea, which supplied the city of Eilat, began construction in 1961. The station desalinated 3,700 cubic meters of water per day.

The Ashkelon Desalination Plant is the first seawater desalination plant built in Israel. It is located south of Ashkelon, near the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline. The capacity of the enterprise is 118 million cubic meters of water per year. The desalination process is reverse osmosis. The company has its own 80 megawatt power plant, which supplies electricity to both the plant and private customers.

On September 4, 2001, the group of companies won the tender for the construction of a seawater desalination plant. Construction began in 2003. The station began operating on October 4, 2005. The initial capacity of the plant was 100 million cubic meters per year.
On May 16, 2010, the second seawater desalination plant was launched in the city of Hadera
Now there are 5 seawater desalination plants in Israel (Ashkelon, Hedera, Palmachim, Sorek, Ashdod). The largest of them, providing 150 million cubic meters of water, was built in 2013 near the Sorek River.
By 2016, desalination plants provided 55% of Israel's water needs. Underground reservoirs are also used for water supply; the largest of them are Coastal, stretched along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea south of Caesarea, and Mountain, which is an underground lake south of Zichron Yaakov.

Soils
Despite the small size of the country, its soils are characterized by great diversity. This is due to their different origins, properties and nature of erosion (wind and water), parent rocks (basalt, various sedimentary rocks, sand dunes, alluvium, etc.), climate (from arid in the south to humid in the north) and topography. . Mostly brown and gray-brown soils are common in the country, in the south - desert gray-brown soils, and on the Coastal Plain - alluvial. In the arid Northern Negev, due to the proximity of the Coastal Plain, alluvial loess soils are found. Most of the country's soils are infertile, including as a result of irrational land use. Since the beginning of the 20th century, work has been underway to restore the soil cover and increase its fertility.

 

Flora and fauna

In Israel, the borders of three plant belts converge: Mediterranean, Iranian-Turanian and Sahara-Sindian. The country has approximately 2,600 plant species (250 endemic) from 700 genera belonging to 115 families. By the time Israel gained independence, 4.5 million trees had been planted on its territory by the Jewish National Fund, and by the 21st century there are more than 200 million trees in the country. Of the 6% of the country's territory covered with forests, about ⅔ are artificial plantations. In forest plantations, Aleppo pine, acacia and eucalyptus are most often planted, while cypress, casuarina, ficus, tamarisk, oleander and pistachio are used for landscaping settlements. The natural forest has been preserved in mountainous regions - in Galilee, Samaria, the Judean mountains and on the Carmel ridge; natural vegetation has also been preserved in the desert regions.

The fauna of Israel includes more than 100 species of mammals, over 600 species of birds, about 100 species of reptiles, including 30 species of snakes, and about a dozen species of amphibians, as well as thousands of insect species, including more than a hundred species of butterflies. More than half of the bird species live permanently in the country, the rest are migratory. Dolphins and dugongs are found in the coastal waters of Israel.

In total, about 400 nature reserves and national parks have been created in Israel, which together occupy about a quarter of the country's territory. In 1963, under the auspices of the ministry of the head of government in Israel, the Directorate of Reserves was formed, which, together with the Society for the Protection of the Environment, is leading work on the protection and restoration of natural landscapes.

 

Ecological state

According to the 2016 Environmental Performance Index report by Yale University, Israel ranked 49th in environmental performance out of 180 countries included, up from 66th at the start of the decade. The state of water sources, depleted as a result of increased water consumption, is of greatest concern. Natural water resources are insufficient to meet the needs of Israel and (in accordance with the peace treaty) Jordan; in addition, the use of agricultural fertilizers and seepage of seawater into the Coastal Reservoir degrade the quality of available freshwater reserves. To overcome the water crisis in Israel, research is underway on cheap ways to desalinate seawater on an industrial scale.

Air pollution remains another problem: in 2016, Israel ranked only 136th in the Environmental Performance Index for clean air. Israel also ranks low on such a criterion as the protection of the environment and endangered species. At the same time, Israel is one of the few countries in which there is an increase in forest plantations.

 

Population

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics as of December 31, 2021, the total population of Israel is 9 million 136 thousand people. Of them:
6 million 982 thousand (73.9%) are Jews;
1 million 995 thousand (21.1%) - Arabs (Christians, Muslims and Druze);
472 thousand (5%) are national minorities: Armenians, Circassians, Christians of non-Arab origin, representatives of other religions.

This number does not include foreigners living in Israel, including foreign workers. Their number at the end of 2015, according to the Israeli Central Statistical Bureau, was 183 thousand people. In the same year, 580,000 Israeli citizens lived in settlements in Judea and Samaria. As of 2016, 22,000 Israelis lived in the Golan Heights.

In a press release by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics dated May 1, 2017, dedicated to the 69th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, data are provided for the demographic forecast, according to which, by the 100th anniversary of Israel in 2048, the population of the country should reach 15.2 million people. In 2018, according to the website CountyMeters, there were 181,000 births and 45,000 deaths in Israel. Natural annual increase - 1.66% (according to the CIA World Book of Facts for 2018 - 1.49%, 73rd place in the world). The birth rate in 2018 (estimated) is 17.9 children per 1,000 population, the death rate is 5.2 per 1,000. Since 2002, the annual growth of the Jewish population has been increasing (1.38% in 2002, 1.85% in 2014 year); the growth of the extended Jewish population, including non-Jews from mixed families, in 2014 was 1.94%, and in absolute terms was one and a half times higher than in 9 years before. In contrast, the rate of annual growth of the Muslim population has been declining since 2000: 2.24% in 2014, the lowest rate since Israel's independence. The share of Jews among all live births in the country, which in 2001 amounted to ⅔, increased in 2014 to 74%, the share of Arabs over the same period decreased from 30.5% to 22.9%. In 2017, the total fertility rate among Jews (3.16 children per woman) was higher than among Israeli Arabs (3.11, compared with 9.5 in 1960). The average annual mortality rate among the Jewish population of the country for the entire period of its existence was 6.62 per 1000 people (5.78 in 2014), among the Muslim population the annual mortality rate decreased from 8.67 per 1000 people to 2.48 in 2010 ( after that there was a slight increase).

