Cities in ISRAEL


Geography and Landscape


Israel (Ivrit: Medinat Yisrael, Arabic: Dawlat Isra'il = State of Israel), is a republic in the Middle East on the continent of Asia. The total area of Israel is officially 20,770 km2. This is according to the 1949 boundaries, excluding the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Autonomous Territories - West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, which together measure 7,375 km2.

From north to south the country stretches for about 420 kilometers, from east to west the distance varies from 20 to 160 kilometers. The Mediterranean coast is 230 kilometers long.

Israel is bordered to the north by Lebanon (79 km), to the northeast by Syria (76 km), to the east by Jordan (238 km) and the West Bank (307 km), to the south by Egypt (266 km) and in the southwest on the Gaza Strip (51 km).

Israel Satellite photoIsrael Satellite photoPhoto:Public domain


Israel is a narrow, elongated country and has three landscapes from west to east: the coastal plain, the western mountainous region and the ridge of el Ghor. The southern part of Israel is formed by the Negev desert, which covers half of the country.

The coastal plain is contiguous and is interrupted only by the Carmel Mountains and distinguished from south to north in Shephelah, the plain of Sharon and the valley of Zevoelun (Zebulon). The coastal strip is partly a fertile lowland, which is becoming wider, drier and more sterile in the south. Eventually this area turns into the Sinai desert. Carmel Mountain (550 m) is located near the coastal town of Haifa.

The western highlands, 700 to 1000 m high, can be divided from south to north into the mountain regions of the Negev and of Judea, Samaria and Galilee. The last three areas consist mainly of limestone and show karst phenomena. The surface of the Negev consists of granite. In the far north, the hills of Lebanon merge into the highlands of Galilee to heights of about 1,200 meters, descending to the Jordan Valley in the east, in the west to the coastal plain, and in the south to the valley of Esdraelon. To the south of Esdraelon, a plateau extends for approximately 150 kilometers.

Northern slope of Har Meron, IsraelNorthern slope of Har Meron, IsraelPhoto: Lior Golgher CC BY-SA 3.0 no changes made

The highest mountains are Har Meron near Zefad (1208 m) and Ramon in the southwest of the Negev (1035 m). The western highlands are interrupted southeast of Haifa by the Jezreel Plain, which connects the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean Sea.

The deep rift of El Ghor encompasses the Jordan Valley in the north and the Valley of Arabah in the south. To the north, the surface of Jam Kinneret is 209 meters below sea level, to the south that of the Dead Sea is 394 meters below sea level.

The only major river is the Jordan, partly border river with Jordan. The remaining rivers in Israel all flow to the Mediterranean Sea, are short and have irregular water.

Climate and Weather

Israel's location between the Mediterranean and the desert largely determines the weather. Israel has no fewer than four climate zones, from Mediterranean to desert climate. Most of Israel can be divided into two seasons, the hot, dry summer and the cold, wet winter.

Snow in Jerusalem, IsraelSnow in Jerusalem, IsraelPhoto: Pikiwiki Israel CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

For example, temperatures in Jerusalem can drop to 5°C (lowest temperature ever recorded in Israel: -7°C) with sometimes even snow, while in the area around the Dead Sea the temperature can reach 45°C. There is also regular snow in the mountainous areas of Northern Galilee.

Western Israel has a Mediterranean climate with dry, hot summers and mild, damp winters. The el Ghor rift in the east receives less than 200 mm of rain per year and therefore has a desert climate.

In summer, temperatures often reach over 40°C locally, especially when the "hamsin" (Hebrew: sharav), a desert wind, blows from the east.

Hamsin, IsraelHamsin, IsraelPhoto: Zeeveev CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The summer heat is tempered during the day by the daily sea breeze from the west; the cooling at night is often so strong that dense mists and heavy dew occur. The hottest areas of Israel are Eilat, the Arava Valley in the Negev Desert, the lowest areas of the Jordan Valley (highest recorded temperature ever: 54° ), the valley of Bet Shean the shores of Lake Tiberias in summer and the dead Sea.

The winter rain usually falls in three periods: the early rain after the dry summer in October and November, the winter rain, in heavy showers, alternating with periods of sunshine and the late rain in March and April. The average annual rainfall is about 600 mm and decreases from north to south and from west to east.

Most rain falls between November and April; in the area around Mount Hermon up to 1000 mm per year falls, while in Eilat, in the south, there is usually less than 50 mm of rainfall per year. Northern Galilee has about 70 days of rain per year, in Jerusalem and in the mountains of Judea it rains for about 50 days and in the Negev desert it rains for about 10 days.

Climate tables:

Tel Aviv
daytime temperature18°C1921232628303131282420
night temperature8°C911131619212221171411
water temperature18°C1718192224272827252220
rainy days p / m1513123100015915
hours of sunshine per day67791112121210986
daytime temperature21°C2326313638394037332823
night temperature10°C1114181724262625211612
water temperature22°C2121232526272828272523
rainy days p / m112100000111
hours of sunshine per day78891012121110987

Plants and Animals


The west of Israel still belongs to the Mediterranean region, with a lot of evergreen forests. One of the largest forests in the country is the 2,000 hectare area around Bar'am, Ein Zeitim and Biriya, which was planted by the Jewish National Fund in the 1950s on the treeless ridges around the city of Tsefat. The carob tree grows in the low plains and on the dunes.

Pistacia atlantica, Elah Valley IsraelPistacia atlantica, Elah Valley IsraelPhoto:Davidbena at en.wikipedia CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the coastal mountains and as far as Jerusalem and Galilee, pine forest of Aleppo grows on chalk soil. Oak forests grow on sandy soils in these regions, which are mixed with Styrax officinalis and Pistacia atlantica as far as Galilee. Pistacia atlantica is one of the oldest trees that can be found in the Negev or Galilee. His predominant appearance is told in several biblical stories.

