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State of Israel
  • יִשְׂרָאֵל (Hebrew)
  • اسرائيل (Arabic)
Anthem: Hatikvah
(English: "The Hope")
Location of Israel (in green) on the globe.
  Territories recognized by the UN

  Territories recognized by Israel but not by the UN
and largest city
Jerusalem[fn 1]
31°47′N 35°13′E / 31.783°N 35.217°E / 31.783; 35.217
Official languagesHebrew
Recognized languagesArabic[fn 2]
Ethnic groups
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary constitutional republic
• President
Isaac Herzog
Benjamin Netanyahu
Yariv Levin
Esther Hayut
Independence from the British Empire
14 May 1948
11 May 1949
• Total
22,072 km2 (8,522 sq mi)[a] (150th)
• Water (%)
• 2017 estimate
9,888,220[14] (99th)
• 2008 census
• Density
448/km2 (1,160.3/sq mi) (35th)
GDP (PPP)2020[16] estimate
• Total
Increase $372.314 billion (51st)
• Per capita
Increase $40,336 (34th)
GDP (nominal)2020[16] estimate
• Total
Increase $410.501 billion (31st)
• Per capita
Increase $44,474 (19th)
Gini (2018)34.8[17]
medium · 48th
HDI (2019)Increase 0.919[18]
very high · 19th
CurrencyNew shekel () (ILS)
Time zoneUTC+2 (IST)
• Summer (DST)
Date format
  • יי-חח-שששש (AM)
  • dd-mm-yyyy (CE)
Driving sideright
Calling code+972
ISO 3166 codeIL
Internet TLD.il
  1. ^ 20,770 km2 is Israel within the Green Line. 22,072 km2 includes the annexed Golan Heights (c. 1,200 km2 (460 sq mi)) and East Jerusalem (c. 64 km2 (25 sq mi)).

Israel (Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל) officially the State of Israel (Hebrew: מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל) is a country in southwestern Asia on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel's population is 9.8 million people, of whom 7 million are Jewish. Almost all the other citizens of Israel are Arab (1.2 million) and include Muslims, Christians, and Druze.[19][20][21] Israel's capital is in Jerusalem.[22]

Israel is a small country, but it has mountains, deserts, shores, valleys and plains. The climate is hot and rainless in the summers with high humidity in the coastal plain and lower elevations, and cool and rainy in the winters, rarely going below freezing temperatures.

Israel has few natural resources and imports more goods than it exports. It has a relatively high standard of living and life expectancy. Almost all of its people can read and write.

According to the Democratic Index, Israel along with Cyprus are the only democratic republics in the Middle East. According to Freedom House, Israel along with Cyprus are the only full democracies in the Middle East.[23] It has a long history of conflict with Palestine.

History[change | change source]

The country's history goes back thousands of years, to ancient times. Two world religions, Judaism and Christianity, began here. It is the place where the Jewish nation and religion first grew. Jews and Christians call it the Holy Land, because it is the place of many events described in the Bible, and because some commandments of Jewish law can be accomplished only on its soil.[24]

Premodern[change | change source]

From the time of the first Jewish patriarch Abraham four thousand years ago, the land now called Israel was populated by Canaanites and other Semitic peoples. Around 1400 BCE, another Semitic people, called the Hebrews, settled in Canaan under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. They were named the “Children of Israel” or “Israelites”: which were divided into 12 tribes. A few centuries later, the Hebrews made Saul, as their leader. The next king, David, began the Kingdom of Israel in about 1000 BCE and made the city of Jerusalem his capital. His son, Solomon, built the first Temple for the worship of their God. Solomon died in about 928 BCE. His kingdom broke into two countries. The northern country kept the name Israel. The southern country, called Judah, kept Jerusalem as its capital.

The Assyrians conquered the Kingdom of Israel in 732 BCE and the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE and destroyed Solomon's Temple. Many Jews returned from Babylonia and built a country again and rebuilt the Temple. First the Persians, then the Greeks and then the Romans ruled the Land of Israel.

The Jews fought against the Romans but the Romans defeated them. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Jewish Temple there. Again, in 135 CE, the Romans defeated the Jews and killed or took many of them to other places. The number of Jews living in Israel became much smaller. Many were forced to live in other countries. This spreading of Jewish communities outside of Israel is called the Diaspora.

Many of the Jews who remained moved to the Galilee. Jewish teachers wrote important Jewish books, called the Mishnah and part of the Talmud there, in the 2nd to 4th centuries CE.