In 2016, 44% of the total number of Jews in the world lived in Israel, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. As of 2015, of the Jews of Israel, 4.75 million were born in this country (tzabarim, sabrs) and 1.53 million were repatriates (olim). By country of origin of Israeli Jews in 2016:

about 690,000 were Asians or children of Asians (including more than 220,000 from Iraq and more than 130,000 each from Iran and Yemen);
almost 900 thousand from African countries - primarily from the Maghreb, including over 480 thousand from Morocco, as well as more than 135 thousand from Ethiopia;
almost 1.95 million from Europe, America and Oceania, including almost 900 thousand from the USSR and post-Soviet countries, almost 200 thousand from Romania and over 180 thousand from Poland;
over 2.8 million second generation sabras (with a sabra father).
In terms of population density (412 people / km²), Israel in 2022 ranked 31st in the world.

 

Administrative division

The State of Israel is divided into 7 administrative districts called mekhozot (Hebrew מחוזות‎, singular - mahoz) - Central, Haifa, North, Jerusalem, South, Tel Aviv and Judea and Samaria, the status of which remains controversial for international level. The districts are subdivided into 15 subdistricts - nafot (Hebrew נפות‏‎; singular - nafa), which, in turn, are divided into 50 districts. For statistical purposes, four urban agglomerations are also distinguished: Jerusalem (population in 2017 - 1.3 million people), Tel Aviv (3.9 million), Haifa (about 940 thousand) and Beersheba (about 380 thousand). 15 cities in Israel are home to 100,000 people or more. The largest of these in 2018 was Jerusalem, with a population of over 800,000; Tel Aviv is in second place (over 430,000) and Haifa is in third (over 265,000).

 

Economics and finance

General condition, main indicators
The planned state budget of Israel for 2019 is 479.6 billion shekels with a planned deficit of 2.9%. Compared to the previous year, the budget growth is 4.3%. Government tax revenue for 2018 decreased by NIS 4.5 billion, while government spending increased by NIS 18 billion.

The volume of Israel's GDP at PPP for 2018, according to the World Bank, amounted to 362.34 billion US dollars - 50th in the world and fifth in Southwest Asia (after Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates). With a gross national product per capita (PPP) of $36,400 in 2017, Israel ranked 55th in the world. Israel's GDP growth in 2018 was 3.3%. The structure of the Israeli economy has features characteristic of a post-industrial society, with the predominant role of the service sector in GDP. In the volume of GDP, the share of industrial production for 2017 was 26.5%, services - 69.5%, agriculture - 2.4%. The total working-age population is 4.021 million people, the estimated unemployment rate is 4.2% (55th in the world).

Israel is considered one of the most developed countries in Southwest Asia in terms of economic and industrial development. The country ranked 49th (out of 190) in the World Bank's 2018 Ease of Doing Business ranking and 16th (out of 137) in the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Competitiveness Index. As of 2017, Forbes ranked Israel 24th out of 161 countries in the world for doing business.

In 2004, Israel ranked first in the number of companies in the NASDAQ index among countries outside North America, and in 2014 ranked second after China in the list of all NASDAQ companies outside the United States. As of 2018, Israel remained the only Middle Eastern state listed on the NASDAQ, with all 98 listed Middle Eastern companies based in Israel. In 2010, Israel was admitted to the OECD, which includes the most socio-economically developed countries in the world.

Israel is a world leader in water conservation and geothermal energy technologies. Its advanced technologies in software, telecommunications, natural sciences make it the equivalent of Silicon Valley in the USA. Among the companies that built their first foreign research and development centers in Israel are Intel, Microsoft and Apple. In 2006, American billionaire Warren Buffett bought a controlling stake in the Israeli company Iscar for $4 billion, his first outside the US, and bought the remainder seven years later.

At the same time, doubts are being expressed about the self-sufficiency of the Israeli economy, which includes subsidies and assistance from abroad - primarily from the United States. Israel leads in total aid received from the United States since World War II. In 2017, the country received $3.776 billion from the United States, including $3.175 billion for unspecified defense spending. In the early 2010s, the share of American aid in Israel's defense budget was up to 22%.

 

Industry and Energy

Israel's industry produces high-tech products, as well as paper and wood products, potash and phosphorus fertilizers, caustic soda and other chemicals, medicines, building materials, plastics, cut diamonds, textiles, shoes, food, drinks and tobacco. The growth of industrial production in 2017 amounted to 4%.

Israel mainly imports raw materials, weapons, means of production, rough diamonds, fuel, grain, and consumer goods. According to the Middle East Institute, 23.6% of Israeli exports in 2016 were cut diamonds, 19.7% were computer, electronic and optical equipment, 12.4% were chemical products, and 11.5% were defense products. In 2017, the country ranked fifth in the world in arms and defense technology exports, behind the United States, Russia, France and Germany. Five years earlier, there were 1,006 companies and 312 independent entrepreneurs in Israel in the field of defense exports.

The State of Israel pursues a policy of subsidizing enterprises engaged in research and implementation of new technologies, annually allocating about $400 million for these purposes. The allocation of subsidies is handled by the Israel Innovation Authority (formerly known as the Chief Scientist's Bureau) under the Ministry of Commerce. Companies that received subsidies pay compensation to the ministry in the form of percentage deductions from product sales (the department receives back about $100 million annually).

Israel fully provides for its own electricity needs. In 2015, according to the CIA World Fact Book, there were 60.44 billion kWh generated and 52.78 billion kWh consumed. 5.2 billion kWh of electricity sold.

For many years, the Electricity Company of Israel had a monopoly in the field of electricity supply. Since 2013, the production of electricity on an industrial scale by private power plants began, whose share in the total generation by 2016 reached 29%, but in the early years they could only sell electricity to the consumer through an intermediary. In 2018, after more than 20 years of preparatory processes, an agreement was signed to open the consumer electricity market to competition, which should make it possible to reduce electricity prices for consumers.

Agriculture
According to the CIA World Fact Book, 1.1% of the working population is employed in Israel's agriculture, but they provide the country with 93% of food. Some grains and oilseeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar are imported into Israel. At the same time, a significant amount of Israel's own agricultural products is exported (in 2005, it accounted for 2.4% of the total value of the country's merchandise exports). According to various estimates, each Israeli employed in agriculture is able to feed from more than 50 to more than 90 of his compatriots.

About 80% of agricultural production falls on two types of farms - kibbutzim and moshavim (cooperative villages with a mixed type of farming). The most important branches of agriculture are the production of citrus crops, vegetables, cotton, beef, poultry meat, and milk.