Inland, the mountains mainly contain scrub that is called "garrigue" in calcareous areas, and "maquis" on more acidic soil. This environment has a large number of plant communities, some of which are found nowhere else in the Mediterranean. Some special varieties are butterfly orchid, Calycotome villosa, Italian gladiolus, Cistus salviaefolius, Asiatic ranunculus, wild wheat, Galilee orchid and Helichrysum sanguineum.

Sabra IsraelSabra IsraelPhoto: Qasrawi 2000 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Everywhere in the Mediterranean area, planted and wild, one finds the Barbary fig, originally from South America (also called prickly pear cactus, in Israel called 'sabra').

To the east the vegetation changes into that of the steppe area, and here grows the stepped thorn thickets of the Zizyphus lotus, Zizyphus spina-Christi or jujube tree and Acacia arabica, all very tough plants that need little water.

The bank of the Jordan is virtually without vegetation. The Judean desert is barren and arid in summer, green in winter, and one large wild flower garden with sufficient rainfall in spring, including red anemones, yellow mustards, pink cyclamen, blue orchids and brown and purple irises. The approximately 160 nature reserves in Israel cover a total of 400,000 hectares and are home to more than 3000 plant species, of which approximately 150 are only found in Israel.

Acacia Raddiana, IsraelAcacia Raddiana, IsraelPhoto: Floratrek CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Some special biotopes:

The Arava Valley is part of the great Syrian-African Rift, which runs from East Africa to southern Turkey. The temperature in this area can reach over 40°C and the originally African flora feels at home in these circumstances. In some wadis the Acacia raddiana grows, a species of tree that also grows on the African savannas. Loranthus acaciae grows as a parasite on acacia trees and its honey is an important food source for some bird species. The Mesembryanthemum from South Africa has succulent leaves that can absorb a lot of water.

In the northwest, the Negev desert turns into a semi-desert with a remarkable flora. Mainly annual plants grow between Beershaba and Sede Boker; the most common are grasses, such as Stipa capensis. The turpentine or terebint has been growing in the Negev for thousands of years. The black iris can be seen between March and May in the calcareous areas of the Negev and the Judean desert. The asphodel flowers from January to April.


Raven, IsraelRaven, IsraelPhoto: Greg Schechter CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Over time, the species richness in Israel has decreased sharply, partly due to the large-scale clearing of forests, resulting in erosion. Only recently have many forests been replanted. Israel currently has about eighty reptile species and two hundred mammal species.

The panther is still found in very small numbers, just like the Syrian brown bear. Other recent species include the striped hyena, the common jackal, the common ichneumon or pharaoh rat, the hedgehog, the rock badger and a blind mouse (Spalax microphthalmus).

The approximately 400 species of bird world include the raven, the barn owl, the griffon vulture, the white wagtail, a sparrow (Passer biblicus), partridges and quail, the black-headed gull and the common pelican.

Insects and desert snails are particularly striking among invertebrates.

In the Negev desert, the Hai-Bar reserve has been set up for biblical fauna, partly through the import of onagers, Arabian oryxes and ostriches. Somali donkeys, caracals, jackals and wolves also live in this reserve.

Some special biotopes:

Desert Lark in IsraelDesert Lark in IsraelPhoto: Greg Schechter CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In The Arava Valley the Arabian gazelle is in danger of extinction in the Arabian peninsula; south of Yotvata is a reserve where this animal is protected. Furthermore, the striped hyena, the wild cat, the sand rat, the jumping mouse and the gerbil live here. The green bee-eater is a bird found only in this valley; other special birds are the red desert lark, the desert finch, the Palestinian honey bird and the common desert lark.

Dorcas Gazelle, IsraelDorcas Gazelle, IsraelPhoto: MinoZig CC 4.0 International no changes made

In the northwest of the Negev, the desert gives way to semi-desert, home to animal species that have become rare in Israel. The most striking animal is the wolf, which is also found in the desert of Judea and the Arava valley. Because the animal is protected, the Dorcas gazelle is still common in Israel, as well as the brown hare and the fox.

The following bird species inhabit the Negev: hooded crow, stone curlew, spotted sandgrouse, the protected crested bustard and the crested lark.

The wadis have a dry and desert-like environment and are a habitat for many desert animals. After downpours, water remains in hollows and pools, resulting in varied flora and fauna. The Nubian ibex lives in the highest parts of rocky mountains, at a lower level you can see the cliff badger, which is related to the elephant!

As far as birds are concerned, the following stand out: desert wheatear, fan-tailed raven, Sinai rosefinch and Tristram starling.

Israel's geographic location, where three continents meet, means incredible numbers of migratory birds land twice a year. Thanks to the rising air currents, these birds can quickly travel thousands of kilometers.

Among the many bird species are also many birds of prey, such as steppe eagle, black kite, Balkan sparrow, steppe hawk, honey buzzard and screaming eagle. The stork and the black stork also cross the Holy Land twice a year.

Coral reef Red Sea, IsraelCoral reef Red Sea, IsraelPhoto: Israeltourism CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Red Sea is famous for its colorful fish, corals and invertebrates, which are part of the Indo-Pacific fauna. In the immediate vicinity of coral reefs you will find the greatest diversity of fish, which find food and shelter there. The so-called fringe reef has the greatest diversity of species. This is somewhat less at the higher plate reef and the lower deep reef.

The following list is just a small selection of the many species: four-eyed magician, blue parrotfish, masked puffer fish, wrasse, gray moray eel, gold-tail magician, surgeon fish, blue surgeon fish, clownfish, rock fish, boxfish and grouper.

Special life forms are: soft coral, red sponge, sea urchin, sea anemone, tube sponge, slug, sand tube worm, fire coral and barber shrimp.

The Mediterranean zone has been deforested by humans since the Stone Age, but there are still plenty of special animals, such as the Spurr-tighed tortoise and the mongoose. Common birds include lesser kestrel, red-rumped swallow, gray bulbul, goldfinch, black-headed lesser and turtle-dove.