The Romans began to call this region by the word that became Palestine in English. The Roman and then the Byzantine empires ruled until 635 CE, when Arabs conquered the region. Different Arab rulers, and for a while Crusaders, ruled the land. In 1516, the Ottoman Empire conquered the land and ruled the region until the 20th century.

Modern[change | change source]

Since the Diaspora, there have been many attempts to make a new homeland for the Jewish people. In the 1880s, this wish for a Jewish nation in Israel became a movement called Zionism. Jews from all over the world began to come to the area and settled in desert zones, then governed by the Turkish and later by the British Governments.

On 14 May 1948, British control over Palestine ended. The Jewish inhabitants (under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion) declared independence for the new Jewish state. Immediately following Israel's declaration of independence, the armies of several nearby countries – including Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq – attacked the new country.[25] After a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were established. Jordan occupied and later illegally annexed what became known as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. The UN estimated that more than 700,000 Palestinians fled (some were expelled) from advancing Israeli forces during the war—what would become known in Arabic as the Nakba ("catastrophe").[26] Since the 1980s, Israel's main military opponents have been Islamist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.[27]

Geography[change | change source]

View of the Galilee from Mount Meron
Haifa Bay from Mount Carmel
View of Haifa from Mount Carmel

The countries of Lebanon and Syria are to the north of Israel; Jordan is on the east; and Egypt is to the southwest. Israel also controls 60% of the West Bank of the Jordan River.

Israel has a long coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. In the south, the town of Eilat is on the Gulf of Aqaba, which is part of the Red Sea.

The Galilee is a fertile and mountainous region in the north. There is a flat plain called the Coastal Plain to the west, near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Negev Desert is a barren area of flat plains, mountains, and craters in the south. There is a range of mountains in the center that runs from the north to south.

On the eastern side, there is a low area called a depression. The Hula Valley and the Sea of Galilee are in this low area in the north. The Jordan River runs from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. The land next to the Dead Sea is the lowest in the world. It is -426 meters below sea level.[28]

The weather is normally hot and dry in the summer and mild to cool in the winter. Rain falls mostly in the winter (between the months of November and April). There is more rain in the north than in the south, and hardly any rain in the desert. Snow falls in higher elevations. Israel built a very big irrigation system to bring water from the north to the dry areas in the south so that crops can grow there also.[28]

Jerusalem is the biggest city in Israel. Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba and Rishon LeZion are also large cities. Israel officially says that its capital city is Jerusalem, however, most countries do not recognize that as they believe that Jerusalem should be partitioned, or be under International status.

Government[change | change source]

National government[change | change source]

Satellite image of Israel (2003)

Israel is a parliamentary democracy. All Israeli citizens who are 18 years or older have the right to vote. The Israeli parliament is called the Knesset. The Knesset has 120 members. Each member is elected for no more than four years at a time. The Knesset makes laws, helps decide national policy, and approves budgets and taxes.

Voters do not vote for individual candidates in Knesset elections. Instead, they vote for a party. This party makes a list with all its candidates. The list may have only one candidate or as many as 120 candidates. In an election, the percentage of the vote that each list wins decides how many representatives, or seats, the party gets in the Knesset. For example, if a party list gets 33 percent of the vote, it gets 40 Knesset seats.

Israel has no written constitution. Instead, the Knesset made "Basic Laws". The Basic Laws say how the government must work and give civil rights to the citizens.

The Prime Minister is the head of Israel's government. He or she is usually the leader of the party that has the most seats in the Knesset. The prime minister must keep the support of a majority of Knesset members to stay in office. He or she appoints ministers to the cabinet. The Knesset approves appointments to the Cabinet. The ministers are responsible for subjects such as education, defense, and social welfare. The prime minister is the head of the cabinet and decides the topics of cabinet meetings and makes the final decisions.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been the Prime Minister since December 2022.

The President is the head of state. The Knesset elects the president for seven years. Most of the president's duties are ceremonial: The president signs laws and treaties approved by the Knesset, appoints judges, and members of some public organizations. He or she also accepts the documents from ambassadors and foreign diplomats bring when they are appointed.

Isaac Herzog has been the President since July 2021.

Politics[change | change source]

Israel has many political parties, with a large variety of opinions. In the elections of 2020, 20 parties won seats in the Knesset.

The parties belong to three main groups. The biggest groups are the Zionist parties. These include the conservative liberals, such as HaLikud;[29] social democrats, such as HaAvoda (Labor Party); and the religious Zionists. There are also smaller religious Orthodox Jewish parties, special-interest parties, and Israeli Arab parties.