In the period from 1950 to the mid-1990s, there was a significant increase in the area of ​​agricultural land, including irrigated land (in the 1990s, it was about half of the total area of ​​455,000 hectares). At the same time, between 1952 and 1984, there was an eightfold increase in agricultural production. Cotton, peanuts, sunflowers, wheat, citrus crops (a significant part of the crop of which is exported), tomatoes, and potatoes are grown in the largest volumes. The agricultural sector accounts for over 60% of Israel's total water consumption.

The total milk production in Israel in 2010 was 1.304 billion liters, in 2014 - 1.523 billion liters. The average Israeli cow produces 12,083 liters of milk per year (2014 data)[290], which exceeds the average milk yield of an American cow (9331 kg per year) and a European cow (6139 kg according to 2009 data). The record annual milk yield in Israel is 18,900 liters per year with a fat content of 5%. Despite the ban on pork in Judaism and Islam, the two predominant religions in Israel, pig farming exists on an industrial scale in the country; the herds of kibbutzim Mizra and Lahav numbered 10,000 heads each in the early 2010s.

 

Tourism

Tourism is an important part of the Israeli economy. The tourism business in Israel employs about 195 thousand people - 6% of the total number of employed. At the beginning of the 21st century, about 3% of Israel's GDP was created in the field of tourism and recreational services. The main components of international tourism in Israel are visiting relatives (about a third of all visits to Israel), recreation and sightseeing, pilgrimages, business tourism and medical treatment. Jerusalem is especially popular among foreign tourists, which is visited by 75% of the total number of visitors, the healing springs of the Dead Sea and Lake Tiberias are of considerable interest. At the same time, the Arab-Israeli conflict, which remains unresolved, acts as a factor holding back the growth of international tourism.

According to data for 2017, 3.6 million tourists visited Israel, and taking into account one-day visits - more than 3.8 million (including almost 780 thousand from the United States, more than 300 thousand from Russia and France and more than 200 thousand from Germany ), tourism revenues amounted to 20 billion shekels. At the same time, a comparable number of Israeli citizens travel abroad annually.

 

Transport and communications

Transport
The total length of railways for 2017 is 1250 km. Track width - 1435 mm. The length of motor roads is 18,566 km (all paved), of which 449 km are expressways. Road traffic is on the right side of the road, while rail traffic is on the left side (the result of strong British influence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries). In 2013, there were 47 airports in the country, of which 29 were paved and 18 were unpaved, as well as three heliports. International flights are accepted by 4 airports: David Ben-Gurion Airport, Eilat Airport, Ovda (Ovda) Airport and Haifa. El Al, founded in 1948, is Israel's largest airline. The total length of gas pipelines is 763 km; oil pipelines - 442 km. The four main seaports are located in Ashdod, Hadera, Eilat and Haifa. Since 2007, the first private port in the country has been operating in Haifa.

Buses at the beginning of the XXI century remain the main form of public transport in Israel. Bus lines connect almost all settlements. Israel's largest bus company, Egged, was the second largest in the world in 2001, at the time serving 70% of the country's bus passenger traffic. In 2011, Israel's first high-speed tram system was opened in Jerusalem. Since August 2013, the Metronit bus network has been operating in Haifa, which includes three routes and connects Haifa with the northern suburbs (Krayot). There is also an underground funicular "Carmelit", listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the shortest operating underground system in the world. The Tel Aviv light rail system is scheduled to start operating in 2021.

 

Telephone and Internet

The Israeli Ministry of Communications is the regulator of the activities of all organizations working in the field of communications. Allocating IP addresses, maintaining the .il domain, and more is handled by the Israel Internet Association.

The bulk of wireline services in Israel in 2016 were provided by two companies (Bezek and Hot Telecommunications Systems), mobile services - by 5 companies. As of 2017, there were 10.54 million mobile phone subscribers in the country (1.27 subscribers per Israeli) and 3.24 million landline telephone subscribers. All telephone numbers in Israel are seven digits, preceded by a local code (02 - Jerusalem, 04 - Haifa, 09 - Sharon, etc.) or a cellular code (050, 052, etc.).

Israel has a developed IT industry and its population is considered to be one of the most technologically savvy in the world. In 2008, Israel ranked second in the world in terms of the number of computers with Internet access per capita. For 2014, the number of Internet subscribers was estimated at about 2 million, and the number of users - at 5.6 million people. Internet navigation speed averaged 40 Mb/s. Each family had, on average, 5 devices connected to the Internet. 45% of users stored audio and video files on external servers. By mid-2017, the number of Internet users in the country was estimated at 6.6 million people, or 80% of the total Israeli population.

Postal service
Postal service in Israel is carried out by the state company Doar Yisrael (Israel Post) (in March 2006, the Postal Administration under the Ministry of Communications - Reshut ha-doar - was transformed into a state-owned company), as well as private postal agencies and courier companies . The state monopoly on mass mail was eliminated in 2007 as part of the postal reform, but Doar Israel still controls most of the postal market. The transition to self-sufficiency led to staff cuts and a general deterioration in the company's performance, and in 2018 a project for its partial privatization was made public.

Financial sector and trade
Israel is a member of the WTO and also has free trade agreements with the EU and the US. This compensates for the lack of access to many Middle Eastern markets. The main problem of the Israeli economy for many years has been a negative trade balance. Exports have been highly diversified since the 1990s.

According to the CIA World Book of Facts, Israel's external debt at the end of 2017 exceeded $88 billion. The country's gold and foreign exchange reserves on the same date were estimated at $113 billion.

Although securities trading in Tel Aviv began already in 1935, before the founding of the State of Israel, the first (and, as of the 2010s, the only) securities trading platform in Israel, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, was established in 1953 year.

 

Banks

The credit and banking system is headed by the Bank of Israel, founded in 1954. In the late 1990s, the government privatized the country's three largest banks: Bank Leumi le-Israel, Bank Apoalim, and Bank Discount le-Israel. As of 2008, there are many commercial banks (both local and foreign branches), mortgage and investment banks in Israel. The banking system is characterized by a high level of specialization.

According to the Bank of Israel, representative offices of foreign banks and financial groups officially operate in the country. Some of them have the status of full-fledged banks and provide customers with a complete list of banking services. Others have the status of commercial, industrial or investment, so the list of their services is narrow-profile.