Es Skhul cave where bones have been found in IsraelEs Skhul cave where bones have been found in IsraelPhoto: R Yusherun CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Palestine is at the origin of the small Jewish people. Bone finds date back to 10,000 years BC. and the history of Israel began c. 3000 BC. The land lay between powerful empires such as Babylonia and Egypt, and important caravan roads ran through this area. In addition, it was a fertile arable land. Towards the end of the third millennium BC. the first political units arose; the Canaanites founded cities like Jericho, Megiddo, and Jerusalem.


Hyksos Spearhead. IsraelHyksos Spearhead. IsraelPhoto: Public domain

Even then, the history of Palestine was strongly linked to the developments in Egypt, who where about 1700 BC. conquered by the Hyksos. Only after 1550 BC. the Hyksos were again driven from Egypt and the country soon became the largest power in the Middle East. It was not long before Palestine became subject to Egypt, and the city kings appointed by the Egyptians were responsible for paying taxes to the Egyptian pharaohs. The vast majority of the population suffered greatly from the collection of taxes, often with the help of soldiers.

Philistines and Hebrews

Israel Five-City LeagueIsrael Five-City LeaguePhoto: Public domain

Early 13th century BC. the Philistines, a so-called sea people, invaded Palestine and succeeded the Egyptians despite fierce opposition. The Philistines ruled through the so-called "League of Five Cities," which consisted of the cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. In the absence of central authority, the Philistines could not properly defend Palestine against attacks from such tribes as the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and especially the Hebrews, a nomadic pastoralist people. They emerged as the strongest from the infighting and founded several settlements, for the time being only in mountainous areas.

The native population of Palestine initially had little to fear from the Hebrews and were left alone. After permanent settlement in the mountains, the Hebrews moved into the valleys where the cities of Canaanites were. The fact that the militarily weaker Hebrews were able to conquer these cities fairly easily was partly due to the mutual struggle between the different cities, which weakened themselves. Furthermore, they waged war in a clever way and made use of spies, saboteurs and traitors, in short they had organized themselves perfectly and made good use of the weaknesses of the opponents.

It was now a matter for the Hebrews to consolidate the situation and, in their opinion, required strong central authority. It was considered time to establish a royal family. Throughout his reign Saul fought against the Philistines, as well as Edomites, Moabites, and Amalekites. During that time, Saul was able to unite the Israeli tribes and implement significant social changes. One of those new aspects was the imposition of some sort of tax, which, however, provoked widespread backlash. The last years of Saul's reign were marked by major conflicts with the traditional elite.

David with Goliath's Head for Saul, painting by RembrandtIsrael, David with Goliath's Head for Saul, painting by RembrandtPhoto: Public domain

After Saul was overthrown by David with the help of the Philistines, David took over the leadership of the Israeli people. First the southern tribes in Judah apointed him as king, in 1004 BC the northern tribes followed suit. The Philistines tried to break this covenant, but were defeated and then played no role in Israel's history. After this David tried to conquer Jerusalem; this succeeded and Jerusalem became the capital and the religious center of the kingdom. Domestically, David had the same problems as Saul. Protests and uprisings, led by his son Absalom among others, were crushed by David. In 965 BC. David was succeeded by his son Solomon who immediately eliminated all his competitors, but further ensured that the kingdom became relatively quiet. After Solomon's death, his eldest son Rehoboam succeeded him.

The northern tribes of Israel realized that under the new ruler they would have an even more difficult time than under his father. They then called Jeroboam back from Egypt and crowned him king of the northern states, creating a tense situation. Jeroboam, however, managed to keep his country out of war, but three of his successors were murdered, including his son Nadab. About this time the southern land of Judah and northern Israel were under threat from the Assyrians. Judah and Israel made peace to resist the Assyrians, who were devastatedly defeated in 853 BC. Not until 841 BC. Assyrian King Shalmaneser managed to subdue Israel. A hundred years later, the entire upper class of the Israelites were taken into slavery by the Assyrian king Sargon, and Israel temporarily disappeared from the map. Southern Judah was founded in 734 BC. conquered by the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser. Judah accepted the rule and faithfully paid her taxes, leaving the people alone for a long time by the Asssyrians. Early eighth century BC. Palestine became a vassal state of Egypt and later the Egyptians were again expelled by the Babylonian prince Nebuchadnezzar. When Zedekiah (597-587 BCE) declared independence, Nebuchadnezzar became very harsh and plundered in 587 BCE. Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon's temple. After Nebuchadnezzar II's death in 562 BC. the Persians, led by Cyrus, managed to survive in 539 BC. Conquer Judea. Many rich Jews from Persia then returned to Judea.


Empire of the Seleucids 200 BCEmpire of the Seleucids 200 BC, IsraelPhoto: Thomas Lessman CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

After Alexander the Great's death in 323 BC. his vast empire was divided among his successors, the so-called Diadochi. Ptolemy was assigned Egypt and conquered in 320 BC. also Palestine. A hundred years later, the Seleucids invaded Palestine under the leadership of Antiochus III, and from 200 BC. the Jews were part of the Seleucid empire and the Hellenization of the country could be accelerated.

The Hellenes oppressed the Jews and of course a revolt was bound to happen.

The high priest Mattatias, who had fled to the desert, gathered a large number of militant supporters and this group named itself after one of Mattatias's forefathers, Hasmon. After the death of Mattatias, his sons Judas, Jonathan, and Simeon took over the leadership of the revolt of the Hashmoneans. Judas in particular, nicknamed the Maccabee, proved himself an excellent soldier and conquered in 164 BC. Jerusalem on the Seleucids. The Seleucids now formed a large army and tried to regain the lost ground, offering the Hasmoneans peace and freedom of religion. Judas fought on, but was killed in 160 BC. His brother Jonathan succeeded him, but for political motives he was removed in 143 BC. murdered.

