Geographical Location of Israel

Israel is located in Western Asia and is considered part of the Middle East. The northern parts of Israel consist of rolling plains. There is good access to water and fertile soil. Further south, elongated plains stretch towards the low-lying coast. The further south you go, the drier and less lush the landscape becomes. In the border areas with Egypt there is a more or less pure desert landscape. To the east, the Jordan River, flowing through a deep valley, forms a natural border with neighboring Jordan. There is quite a big difference between the climate of the northern and southern regions - along the coast a temperate Mediterranean climate predominates, while to the south there is a typical desert climate with large temperature fluctuations and little precipitation throughout the year.

In the southern regions, sandstorms may occur in spring and summer. The country also suffers from occasional drought and is at risk of earthquakes. The biggest environmental problem in the country is access to water. Afforestation projects have helped stabilize water supplies, and Israel has also experimented extensively with seawater desalination. Currently, this technology has not advanced far enough to be profitable to use. As elsewhere in the world, climate change is also increasing weather variations in Israel. Rising temperatures and decreasing precipitation lead to the expansion of desert areas.

Brief History of Israel

The area where Israel is located today has been inhabited for many thousands of years. The area is the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and many places in the country are considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. The country's history is complex, with periods of peace and conflict.

Several different empires and peoples controlled the area throughout ancient history. Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish community when the Romans invaded the area. This sparked the Roman-Jewish Wars, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. and the expulsion of the Jewish people. Part of the Roman Empire, the area was captured by Arab forces in the 6th century. Control of the area varied over the next six centuries between Christian crusaders and various Muslim dynasties, before the Turkish Mamluks seized control in 1260. The area remained under Arab/Turkish rule until the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. The province of Palestine, where modern Israel is located, then came under British control.

In response to increasing persecution of Jews in Europe, a Jewish nationalist movement emerged in the late 19th century: Zionism. The Zionists wanted to create a separate Jewish state in Palestine. The Zionists worked to get European Jews to move into the area. However, violent conflicts arose between the existing Palestinian population and the Jewish immigrants. After World War II, the UN proposed dividing the territory into two parts: Jewish and Palestinian.

In 1948, Israel declared itself a separate state. Neighboring Arab countries immediately began a war against the new state. Israel won the war, and at the same time took most of the land intended for the Palestinians. In the following decades, Israel fought several wars against neighboring countries. After the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel occupied the remaining territories that would constitute a Palestinian state. The conflict continues to this day.

Society and Politics of Israel

Israel is a democracy with a parliamentary system. The Knesset, elected for four years, is Israel's national assembly and has legislative power. The 120 members of the Knesset elect the government, which is headed by the prime minister. The Prime Minister and the government have executive power. The President is the head of state and is also appointed by the Knesset, but the role of the President is symbolic and his duties are largely ceremonial. Israel does not yet have a constitution; its development has been delayed since 1950.

Israel is a divided society. The country's Jewish population consists of two main groups: Ashkenazi Jews who immigrated from Europe, and Sephardic Jews of Asian and African descent. Ashkenazi Jews dominated the Zionist movement, which played a central role in the creation of Israel, and subsequently remained the country's political and cultural elite. One of the main topics of discussion in the country is the question of what role Judaism should play in government and in society. There are serious divisions between Orthodox and secular Israelis.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, more than a million Jews from the former Soviet republics moved to Israel. The country's largest minority are Palestinians who remained in Israel after the creation of the state, often called Arab Israelis. Human rights organizations accuse Israel of treating Arabs worse than the Jewish population. Israel has also been heavily criticized by the UN for its occupation of Palestinian territories and its treatment of Palestinians.

Economy and Trade of Israel

Israel has made great technological progress and excels in the production of chemicals, plastics and high technology. High-tech products and services have increased the interest of other countries in trading with the country, and the most important export products are technology, diamonds and pharmaceuticals.

Israel has an efficient agriculture industry and the country is a world leader in agricultural technology. The country is largely self-sufficient in food. The importance of agriculture to the economy has admittedly declined over time: agriculture employs few people and accounts for only a small portion of the gross national product. The service sector accounts for the majority of gross domestic product and provides the majority of jobs. The country has a lot of tourists due to all the historically important sites in the area.

The standard of living in Israel is one of the highest in the region. It is widely accepted that about one-fifth of the population lives below the national poverty line due to wide income inequality. High housing prices and high costs of living contribute to social inequality. In addition, ultra-Orthodox and Arab-Israeli social groups are characterized by low levels of participation in work life, and their integration into work life is one of the biggest problems of the economy.

Israel spends a lot of money on its army, and security has always been a top priority for the country's authorities. Universal conscription is provided for both men and women, for periods of three and two years respectively, and sometimes up to 40 percent of the national budget is spent on defense.

Jewish Cuisine and Culinary Traditions of Israel

Jewish cuisine is one of the oldest national cuisines in the world and is distinguished by a wide variety of recipes and a huge number of traditions that influence both the composition of the products used in Jewish cuisine and the recipes for traditional and modern Jewish dishes. Traditionally, Jewish cuisine developed under the influence of religion - all dishes and their preparation must obey kashrut - a set of rules regarding which foods can be eaten and how exactly Jewish dishes should be prepared from them. One of the rules widely known outside Israel is that meat and dairy products cannot be stored or cooked. Jewish cuisine has given the world many different recipes for dishes that differ in both national flavor and unique taste. Among the well-known dishes of Jewish cuisine are stuffed fish and hatzilim pilpel, forshmak and herring under a fur coat, challah and tzimmes, shakshuka and kugel, charoset and vinigret, as well as many other dishes. The traditional Jewish bread, matzah, has become widely known, but nowadays its meaning is more symbolic and religious than as a food product. In Jewish cuisine, culinary recipes based on fish and chicken are very popular - rarely a feast is complete without such dishes. In general, the culinary traditions of Jewish cuisine are very interesting and unique; in addition, recipes for dishes and the process of preparing them can differ greatly from where Jews live - the Jewish cuisine of Israel, European countries and America is quite different.

Flag of Israel
Israel coat of arms

Basic Information About Israel

  • Full name – State of Israel
  • Capital – Jerusalem
  • Language – Hebrew
  • Population – 8,655,535
  • Form of government – parliamentary democracy
  • Area – 22,070 km2
  • Currency – shekel
  • National Day – May 14