Currency
The currency of the State of Israel since 1985 is the New Israeli Shekel (Hebrew שקל חדש‏‎, Shekel Hadash, English New Israeli Sheqel). Symbols: ₪, NIS, according to ISO-4217 - ILS nomenclature. The New Shekel has been a freely convertible currency since January 1, 2003. Since May 26, 2008, the new Israeli shekel, along with several other freely convertible currencies, has been used for settlements in the international interbank system CLS.

The amount of cash in circulation in Israel at the end of 2017 was about 82 billion shekels. The use of Credit cards, both international and local, of the Israkart credit company, which are not accepted abroad or when paying in online stores, is widespread (about half a million such cards have been issued). The Bank of Israel, as part of its compliance with international security standards, has obliged all businesses in the country to use terminals capable of reading EMV chips since 2019.

Foreign economic relations
The largest exports of Israeli products go to the United States (28.8% as of 2017), Hong Kong (7%), the People's Republic of China (5.4%) and Belgium (4.5%). The leading importers of goods to Israel are the United States (11.7% as of 2017), China (9.5%), Switzerland (8%) and Germany (6.8%); the share of Great Britain and Belgium in the total volume of imports going to Israel is approximately 6%. In general, for 2017, the value of imported goods and services amounted to 66.76 billion US dollars, while exports for the year before were estimated at 64.54 billion.

The main components of Israeli exports are machinery and equipment, software, diamonds and chemicals. One of Israel's biggest income items is the export of weapons and defense equipment. According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIIPM), in 2017 this country was one of the five largest arms exporters in the world, after the United States, Russia, France and Germany.

The main components of Israel's imports are raw materials, fuel, agricultural products (in particular, grain), rough diamonds and weapons. Israel, being one of the main exporters of weapons, is also among the main importers, ranking 18th in the world according to 2017 data. Weapons come from four main sources - the United States, Canada, Germany and Italy.

 

Israeli army and security services

Army

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is made up of the Army, Navy (Navy) and Air Force (Air Force). They were formed in 1948 during the War of Independence from paramilitary organizations, mainly from the Haganah, whose formation preceded the declaration of independence. The IDF also uses information from the Military Intelligence Service (AMAN), which works in conjunction with the Mossad and Shin Bet. The Israeli Armed Forces are considered among the best in the world both in terms of the level of training of employees and in terms of technical equipment.

Most Israelis are drafted into the army at the age of eighteen. Men serve three years (from 2020 in non-combat units - 2.5 years), and women - two. At the end of military service, Israeli men go into the reserve and go through several weeks of reserve training (miluim) every year until they reach the age of 40 (for certain ranks and specialties, the maximum age for miluim reaches 42 and 49 years). Most women are exempt from reserve service. Israeli Muslims (except Druze), Christians and students of yeshivot (Jewish religious educational institutions) are exempted from military service; attempts to abolish these privileges have been made for a long time. As of 2015, about 1,700 Muslim volunteers served in the IDF, mostly from among the Bedouins. Citizens exempted from military service can perform Sherut Leumi (alternative service) as volunteers in hospitals, schools and other social welfare facilities. With a full call-up of reservists, the personnel of the Israeli armed forces can reach 800 thousand people, which is comparable to the size of the armies of neighboring Arab states, and Israel surpasses all European NATO countries in terms of the number of armored vehicles.

Since independence, Israel has spent a significant portion of its GDP on defense. For example, in 1984 such costs amounted to 24% of GDP. By 2016, this share had dropped to 5.64%, but compared to European countries, it still remained large - according to this indicator, Israel ranked in the top ten in the world, on a par with the UAE and above Russia.

The Israeli army is armed mainly with high-tech weapons produced both in Israel and in other countries. The US is the IDF's most important foreign sponsor; Thus, for the decade from 2019 to 2028, the planned US military assistance to Israel will amount to $38 billion. The Israeli-American development, the Hetz missile (Hebrew חץ - arrow), is one of the few anti-ballistic systems of its kind.

Since the Yom Kippur War, Israel has been developing its own reconnaissance satellite system. The success of the Ofek program allowed Israel to independently launch satellites. Israel produces its own battle tanks "Merkava" (Hebrew מרכבה‏‎ - "chariot"). In addition, Israel is one of the world leaders in unmanned military aircraft and is among the top arms exporters.

Israel has not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and is pursuing a policy of uncertainty regarding the possession of nuclear warheads. In 2017, Israel possessed approximately 80 warheads, according to experts from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute. Other estimates put the number of warheads higher, up to 200 or even 400. Weapons experts believe that Israel has a full-fledged "nuclear triad" to deliver the warheads to the target.

 

Police

The Israeli police are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Security. To contact the police in Israel, you need to dial 100 from any phone.

The Israeli Police is a professional organization with 35,000 employees in 2014 (of which about 8,000 are the MAGAV border police). In addition, 70,000 volunteers from the "Civil Squad" ("Mishmar Ezrahi") help her work. In addition to MAGAV, the police structure includes the counter-terrorism unit YAMAM, founded in 1974; its tasks include the prevention of terrorist attacks, the capture of terrorists and the release of hostages.

 

Special services

Israel's security services include: Shabak (or "Shin Bet") (Hebrew שרות ביטחון כללי‏‎ Sherut Bitahon Klili, Heb. שב"כ‏‎ Shabak) - Israel's General Security Service, AMAN (Hebrew ‏‏ אמ"ן‎) - Israel's military intelligence - and the Mossad (Hebrew המוסד למודיעין ולתפקידים מיוחדים‏‎, ha-Mosad le-modidin u-le-tafkidim meyuchadim) - "special intelligence intelligence and tasks" Israel.

Shin Bet is engaged in counterintelligence activities and is responsible for internal security. Its tasks include countering espionage, disclosure of state secrets, terrorism and political subversion. The Shin Bet is entrusted with the protection of the Prime Minister of Israel and other members of the government, defense industry facilities, Israeli property abroad; it also oversees the overall security of the national air carrier, El Al.

AMAN, as the commanding body of military intelligence in the Israel Defense Forces, is engaged in airborne and electronic intelligence, collects information with the help of military attachés in different countries and special forces units operating behind enemy lines. AMAN is responsible for preparing daily national briefings for the prime minister and government, case studies on neighboring Arab countries, and assessing the likelihood of hostilities.