After this, the third brother, Simeon, took over and managed to close a truce with the Seleucids. In return he was appointed high priest and became leader of the Jews with a reasonable degree of independence. In 140 BC. The heredity of this office was officially confirmed and the Hasmonean dynasty was finally established and the land was renamed Israel. In 134 BC. Simeon was killed by a relative, but his son, John Hyrcanus I, managed to put down the rebellion and ascend the throne himself. The Seleucids started another war but it came to nothing, on the contrary, Israel slowly but surely expanded its sphere of influence.

After the death of John, a bloody family struggle for the succession ensued and Alexander Jannai, a son of John, eventually came to power. Under his rule, the coastal cities of Galilee were conquered, as well as areas east of the Jordan.


Entry into Jerusalem by Herod the GreatEntry into Jerusalem, Israel by Herod the GreatPhoto: Publc domain

After Alexander's death, another succession battle ensued, from which the Romans took advantage. After the collapse of the Seleucid Empire, they had become the great power in this region, making Syria and Palestine the Roman province of Syria. After the death of the mighty Emperor Caesar in 47 BC. the area fell into civil war and was also attacked from the east by the Parthians.

His son Herod was proclaimed king of Palestine, he knew in 37 BC. to reclaim his empire and Jerusalem. Most of the members of the Supreme Council of the Israelites, the Sanhedrin, were executed by him. Herod ensured a long period of peace with foreign countries, but was a very harsh man to his subjects, who hated him. This made him increasingly suspicious and madness struck when he even had members of his own family murdered. When Herod in 4 BC. finally died at the age of 69, a sigh of relief went through Israel.

Three of his sons reigned until 44 AD. over his empire, after which the country was further ruled by Roman procurators, who, however, were more interested in enriching themselves, which made corruption rampant. In May 66 a revolt broke out and the Jews managed to drive the Romans out of several cities. In the summer of 67, the Romans re-entered the country, Flavius Vespasianus from the north and his son Titus from the south. Just before Vespasian took Jerusalem, word reached him that Emperor Nero had been overthrown and Vespasian was proclaimed emperor.

In 70 Titus finally managed to conquer Jerusalem. In 132, led by Simeon Bar Kokhba, a revolt against the Romans ensued and the Jews rapidly conquered the entire country. Only the regent in Britain, Julius Serverus, managed to stop the advance of the Jews by paying them back with equal coin. The decisive battle was won by him in 135, and 600,000 were counted among the Jews, as well as thousands of Roman soldiers.

Byzantine and Arab Empire

In 324 the Christian Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire and built churches wherever Jesus had been. One of his successors, Emperor Justinian (527-565), also followed this policy and many pilgrims brought prosperity to the country. In 529 the Samaritans revolted and in 614 the Persians marched through Palestine.

Caliphate around 654Caliphate around 654Photo: Mohammad adil at the English-language Wikipedia CC 3.0 no changes made

Between 634 and 644, the entire Middle East, including Palestine, was conquered by Caliph Omar I. However, the Palestinians did not suffer much because Islam was a tolerant religion. From 750 onwards, the Abbasids ruled Palestine from Baghdad for five hundred years. Jerusalem grew into the second most important city for Muslims at that time. From 905 the Abyssids were threatened by the Fatamids and the Byzantines. Churches and monasteries were burned to the ground by Sultan Hakim of the Fatamids. Hakim was murdered in 1021, followed by a short period of rest. Around 1070, Palestine was conquered by the Turks.


Conquest of Jerusalem in 1099Conquest of Jerusalem, Israel in 1099Photo: Public domain

On November 27, 1095, the then Pope Urban called for a crusade to liberate the holy sites in Palestine from the "unbelieving" Muslims. Ultimately, the period of the Crusades would last more than two centuries and cost millions of lives. In July 1099, Jerusalem was conquered with unprecedented killings of Muslims as well as Jews, men and women, children and the elderly. Big names associated with the Crusades were Robert Curthose, Raymond of Toulouse, Bohemond of Taranto and Godefroid of Bouillon. The latter died in 1100 and his brother Baudouin was crowned king of Jerusalem. Baudouin died in 1118 and was succeeded by a relative, Baudouin II, under whose reign the monastic orders of the Knights Templar and the St Johns were established.

The Muslims further intensified the fight against the Christians and even Baudouin was imprisoned. After paying the ransom, they released him, but in 1131 he died and was succeeded by his son-in-law Fulk of Anjou. In 1144 Jerusalem was conquered by the Saracens and again the Pope called for a crusade against the Muslims. However, this crusade, led by King Louis VII of France and Emperor of Germany Conrad III, failed completely, and the Muslim states in the Middle East grew stronger and stronger. Saladin, Sultan of Egypt at that time, conquered practically all the Crusader fortresses and cities in 1187 and Jerusalem was taken on October 2, 1187.

Richard Lionheart on a crusade, IsraelRichard Lionheart on a crusade, IsraelPhoto: Public domain

Another crusade was held, this time led by Richard the Lionheart of England, Philip August of France and Frederick Barbarossa of Germany. Despite the death of Frederick Barbarossa, the other two marched to the Holy Land and had some initial success. Richard the Lionheart even managed to wreck Saladin's army and then wanted to conquer Jerusalem again. Before that, Saladin proposed a peace treaty and free access to all sacred sites. Richard agreed in 1192 and returned to England. Four more Crusades followed, but in 1244 the kingdom of Jerusalem was finally conquered by the Muslims. In 1271 the last Christians left Palestine, only the city of Acre was occupied until 1291.

Turkish rule and British are given mandate over Palestine

After the Crusades, Palestine belonged to the empire of the Mamluks, who ruled the empire from Cairo. The Mamluks were defeated at Aleppo by the Ottoman Sultan Selim in 1516, beginning the 400-year rule of the Turks in the Middle East. Palestine no longer played any role on the international stage for a long time, and only came back into the picture at the time of the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. However, with the support of the British, Napoleon could be kept out of Palestine. In 1874, the Jews established the Palestine Exploration Fund, followed in 1878 by the foundation of the first agricultural settlement. Four years later, the first wave of immigration started from Eastern Europe. In 1896, Theodor Herzl wrote the book "The Jewish State", which advocated the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Herzl would thus become the founder of Zionism, the Jewish national movement whose goal is the return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land (in fact the hill of Zion).