A single party usually does not win enough seats in the Knesset by itself to have a majority, so one of the bigger parties asks for support from the other parties, including the religious parties, to form a coalition government. This gives these parties a lot of power although they are small.

The Likud supports free market policies and limited government involvement in the economy. Likud believes strongly in protecting Israel's security. It wants to give less away in the peace process for a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians and the Arab states.

The Labor Party supports government control of the economy, but also believes in a limited amount of free enterprise. The party says it will give more away for an agreement with the Palestinians and the Arab states.

Current Knesset is the 25th Knesset, sworn in on November 15, 2022. Current government is the Sixth Netanyahu Government, installed on December 29, 2022.

Economy[change | change source]

At independence, Israel was a poor country with little agricultural or industrial production. But Israel's economy has grown tremendously since 1948. The nation now enjoys a very high standard of living, despite having few natural resources and a limited water supply.

Many immigrants came to Israel in the years immediately after independence. Many of these immigrants were skilled laborers and professionals who greatly aided the nation's economic development.

Service industries[change | change source]

Many of Israel's service industry workers are employed by the government or by businesses owned by the government. Government workers provide many of the services that are needed by Israel's large immigrant population, such as housing, education, and job training.

Tourism[change | change source]

Tourism is one of the country's important sources of income. Tourists visit many archaeological, historical, and religious sites; museums; nature reserves; and beach resorts in Israel.[30]

Tourists support many of Israel's service industries, especially trade, restaurants, and hotels. Approximately 4 million tourists visited Israel in 2018.[31]

Manufacturing[change | change source]

Israeli factories produce such goods as chemical products, electronic equipment, fertilizer, paper, plastics, processed foods, scientific and optical instruments, textiles, and clothing. The cutting of imported diamonds is a major industry. Government-owned plants manufacture equipment used by Israel's large armed forces. Israel is the world's largest exporter of drones.[32] Tel Aviv and Haifa are Israel's major manufacturing centers.

Agriculture[change | change source]

Harvesting date in Israel.

Much of the work once done by people is now done by machines. Agricultural products include citrus and other fruits; eggs; grain; poultry; and vegetables.

The government develops, helps finance, and controls agricultural activity, including fishing and forestry. Israel produces most of the food it needs to feed its people, except for grain. Agricultural exports provide enough income to pay for any necessary food imports. Most Israeli farmers use modern agricultural methods. Water drawn from the Sea of Galilee irrigates much of the land in Israel.

Most Israeli farms are organized as moshavim or kibbutzim. Israel also has some private farms.

Mining[change | change source]

The Dead Sea, the world's saltiest body of water, is Israel's leading source of minerals. Bromine, magnesium, potash and table salt are extracted from the sea. Potash, used mainly in fertilizers, is the most important mineral.

In the Negev Desert, there are mines for phosphates, copper, clay, and gypsum.

Energy[change | change source]

Solar field in Kibbutz Elifaz, Israel.

Israel has few energy sources. It has no coal deposits or hydroelectric power resources, and only small amounts of crude oil and natural gas. As a result, Israel depends on imported crude oil for gasoline and diesel for transportation, and coal producing electricity for its energy needs.

Solar energy – energy from the sun – is used widely to heat water for houses. Israel is developing other ways to use solar energy to power houses and factories.

In 2008, Israel began investing in building electric cars and the stations to charge them. There may also be large natural gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea that Israel could develop.

International trade[change | change source]

For 2006, Israeli exports grew by 11% to just over $29 billion; the hi-tech sector accounted for $14 billion, a 20% increase from the previous year.

Because it has few natural resources, Israel imports more goods than it exports. The country's main imports include chemicals, computer equipment, grain, iron and steel, military equipment, petroleum products, rough diamonds, and textiles.

Israel's main exports are chemical products, citrus fruits, clothing, electronic equipment, fertilizers, polished diamonds, military equipment, and processed foods. The nation's main trading partners include the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg); Germany; Italy; Switzerland; the United Kingdom; and the United States.

Transportation[change | change source]

Reception hall at the Ben Gurion Airport.

Israel has a well-developed transportation system. Most middle-class Israeli families either own a car or have one provided by their employer. Paved roads reach almost all parts of the country. Public transportation both in and between cities is provided primarily by bus.

Ben-Gurion Airport is Israel's main international airport. It is near Tel Aviv. There are smaller airports are located at Atarot, near Jerusalem, and at Eilat. El Al, Israel's international airline, flies regularly to the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of Africa and Asia. Israel has three major deepwater ports: Haifa, Ashdod, and Eilat.