Mossad is a foreign intelligence service. Mossad is engaged in the collection and analysis of intelligence information, as well as covert special operations outside of Israel. One of the differences between Mossad and similar intelligence services in other countries is the small size of the organization - only 1,200 full-time employees, including technical staff.

 

Healthcare

In Israel, there is a developed state system of medical institutions, which guarantees equal opportunities for obtaining medical services for all citizens. This right is enshrined in a law in force since 1995. The provision of medical services is carried out within the framework of compulsory health insurance (the amount of the insurance premium is determined depending on the amount of income). There are also private clinics. Four private health insurance companies, Clalit, Leumit, Meuhedet and Maccabi, provide insurance to the population under state supervision. Additional private health insurance is not mandatory. The package of insured services does not include psychological and narcological support, cosmetic surgeries, participation in the purchase of glasses and surgeries abroad. In an expanded version, dental care may be included in the basket of insured services from 2013.

There are two types of ambulances in Israel. The white ambulance is designed to deliver patients with diseases and injuries of moderate severity to medical institutions that do not require special treatment on the road. In such an ambulance there is a driver-paramedic (hovesh) and, as a rule, a volunteer. Orange resuscitation teams (nathan) are made up of doctors. The decision to send one of the two teams is made by the ambulance dispatcher. In Israel, the ambulance dispatch service is called by number 101 or from the cell phone of all operators by number 112.

 

Life expectancy, morbidity and mortality

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2016 the country ranked 11th in the world in terms of life expectancy (8th from 2010 to 2013). The average life expectancy was 82.5 years (84.2 years for women and 80.7 for men). According to such a new indicator as healthy life expectancy, the Israelis were ahead of the European average by 3-4 years (65.1 versus 61.8 years for women and 65.4 versus 61.4 for men). Since 1970, life expectancy in Israel has increased by 10.3 years, compared with an OECD average of 10 years. Other indicators - the percentage of the population with overweight (53%) and obesity (17%), the proportion of smokers among the adult population (19.4%), mortality in the first 30 days after a stroke (6.8%) - in Israel were similar to OECD averages, and alcohol consumption is significantly lower (2.6 liters per capita per year versus 9). The rate of hospitalizations for respiratory diseases and heart failure is declining but remains higher than the OECD average, while the rate of hospitalizations for diabetes is lower (Israel ranked 6th out of 37). Child mortality in Israel is one of the lowest in the world. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2017 Israel ranked 204th out of 225 countries with 3.4 deaths per 1,000 newborns; however, according to 2008-2011 data, infant mortality among the Arab population (6.78 per thousand newborns) remains significantly higher than among other ethnic groups (2.72).

 

Status of AIDS and HIV

From 1981 to 2010, about 6,600 AIDS patients and HIV-infected people were registered in Israel; the number of new cases per 100,000 population in 2010 was 5.6 (compared to 3.6 in 1986). More than 40% of this number were visitors from countries with a high percentage of infection (both returnees, mainly from Ethiopia, and migrant workers); other high-risk groups were homosexual men and injecting drug users. By 2016, the number of registered cases exceeded 9,100, while since 2013 the increase in infections has been declining annually. Successful clinical trials of an experimental AIDS drug known as Gamorra have been reported.

 

Social Security

The social security of the population in Israel is entrusted to the Israeli Ministry of Social Welfare and the Israeli National Insurance Institute reporting to it. The National Insurance Law obliges Israeli residents who have reached the age of 18 to pay contributions to the national insurance system. Regular payment of insurance premiums gives the right to receive various benefits (to ensure a living wage, benefits in case of temporary loss of work, old-age benefits, benefits for the birth and upbringing of children).

 

Science and education

In 2014, spending on education was 5.7% of Israel's GDP. The main regulatory documents in this area are the Law on Compulsory Education and the Law on Public Education, adopted in 1949 and 1953, respectively. The State Education Act, passed in 1953, established five types of schools: state secular, state religious, ultra-Orthodox, community schools in settlements, and Arab schools. Public secular schools, the largest group of schools, are attended by the majority of Jewish and other non-Arab students in Israel.

Education in Israel is compulsory for children from 3 to 18 years old[369]. School education is divided into three stages: elementary school (grades 1-6), intermediate school (grades 7-9), secondary school (grades 10-12). The last class ends with the receipt of a matriculation certificate (bagrut), which makes it possible to enter higher educational institutions. To obtain a certificate, knowledge of the main subjects is required - mathematics, Tanakh, Hebrew, Israeli and general literature, English, history and social science. In Muslim, Christian and Druze schools, the Torah examination is replaced by an examination in Islam, Christianity, or Druze heritage. In 2015, 52.7% of graduate students successfully passed the Israeli matriculation exams. On average, Israeli children receive more years of education than children in other Southwest Asian countries, and are tied with Japanese children in second place in Asia, second only to children in South Korea (however, as a 2017 study shows, the length of education in Israel does not have a positive effect on labor productivity, which at that time was one of the lowest among developed countries). A 2011 estimate for Israelis aged 15 and over had a literacy rate of 97.8%.

 

Israeli universities and most of the colleges operating in the country are subsidized by the state. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel's oldest university and home to the Jewish National and University Library, the world's largest repository of Jewish books. In 2018, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem ranked 95th in the top 100 universities in the world according to the Shanghai Academic Ranking. With the exception of 2017, the Hebrew University has been in the top 100 of this ranking every year since 2003. Among the top 100 universities in the world is also the country's leading technical university - Haifa Technion (77th position).

Other universities in the country:
Tel Aviv University
Bar Ilan University (Ramat Gan)
Haifa University is the owner of the largest library in the Middle East
Ben Gurion University (Beersheba)
Weizmann Institute (Rehovot)
Ariel University
Open University of Israel (correspondence)

In 2012, according to an OECD report, Israel was the fourth most educated country in the world, behind only Russia, Canada and Japan - more than 46% of its inhabitants had a higher or secondary specialized education. By 2017, the proportion of Israelis with higher or secondary specialized education reached 49.9%.

Israel is one of the world's leading high-tech companies and had the highest number of high-tech companies and start-ups per capita in the early 2010s. With scarce water resources, Israel has developed water-saving technologies. It is also one of the leaders in the use of solar energy per capita.