In 1901, Chaim Weizmann founded the Jewish National Fund, which spent money on land purchases. Between 1904 and 1914, many immigrants returned to Palestine, and the Palestinians gradually grew suspicious as more and more land fell into the hands of the Jews and the establishment of a Jewish state seemed to be drawing ever closer. In 1908, Arabs attacked Jewish villages for the first time. In November 1917, the Balfour Declaration followed, in which Britain declared that it supported the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Some time earlier France had indicated that it was sympathetic to these developments.

Map of Palestine and Transjordan during the British MandateMap of Palestine and Transjordan during the British MandatePhoto: Public domain

In April 1920 the British were given the mandate over Palestine and the country was again inundated with immigrants. Then the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem called for a holy war against the Jews and disturbances were the order of the day. The British were now much more cautious, fearful as they were to risk the alliance of the Arabs. This put an end to the Jews' dream for a state of their own for the time being, because to achieve this on your own was of course an illusion. Nevertheless, the Jews internally worked further and further towards a Jewish state, but the Arabs also increasingly acquired a national consciousness. This deepened the gap between the Jews and the Arabs and the number of violent clashes between the two peoples increased. The British, who still held the area under mandate, increasingly sided with the Arabs and turned the thumbscrews on the Jews.


Jeruzalem 8 mei 1945Jeruzalem 8 mei 1945Photo: Matson Photo service in the public domain

In 1933, power in Germany was taken over by the Nazis, and that was the signal for tens of thousands of Jews to immigrate to Palestine. This again caused a lot of trouble with the Arabs and just before the start of World War II the Britttsh announced a stop of immigration, despite the knowledge that the Jews were having a very difficult time in Germany. Yet many Jews still entered the country in secret and there was increasing resistance against both the British Mandate troops and the Arabs. In the meantime, World War II was raging in Europe and practically all of European Jewry was massacred by Adolf Hitler's Nazis. Approx. 6 million Jews were systematically murdered in concentration camps, most of them in gas chambers. A relatively small group managed to get out of the clutches of the Nazis, especially in countries such as Finland, Denmark, Italy and Bulgaria.

During the war, the British came under increasing attack in Palestine. Secret organizations attacked British targets and murdered British policemen and soldiers. On February 14, 1947, the British declared that they were no longer in control of the Arab-Jewish problem and enlisted the help of the United Nations. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved the division of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. Many Arabs were against this partition plan, and the Mufti of Jerusalem even called for all-out war on the Jewish state.

The State of Israel

Immediately a civil war broke out between Arabs and Jews, with the Jews beginning to gain the upper hand. Impressed by the bloody conflict and opposition from Britain, the United Nations wanted to undo the partition decision, but the now-formed Provisional Administration of the Jewish Community, which numbered 600,000 souls, proclaimed the Jewish State of Israel on May 14, 1948 the 26-year-old British Mandate on Palestine came to an end.

In response, barely hours later, tanks from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq rolled toward Israel; the War of Independence had begun. Although another US mediation plan was launched, Israel went to war against the enemy. With a one-month hiatus, fighting continued until early 1949, when ceasefire treaties were negotiated by the UN on the island of Rhodes, with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. However, through extensive arms supplies, Israel had built up such a predominance that even areas were conquered that are still Israeli territory today. Arab Palestinians fled in their thousands to neighboring countries and by early 1949, 80% had left the country or had been expelled by Israeli forces. They were forced to settle in refugee camps in Jordan (including the West Bank before 1967), Lebanon and the Gaza Strip that was annexed by Egypt. Jews from all over the world made just the opposite journey; especially from the Soviet Union and Arab countries, hundreds of thousands of Jews emigrated to Israel to help rebuild the country. Terrorists ("fedajin") were deployed from neighboring Arab countries to disrupt life in Israel. This cost the lives of approximately 1,300 Israelis and Israel responded with retaliation each time. This pattern would be the fate of the Israeli and Palestinian people to this day.

Israel's first prime minister and for many years the dominant figure was David Ben-Gurion (1948-1953; 1955-1963). He was the leader of the largest party, the socialist Mapai. State formation began under Ben-Gurion. Industrialization and mechanization of agriculture resulted in a welfare state following a Western example.

David Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime MinisterDavid Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime MinisterPhoto: Israeli GPO photographer CC 4.0 International no changes made

The main problem for Israel remained its relationship with the Arab states. Especially after the revolution in Egypt (1952) the situation began to become threatening, as Egyptian President Nasser strove to undo the defeat of 1948. In 1955, tensions increased further due to, among other things, arms supplies to Egypt from communist countries, the military alliances between Egypt and Arab countries and the closing of the Suez Canal in 1956. Israel was incited by France and Great Britain to start a war against Egypt . Sinai was incorporated in six days, but pressure from the United States forced Israel not to take it permanently. In March 1957, Israel withdrew its troops. The situation in the region now became very complicated and also the scene of the Cold War, in which the Arab states were supported by the Soviet Union and Israel by the United States and Western European countries.

In 1960 Prime Minister Ben-Gurion came into conflict with many party members, which led to his resignation in 1963. He was succeeded by the Finance Minister Levi Esjkol (1963-1969).

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964. They reminded the world community of the great Palestinian refugee problem, but Israel simply couldn't be relented to allow refugees to return to their old homeland. On the other hand, the many refugees in the countries where they stayed were an increasing source of problems.

Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War

Moshe Dayan, IsraelMoshe Dayan, IsraelPhoto: IDF Spokesperson's Unit CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the summer of 1967, Israel waged a pre-emptive war against neighboring Arab countries and occupied the Syrian Golan Heights, the Jordanian West Bank, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula with the Gaza Strip during the so-called Six-Day War (June 5-10, also known as the June War). and East Jerusalem. Led by the legendary Moshe Dayan, the Israelis won a resounding victory over Arab neighbors. On June 10, 1967, through the Security Council, the firing was stopped, ending the Six Day War.