Communications[change | change source]

Israel's communication system is one of the best in the Middle East. Israel has about 30 daily newspapers, about half of which are in Hebrew. The rest are in Arabic, Russian, Yiddish, or one of several foreign languages. The Israel Broadcasting Authority, a public corporation set up by the government, runs the television and nonmilitary radio stations.

Related pages[change | change source]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Disputed. Recognition by other UN member states: Australia (West Jerusalem),[1] Russia (West Jerusalem),[2] the Czech Republic (West Jerusalem),[3] Honduras,[4] Guatemala,[5] Nauru,[6] and the United States.[7] In September 2020 it was reported that Serbia would be moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.[8][9]
  2. Arabic previously had been an official language of the State of Israel.[10] In 2018 its classification was changed to a 'special status in the state' with its use by state institutions to be set in law.[11][12][13]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Australia recognises West Jerusalem as Israeli capital". BBC News. 15 December 2018. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  2. "Foreign Ministry statement regarding Palestinian-Israeli settlement". www.mid.ru. 6 April 2017.
  3. "Czech Republic announces it recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel's capital". Jerusalem Post. 6 December 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2017. The Czech Republic currently, before the peace between Israel and Palestine is signed, recognizes Jerusalem to be in fact the capital of Israel in the borders of the demarcation line from 1967." The Ministry also said that it would only consider relocating its embassy based on "results of negotiations.
  4. "Honduras recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital". The Times of Israel. 29 August 2019.
  5. "Guatemala se suma a EEUU y también trasladará su embajada en Israel a Jerusalén" [Guatemala joins US, will also move embassy to Jerusalem]. Infobae (in Spanish). 24 December 2017. Guatemala's embassy was located in Jerusalem until the 1980s, when it was moved to Tel Aviv.
  6. "Nauru recognizes J'lem as capital of Israel". Israel National News. 29 August 2019.
  7. "Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's Capital and Orders U.S. Embassy to Move". The New York Times. 6 December 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  8. Frot, Mathilde (4 September 2020). "Kosovo to normalise relations with Israel". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  9. "Kosovo and Serbia hand Israel diplomatic boon after US-brokered deal". The Guardian. 4 September 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  10. "Arabic in Israel: an official language and a cultural bridge". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 18 December 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  11. "Israel Passes 'National Home' Law, Drawing Ire of Arabs". The New York Times. 19 July 2018.
  12. Lubell, Maayan (19 July 2018). "Israel adopts divisive Jewish nation-state law". Reuters.
  13. "Press Releases from the Knesset". Knesset website. 19 July 2018. The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.
  14. "Home page". Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  15. Population Census 2008 (PDF) (Report). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. 2008. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "World Economic Outlook Database, October 2019". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  17. "Income inequality". data.oecd.org. OECD. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  18. Nations, United (15 December 2020). Human Development Report 2020 The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene (PDF). United Nations Development Programme. pp. 343–346. ISBN 978-92-1-126442-5. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  19. "הודעות לתקשורת". www1.cbs.gov.il (in Hebrew). 2014. Archived from the original on December 30, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  20. An additional 4.7 million people live under Israel's occupation of Palestine (2.9 million in West Bank and 1.8 million in Gaza Strip), but are neither citizens of Israel, nor citizens of any country that Israel recognizes
  21. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
  22. Israel, U. S. Mission (2020-12-07). "Statement by Former President Trump on Jerusalem". U.S. Embassy in Israel. Retrieved 2024-06-09.
  23. "Freedom in the World 2022". Freedom House. 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  24. Pitkowski, Michael. "MITZVOT HA-TELUYOT BA'ARETZ" (PDF). The Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.
  25. Margolick, David (4 May 2008). "1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War - Benny Morris - Book Review". The New York Times.
  26. "UN marks 75 years since displacement of 700,000 Palestinians | UN News". news.un.org. 2023-05-15. Retrieved 2023-09-10.
  27. Live by the Sword: Israel's Struggle for Existence in the Holy Land - Page 124, James Rothrock - 2011
  28. 28.0 28.1 Reference, Concord (1984). The New American Desk Encyclopedia. Signet. p. 609. ISBN 978-0-451-12803-4.
  29. Rapoport, Amnon (1990). Experimental Studies of Interactive Decisions. Springer. p. 413. ISBN 978-0-7923-0685-6.
  30. "Israel's Special Attractions". Israel Ministry of Tourism. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
  31. "Israel turned away a record 19,000 visitors in 2018". The Times of Israel.
  32. "Israel Is World's Largest Drones Exporter". Huffington Post.com. Retrieved January 5, 2014.

Other websites[change | change source]