Between 2002 and 2013, eight Israeli citizens won the Nobel Prize in Science. Israel ranks among the world leaders in terms of the number of scientists and engineers, scientific publications and registered patents per capita, as well as the share of GDP in investment in research and development.

 

Space program

In 1981, the Israeli military intelligence AMAN allocated $ 5 million for research in the field of spacecraft and launch vehicles. That same year, Prime Minister Begin authorized the creation of an Israeli space program, and in 1983 the Israel Space Agency was established, headed by physicist Yuval Ne'eman. On September 19, 1988, Israel launched its first satellite, Ofek-1, from the Palmachim Space Center (Hebrew: פלמחים‏‎), using a three-stage Shavit launch vehicle of its own design. Launched in 1995, Ofek-3 became Israel's first reconnaissance satellite, later reconnaissance satellites Ofek-5, Ofek-7 and Ofek-9 were launched. Developed on the basis of the Ofek program, the Eros Earth remote sensing devices are simultaneously used by the Israeli military department and supply high-quality data to the international geospatial data market.

A series of Israeli communication satellites "Amos" (from the English Afro-Mediterranean Orbital System) was developed by the local company Israel Aerospace Industries (with the exception of the sixth satellite of the series, developed in Russia). The satellites, which were partly financed by the state (the share of state investments was not disclosed), are operated by Spacecom, based in Ramat Gan. The first satellite of the series, created with the participation of French and German specialists, has been in operation since 1996.

While Ofeks continue to be launched into orbit by Israeli rockets from the Israeli Palmachim test site, satellites of other series have been launched into orbit by foreign launchers and from foreign spaceports; for example, the first two satellites of the Eros series were launched (in 2000 and 2006) from the Svobodny cosmodrome using the Start-1 launch vehicle.

The only Israeli to have been in space is Ilan Ramon, who in 2003 was a former crew member of the wrecked space shuttle Columbia. The possibility of including Israelis in international space crews is being considered by NASA.

 

Nuclear program

The Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), established in 1952, deals with Israel's nuclear program. Atomic scientists from Israel participated in the work on the creation of French nuclear weapons, and in the 1960s, as part of this cooperation, the French side built a nuclear research center in the Negev near Dimona, which is based on a heavy-water nuclear reactor. Another nuclear research center, based around a light water reactor, was built in the 1950s by American specialists as part of the Atoms for Peace program. Part of Israel's nuclear facilities is not under the control of the IAEA, since Israel has not acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The power of the light water reactor "Nahal Sorek" is 5 MW, the heavy water reactor in Dimona is approximately 75 to 150 MW. In 2011, plans were announced to build a full-fledged nuclear power plant with a capacity of 1200 MW in southern Israel, providing up to 10% of the country's electricity needs.

 

Culture and Society

Israeli cultural diversity is based on the diversity of Israeli society: Jews from all over the world brought with them cultural and religious traditions, thus creating a "melting pot" of Jewish traditions and beliefs. Israel's most significant minority, the Arabs, has also left its mark on the country's culture, particularly in areas such as architecture, music and cuisine.

On the territory of Israel (including controlled territories) there are 10 sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage List:
The Old City of Jerusalem and Its Walls (1981);
Fortress Massada (2001);
Old part of the city of Akko (2001);
White City in Tel Aviv (Bauhaus style) (2003);
Bible Tells - Megiddo, Hatzor, Beersheba (2005);
Incense Path - Desert Cities Ruins in the Negev (2005).
Bahai Gardens in Haifa and Akko (2008);
Monuments of Anthropogenesis near Mount Carmel (2012);
Caves of Maresha and Beit Guvrin in the Judean Valley (2014);
Beit Shearim Necropolis (2015).

 

Languages

As part of the mandate for the administration of Palestine, received by Great Britain from the League of Nations in 1922, English, Arabic and Hebrew were approved as official languages ​​in the mandated territory. The language policy of the Mandatory authorities was much less drastic than in the traditional British colonies; everyday life did not require the knowledge of English from the inhabitants of Palestine - the exception was people who held official posts or served in the armed forces. In the Arab and Jewish schools of Palestine, teaching in the respective languages ​​was encouraged, English was introduced as a compulsory subject only from the fifth grade.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, English lost its official status, although it retained some of its formal functions (for example, even in the 21st century, the inscriptions on Israeli banknotes and postage stamps are duplicated in this language, and the Israeli Ministry of the Interior publishes an English translation of all adopted laws). Hebrew became the first state language of Israel, and Arabic - the second. However, in practice the statuses of the two languages ​​were not equal. Often a special court order was required to introduce Arabic entries on road signs and street names; addresses on the letterheads of private companies and government agencies were often printed in Hebrew and English only. Since 2018, the Basic Law: Israel, the Nation State of the Jewish People, has proclaimed only Hebrew as the state language, but speaks of the "special status" of the Arabic language.

At the same time, Israel is a country of immigrants and, as a result, a multilingual state. The large-scale repatriation of the 1990s from the countries of the former USSR led to greater tolerance in the language policy of Israel, expressed in the existence of numerous periodicals in Russian. After the mass arrival of Ethiopian Jews in the country, with the support of the Ministry of Education, two newspapers in the Amharic language are published every one and two months.

 

Religion

The State of Israel was founded primarily as a "national home" for the entire Jewish people and is defined in the Declaration of Independence as the "Jewish State". The Law of Return of the State of Israel gives the right to all Jews, as well as people of Jewish origin, to obtain citizenship of the country. The provision that Israel is the national state of the Jewish people is repeated in the basic law of the same name adopted in 2017. At the same time, Israel is a democratic state, where, under the law, all other religious and ethnic groups have equal rights with Jews.

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2017, 74.5% of the country's citizens were recorded as Jews, 17.75% as Muslims, 1.95% as Christians, and 1.6% as Druze. For another 4.2% of the population, the denomination has not been determined.

In a 2009 poll, among the Jewish population of Israel, 22% identified themselves as Orthodox Jews, 32% as traditional Jews, and 46% identified themselves as secular (including 3% as anti-religious).

Muslims are the largest religious minority in Israel - about 1.5 million in the mid-2010s, almost 70% of them in the north of the country (in the Galilee and Haifa). Muslims (mostly Sunnis) are the majority of Israeli Arabs. The Muslim population of the country has grown almost 10 times since the establishment of the State of Israel. There are more than 400 mosques in Israel, including more than 70 in Jerusalem, about 300 imams and muezzins receive a salary from the state.