On November 22, 1967, the Security Council passed Resolution No. 242 on the basis of Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories, but Israel refused to withdraw from the occupied territories and installed a military administration. The Arab states refused to recognize Israel and after 1967 Israel was ravaged by Palestinian terrorists operating from Jordan and Lebanon. Retaliatory acts were also carried out on Egyptian territory, after which Egypt made proposals for peace negotiations, which, however, were rejected by Israel. In October 1973 Egypt and Syria took to the attack and initially achieved success in this so-called Yom Kippur war. Israel, however, retaliated and the United States and the Soviet Union arranged for an armistice. Diplomatic negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar as-Sadat, US mediator Henry Kissinger and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (who had succeeded the late Eshkol in February 1969) were conducted in such a way that Egypt appeared to have emerged victorious. In March 1974, Ms. Golda Meir formed a new coalition government; in April, however, she announced her resignation. General Rabin became prime minister of a new coalition cabinet with, among others, Shimon Peres and Jigal Allon.

Peace Treaty between Israel and the Palestinians!

In the course of 1974, separation agreements were concluded with Egypt and Syria, whereby Israel withdrew from the territories it had occupied in the October war and also gave up part of Sinai.

In the meantime, Israel became increasingly isolated, especially through the use of the 'oil weapon' by the Arab countries, and was also involved in the Lebanese civil war because of the retaliatory and preventive actions on Lebanese soil against the Palestinians residing there.

Camp David agreementCamp David agreementPhoto: Public domain

In 1977, parliamentary elections were won by the conservative Likud party under Menachem Begin. The war meanwhile resulted in an economic crisis, which even led to emigration. In municipal elections in 1976, the Palestinian population voted en masse for the PLO, while the Israeli Palestinians increasingly declared their solidarity with the Palestinians in the occupied territories. In November 1977, President Sadat of Egypt visited Begin and proposed a peace settlement. In 1978, under the mediation of US President Carter at Camp David, prospects of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt emerged. This peace treaty was actually concluded in March 1979, but the continued establishment of settlements in the occupied areas prevented further rapprochement. In August 1980, the Israeli parliament passed a law declaring Jerusalem the one and indivisible capital. The elections of June 30, 1981 were won by the Likud bloc, and its second cabinet could begin. In 1981, settlement policy was also intensified and on December 14 the Golan Heights was annexed, despite much international criticism.

Despite a tacit truce with the PLO in Lebanon, after an attack on the Israeli ambassador in London on June 6, 1982, Israeli forces entered southern Lebanon with great displays of power and even besieged the capital Beirut. Despite the retreat of the PLO fighters, Israel also faced a lot of domestic criticism, especially after the massacres by Lebanese allies in the Palestinian camps Sabra and Chatila in September 1982.

In August 1983, Prime Minister Begin resigned and his Foreign Minister Yitzchak Shamir took over the leadership of the cabinet. Early elections in March 1984 resulted in a government of 'national unity', in which first the socialist Shimon Peres (1984-1986) and then Likud leader Shamir (1986-1988) would be prime minister. In June 1985, this government decided, apart from the security zone, a complete withdrawal from Lebanon. This cabinet managed to improve the miserable economic situation with a profound restructuring policy.

In 1984, 10,000 Jews or Falashas from Ethiopia came to Israel via a secret airlift.

First Intifada

Barricade during the first intifada, IsraelBarricade during the first intifada, IsraelPhoto: Abarrategi CC 4.0 International no changes made

Growing unrest in the occupied territories was answered by Israel with harsh punishment, deportations, bans on appearance and school closures. In addition to PLO supporters, more and more Islamic fundamentalists, including the Hamas movement, also manifested themselves. On December 8, 1987, the Palestinian uprising or Intifada broke out in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Despite tough measures, the military proved unable to cope with this and growing disunity within Israel itself was reflected in the November 1, 1988 elections, in which both the Likud bloc and the Workers' Party lost seats to radical right and left parties.

Meanwhile close strategic, political and economic cooperation with the United States continued, but ties were also gradually re-established with the Soviet Union and other communist countries in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, which was reflected in, among other things, an increasing immigration of Russian Jews.

Second Gulf War

Israel fires Patriot missiles to take out Iraqi Scud missilesIsrael fires Patriot missiles to take out Iraqi Scud missilesPhoto: Alpert Nathan CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

At the end of 1989, Egypt under Mubarak and the United States made unsuccessful attempts to break the deadlock in talks over the occupied territories. On March 15, 1990, the Shamir-Peres cabinet fell and it was only after a difficult cabinet formation that Shamir finally managed to form a coalition of his Likud block with a number of religious and nationalist parties in June 1990.

After the start of the Second Gulf War on January 17, 1991, Iraq attempted to bring Israel into the battle by bombarding Israeli cities with Scud missiles, causing some deaths, but mostly material damage. Under pressure from the US government, Israel decided not to respond to the attacks in order not to endanger the anti-Iraqi coalition.

After the war, in February 1991, the Intifada flared up again. Partly under pressure from the Americans, Israel took part in a peace conference on the Middle East in Madrid at the end of 1991. The Palestinians who were part of the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation were given a hero's reception upon their return.

Period Rabin

Rabin, IsraelRabin, IsraelPhoto: Yaakov Saar CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

On July 13, 1992, Shamir was replaced by Yitzchak Rabin. The Rabin administration did not shy away from contacts with the PLO, which resulted in an agreement in Washington on September 13, 1993 on limited Palestinian self-government in Gaza and Jericho. This Oslo Accord opened up opportunities for improving relations with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The Oslo-2 accord followed in 1995, which provided for a phased Israeli withdrawal from the main cities of the West Bank.

