Israel Geography

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Key Facts

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Israel is part of southwest Asia and the Middle East.

Population: 4.9 million people

Geographic size: 8,500 square miles

Capital: Jerusalem

Major cities and population: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa

 

Geographic Landmarks

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Israel is a small country in the middle east. The central plateau, called the West Bank, is the ancient Israel heartland containing Jerusalem. To the north are the Lebanese mountains.

Israel has been in a political and sometimes military battle with its neighbors over its territory and very existence. The Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean coast was once part of Egypt. The West Band and East Jerusalem were part of Jordan. The Golan Heights is still in dispute with Syria.

To the south of the West Bank is the Negev desert. The Negev desert represents about 60% of Israel's territory.

 

Points of Interest

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Israel is considered the Holy Land of the Judeo-Christian religion. It is the spritual home to many jews. This ancient Holy Land attracts many people each year.

The Wailing Wall is the focal point of jewish worship. It is the remains of the ancient temple destroyed by Titus and the Roman army in A.D. 70. The western wall still stands. It is the place of pilgrimage for devout jews who come from all over the world to pray beside it.

 

Major Industries

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Agriculture is a major industry, making Israel almost self sufficient for food.

Natural resources, such as diamonds and gems, are major exports.

Because of Israel's strained relationship with its Arab neighbors, almost 25% of the national budget is spent on the military.

 

Historical Highlights

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In the 1st century A.D., Palestine was part of the Roman Empire. The jews rebelled against Rome, and the Roman General Titus invaded Jerusalem. Titus destroyed Jerusalem's temple, the focal point for jewish worship. The jews then were exciled from their land.

Until the late 1800s, there was no organized movement for jews to return to Palestine. In the early 1900s, the Zionist movement was created to establish a jewish home in Palestine. By this time, Palestinian Arabs had lived on the land for hundreds of years. This caused conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis, who both claimed the same land.

Adolf Hitler's attempt to exterminate the jews in Europe led to a sense of urgency to establish a jewish settlement in Palestine.

After World War II, British soldiers occupied Palestine. The United Nations established a plan for two states -- one Jewish and one Arab, to occupy the land. The Jewish state consisted of 56% of Palestine, with the remainder an Arab state. Although the jews accepted this plan, the Arabs rejected the plan.

In 1948, when the British withdrew from Palestine, both the United States and the Soviet Union recognized the independent state of Israel.

The conflict between Israel and the Arabs continued. Numerous Israeli and Arab wars kept changing the area's political boundaries.

The conflict continues today.

 

Population and Culture

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The vast majority of the population, 83%, are of jewish religion, with 14% muslim, 2% Christian and 2% Druze.

The Israeli people share a rich ancient culture, language and religion. They are very nationalistic and unified in defending their state.

 

Climate

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Israel has a temperate climate, except in the desert which is hot and dry.

 

Books on Israel

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Links to other sites about Israel

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