Christians in Israel are also represented mainly by Arabs. About 60% of Israeli Christians in the mid-2010s were parishioners of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, another 30% were Orthodox. Other denominations include Roman Catholics, Maronites, believers of the Armenian Apostolic Church and others, the number of so-called "Messianic Jews" is rapidly growing (9-12 thousand in 2005). Some of the Christians are non-Jews who came as members of Jewish families, but most of these citizens are recorded in the category of “no religious affiliation.”

Representatives of other religious groups, including Buddhists and Hindus, are also present in Israel, albeit in small numbers. Although the spiritual center of the Baha'i religion, the seat of its Universal House of Justice and the tombs of the founders are located in the north of Israel, no permanent Baha'i community has arisen in the Holy Land, and this faith is represented in Israel only by a staff of volunteers and pilgrims.

 

Israel is a religiously divided society - religious and secular groups form separate social worlds with very few close friends and intermarriages outside of their group. A 2014-2015 survey found that the vast majority of believing Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze tend to have close friends from their own religious community. Nearly all Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druzes marry or have extramarital affairs with members of their own religious group. The internal groups of Israeli Jewry are also isolated from each other along religious lines - for example, 95% of Haredim have a spouse who is also ultra-Orthodox, and 93% of non-religious Jews have a non-religious spouse / partner.

In addition to the Bahá'í Faith, Israel hosts key holy sites for the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The main shrine of Judaism is the Temple Mount located in Jerusalem; the Wailing Wall adjacent to it acquired great ritual significance. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem, the graves of the teachers in Galilee have a cult status for the Jews. Holy places for Christians are places associated with the events of the New Testament - the alleged birthplace of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, individual objects in Jericho and on the Lake of Gennesaret. The holiness of Jerusalem for Muslims is connected with the story of the miraculous journey of the Prophet Muhammad to the farthest mosque and his ascension to heaven. Most of the shrines of Islam in Israel and the West Bank coincide with places revered by Jews and Christians.

 

Chronology

Fundamental Law: Israel - the national state of the Jewish people assigns official status in Israel to the Jewish calendar, which does not coincide in duration with the Gregorian calendar year. According to this calendar, Shabbat has the status of a holiday, the same calendar is used to determine the dates of religious and a large part of non-religious public holidays and memorial days (including Independence Day, Holocaust Day and Remembrance Day). Religious minorities retain the right to days off on the dates of their own religious holidays.

Since 1998, Israel has had a law requiring government agencies to indicate both the Hebrew and the Gregorian dates on documents, stipulating that the former does not apply to settlements with a majority non-Jewish population and educational institutions with non-Hebrew teaching. Israeli identity cards show dates of birth in both Gregorian and Hebrew systems. Due to the large proportion of repatriates from the countries of the former USSR in the population of Israel, Victory Day was approved as a public holiday in 2017, celebrated not according to the Jewish, but according to the Gregorian calendar on May 9th.

 

Holidays

At the state level, Israel celebrates mainly traditional Jewish holidays and fasts, as well as days related to the history of the State of Israel (Day of Catastrophe and Heroism, Day of Remembrance of the Fallen in the Israeli Wars, Independence Day and Jerusalem Day). In total, Israel celebrates 12 religious (including Shabbat) and 4 secular holidays; they all continue from sunset to sunset, and their dates are determined by the Jewish lunar calendar. In this regard, every year public holidays in Israel fall on different dates of the civil (Gregorian) calendar.

At the same time, for followers of other religions, their religious and national holidays also have the status of holidays.

 

Art

Literature
The literature of Israel is mostly poetry and prose in Hebrew. A small part of the books is published in other languages ​​such as Arabic, Yiddish and Russian. By law, two copies of all printed publications in Israel must be sent to the Jewish National and University Library of the Hebrew University (since 2008, the National Library of Israel). Since 2001, this law also applies to copies of audio and video recordings and other publication formats. The most famous authors of literary works in Hebrew are the poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, the Nobel Prize winner in literature Shai Agnon, and of the writers of the next generations Hanoch Bartov, Moshe Shamir, the novelists Alef-Bet Yehoshua and Amos Oz. Notable Israeli authors in other languages ​​include Emil Habibi (Arabic), Velvl Chernin (Yiddish), Igor Guberman, Dina Rubina, Anna Gorenko (Russian). Since 2000, works by Israeli Arab authors have been included in the public school curriculum.

Every two years, Jerusalem hosts the International Book Fair; in addition, the Hebrew Book Week is held every year. Since 2000, the main Israeli literary award, the Sapir Prize, has been presented as part of the Hebrew Book Week.

 

Music

In Israel, both traditional Jewish music (including synagogue, Hasidic and klezmer) and the music of the countries of origin, as well as modern genres, in particular, jazz and rock, have found their niche. An important role in the popular music of the first years of statehood was played by the so-called “songs of the Land of Israel”, and later, with the strengthening of the traditions of the Eastern communities in the local culture, the “Mizrahi” style in the stage and ethnic rock.

Israel has a well-developed network of music schools and academies, and a number of universities have departments of musicology. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1936, is widely known not only in the country, but also in the world.

Since 1973, Israel has taken part in the Eurovision Song Contest almost every year. Israeli singers have won this competition four times, and in 2019 Israel was the host country for the third time. The Israel Festival and the Chamber Music Festival in Jerusalem, the Red Sea Jazz Festival and the Classical Music Festival in Eilat, the Klezmer Music Festival in Safed and the Liturgical Music Festival in Abu Gosh (near Jerusalem) are regularly held.

 

Theater and cinema

Amateur theater groups emerged in Palestine at the end of the 19th century. In 1920, the first professional troupe, the Hebrew Theater in the Land of Israel, was created (it existed until 1927), and since 1932, the Habima Theater has been operating in Palestine on a permanent basis. After the creation of Israel, Habima and other repertory theaters are subsidized by the state and city councils. Israeli choreographic groups, including the Bat-Sheva, Inbal and Bat-Dor troupes, gained wide, including international fame.