In March 1993, the Workers' Party Knesset elected Ezer Weizman president to succeed Chaim Herzog. In mid-1994, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan signed the "Washington Declaration," formally ending the state of war between the two countries. Negotiations with Syria, on the other hand, continued to be difficult, with the main stumbling blocks being the security measures in an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the 'depth' of the peace to be made. In 1995 clashes between the Israeli army and its ally, the South Lebanese Army (SLA), on the one hand, and Shia Hezbollah fighters and Palestinians on the other, were again killed dozens of dozen.

Period Netanyahu

Netanyahu meets Arafat at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1997Netanyahu meets Arafat at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1997Photo: World Economic Forum CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In November 1995, Prime Minister Rabin was murdered in Tel Aviv by a young Israeli nationalist. He was succeeded by Shimon Peres, who continued the peace process. Peres suffered a very minor defeat against Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the parliamentary election in late May 1996 and in the first direct election of a new prime minister. Netanyahu formed a right-wing coalition government and pledged to continue the peace process with the PLO and the Arab countries. In the 1996 elections for a Palestinian Council and a Palestinian president, Arafat was elected president by a large majority.

During 1996, great political division arose in Israel over the peace process. The reasons for this were Hamas's suicide bombings and Netanyahu's policies, which overruled Rabin and Peres' peace-for-land philosophy and reluctantly continued negotiations with the PLO under great foreign pressure on the basis of a peace-for-security strategy.

Netanyahu announced the construction of new Jewish settlements and initially refused to agree to the Israeli military's withdrawal from Hebron, which was agreed upon in early 1997 following US pressure. Tensions between Israel and the PLO quickly escalated and the fragile relationship with the Arab countries was also tested by Israel's tough stance.

The peace process was further compromised when, in February 1997, Netanyahu announced the construction of the Har Homa Jewish residential area in East Jerusalem. In addition, in September of that year, the construction of new Jewish settlements began in Efrat, in the West Bank. Even the United States openly disapproved of the Netanyahu government's policies in October 1997, and dissatisfaction with Israeli settlement policies grew within the Arab world and the European Union. In November, talks resumed between Israel and Palestinian delegations on the further elaboration of the area transfer. In Israel, Netanyahu was hit hard by, among other things, an accusation of corruption and a failed assassination attempt on a Hamas leader by Israeli intelligence. Also in Israel itself, resistance grew against the Israeli presence in Lebanon, where the army carried out several attacks on the pro-Iranian Hezbollah. In June 1997, the Workers' Party elected Ehud Barak as party leader, succeeding Shimon Peres. In the Palestinian Autonomous Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip), the living conditions deteriorated significantly as a result of Israel's punitive measures following the Hamas bombings. 70,000 Palestinians could not go to work because of the border closures. Palestinian leader Arafat also lost prestige due to the deadlock in the peace process and increasing corruption in the Palestinian circle. In April, British Prime Minister Blair made an attempt as President of the European Union to get the peace process back on track.

US pressure on Netanyahu eventually led to the Wye Plantation deal, led by US President Clinton and with the help of the ailing Jordanian King Hussein, was signed in October 1998 by Arafat and Netanyahu. The deal called for Israel to withdraw from 13.1 percent of the West Bank, and Arafat, in turn, pledged to take tougher action against Hamas terrorist attacks and was also ready to revise the Palestinian Charter. Israeli settlement policy was again a bummer and proved to be an obstacle to the implementation of Wye Plantation.

Period Barak

Barak, IsraelBarak, IsraelPhoto: Adi Cohen Zedek CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In late 1998, Netanyahu's cabinet fell, but the Likud again elected Netanyahu as prime minister candidate and party leader. In response, several Likud leaders turned their backs on the party. Tensions between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews in Israel ran high in early 1999.

The big loser of the parliamentary elections in mid-May 1999 was the Likud party; a big winner was the ultra-orthodox Shas party, which won 10 seats. The Workers' Party remained, despite a significant loss of seat. Netanyahu immediately retired as prime minister after the outcome, and the new prime minister became Ehud Barak of the Workers' Party. Netanyahu also stepped down as party leader and was succeeded by Ariel Sharon.

During his campaign, Barak had pledged to revive the peace process with Syria and the Palestinians, and made a concrete commitment that under his rule, the Israeli army would leave Lebanon within one year. Barak further promised that a referendum would be decisive on the return of the Golan to Syria and the withdrawal of the Israeli army from southern Lebanon.

Immediately after his cabinet was sworn in, Barak began negotiations with the Palestinians. After interventions by the United States Secretary of State, Albright, and the Egyptian President, Mubarak, Barak and Arafat closed on Sept. 4. 1999 a new agreement. In this 'Wye-2', Israel committed that 18.1% of occupied land in the West Bank would come under Palestinian control in three stages and that at least 350 Palestinian prisoners would be released. The most important addition in Wye-2 was a blueprint for a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which was to be finalized on February 13, 2000 and form the basis of a final peace settlement by September 2000. After this, Israel began implementing the agreement. 350 Palestinian prisoners were released in two phases and on October 4, 1999 protocols for the Gaza-Hebron link were signed. In January 2000, an agreement was reached between Israel and the Palestinians on the transfer of land in the West Bank.

However, the negotiations for peace went badly, and Jerusalem's status was a particularly sensitive issue. In protest against the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements, the Palestinians stopped negotiations in early December, but a secret summit between Barak and Arafat restarted the stalled peace process.

In December 1999, Israel and Syria agreed on peace negotiations and agreed to return the Golan in exchange for peace, and Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in return for Syrian efforts to curb Hezbollah. In mid-April 2000, Israel completed the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon.

Israel received the Pope in early 2000 and the Chinese President also visited the country.

Period Sharon

Sharon, IsraelSharon, IsraelPhoto: Helene C. Stikkel in the public domain

Barak's coalition fell apart in mid-2000 as a result of disagreements between government parties over domestic and foreign policy. New elections took place in February 2001 and resulted in a major victory for Ariel Sharon's Likud party.