Although the first cinematic experiences in Palestine date back to the beginning of the 20th century, they remained irregular for a long time, and only since the 1960s did professional directors (Menahem Golan, Ephraim Kishon, Uri Zohar and others) ensure the transition to a new qualitative level. Since 1967, the Israeli Film Center has been operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Since the 1970s, Israeli filmmakers have been receiving awards at international film festivals, with their own international festivals taking place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

 

Visual arts and architecture

An important step in the development of fine arts in the Jewish Yishuv was the opening in 1906 in Jerusalem of the School of Arts and Crafts (later the Academy of Arts) "Bezalel". Yishuv architecture was initially dominated by imitations of Eastern and medieval styles, but later modern materials and the experience of the latest Western architectural schools, including Bauhaus and Functionalism, were adopted. In these styles, the general development of Tel Aviv and the Technion in Haifa was carried out. After the founding of Israel, such famous foreign architects as Oscar Niemeyer (the main building of the University of Haifa) and Philip Johnson worked in it. At the end of the 20th century, postmodernist Moshe Safdie and David Reznik left a noticeable mark on Israeli architecture.

In 1934, the Association of Painters and Sculptors in Eretz Israel (hereinafter the Union of Israeli Artists) was established. Art education, in addition to the Bezalel Academy, is provided by schools in Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva, professional architects are trained mainly by the Haifa Technion.

 

Museums

In the first decade of the 21st century, about 150 museums operated in Israel, the first of which was opened already in 1906 at the Bezalel school. Compared to any other country, Israel has the highest number of museums per capita.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is one of the country's most important cultural institutions and home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as a huge collection of Jewish and European art.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is the world's largest archive of printed, photographic and film materials dedicated to this terrible page in world history. The Diaspora Museum on the campus of Tel Aviv University is an interactive museum dedicated to the history of Jewish communities around the world.

The Tel Aviv Museum of Fine Arts, the Haifa Art Museum and its affiliated Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, and the Negev Museum in Beer Sheva have rich collections of general or thematic fine art. The first rural museum in the country, which was opened in 1938 in Kibbutz Ein Harod and is now considered the largest in northern Israel, is also artistic.

 

Mass media

The Israeli press and broadcasters are distinguished by the variety of political, religious and economic views and languages ​​used. Most of the major newspapers were founded before the proclamation of the state. For example, Haaretz was founded in 1919, the Jerusalem Post in 1932 (published in English), and Yediot Ahronot in 1939. These newspapers remain popular in the 21st century. The largest publications also include the Hebrew-language daily Maariv, founded in 1948, and the free Hebrew-language newspaper Israel Hayom, founded in 2007, which became the country's most widely circulated daily newspaper in mid-2010.

In the 21st century, more than a thousand periodicals are published in Israel, most of which are available on the Internet. Most of the newspapers are published in Hebrew and Arabic, there is also a sectoral press - in particular, in such languages ​​as Russian, German and Yiddish.

Television in Israel appeared in the late 1960s, from the end of 1969 the broadcasts of the state television channel (at that time the only one) became daily, and in 1981 - in color. State channels broadcast under the control of the Israel Broadcasting Authority until 2017, when it was replaced by the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation. The first commercial TV channel in Israel started operating in 1994. In the 21st century, most Israeli families have a subscription to cable or satellite TV packages. The multilingualism characteristic of the Israeli media is also present here. For example, in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, the basic package of the Hot cable company included channels in 12 languages. Since November 2002, Russian-language channels have also been included in the number of central Israeli channels.

In the 21st century, the Kol Israel radio station broadcasts on eight thematic channels, also broadcasting abroad. Broadcasts are conducted in 17 languages. In addition to Kol Yisrael, there are two IDF-operated radio stations in Israel (Galei Tzahal and Galgalats) and more than a dozen private stations.

In 2017, the organization Reporters Without Borders (FR. Reporters sans frontières; RSF) in its report indicated that Israeli journalists enjoy a rare freedom in the Middle East to express their opinions openly. In 2005, the organization described the Israeli media as "traditionally strong and independent", yet ranked Israel only 67th in its World Media Freedom Index; the main claim concerned the interference of the military department in the activities of the media, especially in the occupied territories.

 

Sport

Historically, in Jewish culture, sports and physical development were not put in the first place, and the veneration of athletic prowess by the ancient Greeks was seen as an undesirable penetration of Hellenistic values ​​into the Jewish environment. The attitude of Jews towards sports began to change only in the 19th century, when this type of activity began to gain popularity in the countries of dispersion. This was also facilitated by the promotion of physical culture by Max Nordau. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, A.-I. Cook, proclaimed that the body serves the soul and only a healthy body can guarantee a healthy soul. The Maccabiah Games (Maccabiah) for Jewish athletes were first held in the 1930s and have been held every four years since then.

Today, the most popular sports among Israeli spectators are football and basketball. In 1964, Israel hosted the Asian Football Cup and won the competition. Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club has won the European Champions Cup (now the Euroleague) six times and was a finalist nine times. Also, in European club basketball tournaments, the Jerusalem "Hapoel" won in men and "Elitzur" from Ramla in women.

 

Chess is also developed in Israel. Israel twice, in 1964 and 1976, hosted the Chess Olympiad (the 1976 Olympiad was boycotted by the countries of the socialist camp and a number of developing countries). The women's tournament at the 1976 Olympics was won by the Israeli team led by Alla Kushnir, and the Israeli men's team took second place at the 2008 Olympics in Dresden, winning bronze medals two years later. After the arrival of a large number of players from the former USSR, Beer Sheva became the chess center of the country. The city hosted the International Team Chess Championship in 2005. A native of Minsk, Boris Gelfand, who lives in Rishon LeZion, shared second or third places at the 2007 World Championships, and in 2012, after winning the Candidates Tournament, he played a match for the world title, losing in a tie-break to Viswanathan Anand. Israeli grandmaster Emil Sutovsky became European champion in 2001.

Israel has been participating in the Olympic Games since 1952. A tragic event in his sports history was the capture and death of 11 athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. The Israelis won their first Olympic medals in 1992 in Barcelona. Since then, Israeli athletes have been Olympic medalists at six more Summer Games, winning a total of 13 medals, including 3 gold. Israeli athletes with disabilities achieved significant success at the Paralympic Games, especially in 1968, when Israel hosted these competitions and the local team entered the top three in the team standings. In the early years of the country's existence, Israeli athletes participated in Asian continental competitions, but over time, the political situation has developed in such a way that the Israelis do not compete in Asia, but in Europe.