As a result of disagreements between Likud and the Workers' Party, elections again took place in January 2003. The Workers' Party lost these elections while the center-right Shinui party grew strongly. By March 2003, Sharon had formed a new cabinet consisting of Likud, Shinui, the National Religious Party, and the National Union, accounting for 68 of the 120 seats in the Knesset.

After the election, Sharon seemed to be heading a somewhat milder course. In early February he even held talks with moderate Palestinians. Meanwhile, the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia put pressure on both sides. A "roadmap" was drawn up for comprehensive peace in the Middle East. In the course of 2003 and early 2004, many bloody attacks ensured that little of all good intentions came to fruition.

After 38 years of occupation, Israel completed the evacuation of its 22 settlements in the Palestinian Gaza Strip on August 22, 2005. Two weeks ahead of schedule and more peacefully than expected, all of the approximately 8,500 settlers left the area.

However, because of the disagreement of the religious parties, Sharon's government fell and Sharon founded his own political party, called Kadima. In 2006, Sharon fell into a deep coma and after a transition period Ehud Olmert became the new prime minister.

Period 2006-present

The 2006 Palestinian Territory elections were won by the fundamentalist-Islamist Hamas. This led to an economic and political boycott of the Palestinian Authority by Israel, the US and the EU, who classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. After an attack by the Lebanese movement Hezbollah on an Israeli border post in which three Israeli soldiers were killed and two captured and rocket fired on Israeli targets, the Israeli army launched a massive retaliatory attack on Lebanon that left over 1,100 Lebanese dead, most of them civilians. In Northern Israel 1,500 katyushar rockets fall; However, Israel saw no opportunity to stop these rocket fire.

Olmert, IsraelOlmert, IsraelPhoto: Government Press Office (Israel) CC 3.0 no changes made

The 2006 Israeli-Lebanese war caused major internal problems for Olmert. In southern Israel, too, the population is facing continuous rocket fire, this time from the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas. Sderot has the hardest to endure here.

In November 2007, a conference was held in the American city of Annapolis between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and several Arab countries that also send representatives. President Bush convened this conference with the aim of creating an independent Palestinian state by the end of 2008.

In May 2008 it was announced that Olmert is suspected of corruption. An American businessman of Jewish descent named Morris Talansky is said to have given him a total of $ 150,000 over a period of 15 years. Olmert claims it was contributions to his election campaigns, but Israeli justice thinks he has pocketed the money. Olmert will step down in July 2008 and will be succeeded by Tzipi Livni. It fails to form a majority government. Meanwhile, Israel is campaigning in the Gaza Strip in connection with continued missile attacks on Israeli territory, sparking international protests for using disproportionate force.

Early elections will be held on February 10, 2009. In the elections, neither party achieves a clear majority. Benjamin Netanyahu is asked to form a new cabinet and succeeds in March 2009 with the support of the Barak Labor Party.

Israeli military forces on May 31, 2010 stopped a shipping convoy of goods en route to Gaza from the waters surrounding Cyprus with the intention of breaking the Gaza blockade and delivering relief supplies and medicines. 9 Turkish activists were killed and relations with Turkey were seriously disrupted. Direct talks with the Palestinians fail in the fall of 2010 due to disagreements over settlement issues. In November 2012, Israel fought a seven-day conflict with HAMAS over the Gaza Strip.

Nethanyahu in 2018, IsraelNethanyahu in 2018, IsraelPhoto: U.S.Embassy Tel Aviv CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Parliamentary elections will be held in January 2013. Netanyahu takes over as leader of a coalition in March 2013. Direct negotiations with the Palestinians will resume in July 2013 and continue in 2014. In July 2014 reciprocal rocket fire between Hamas from the Gaza Strip and Israel. Israel enters Gaza with ground troops. In May 2015, after early elections, Netanyahu formed his fourth right-wing government with religious input. In May 2016, the coalition will be expanded with Jisrael Beetenoe. In June 2016, an agreement is reached in response to the Gaza shipping incident and Turkey and Israel are normalizing their relations. In February 2017, a law passed in parliament legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory. In December 2017, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, causing great unrest in the Arab world and among his Western allies. Between March 2019 and April 2020, three elections will take place in which Nethanyahu will take on a center coalition led by Benny Gantz, the former army chief of staff. There will be no clear majority, in April 2020 they will form a government of national unity to face the Covid Pandemic. In early 2021, Nethanyahu is due to appear in court on a charge of corruption.

Israel signed normalization agreements – brokered by the US – with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco in late 2020 and reached an agreement with Sudan in early 2021.

In June 2021 Naftali Bennett of the Jewish nationalist Yamina party forms a broad coalition to oust Benjamin Netanyahu. Bennett formed the most ideologically diverse coalition in Israel's history, including the participation of an Arab-Israeli party. Under the terms of the coalition agreement, he would remain as prime minister until August 2023, then Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid would succeed him.


Jews: Emigrants and Immigrants

Emigration from IsraelEmigration from IsraelPhoto:Public domain

Already in the centuries around the beginning of our era, many Jews have left Palestine. They settled in all parts of the then known world: Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, Egypt and North Africa. These Jews mainly live in flourishing and extensive trading colonies. At the time, it is believed that more Jews lived outside Palestine than within its borders. In the course of the Middle Ages, Jews settled in most European countries, but also in the countries of the Middle East, Asia to China.Immigrants Israel just after the second world warImmigrants Israel just after the second world warPhoto: Public domain

The first groups of immigrants in the 15th and 16th centuries came from Spain and Portugal, from where they were expelled for their faith. The link between persecution and migration will continue to this day.

Immigration by continent, 1948-2000:

Immigration by period:

Worldwide, some 15 million Jews currently live, about half of whom live in Israel and a third in the United States.

Israel had 8.3 million inhabitants in 2017 (including East Jerusalem and the annexed Golan Heights), 75% of whom were Jews and almost 25% Arabs. By place of birth, the following distinction can be made among the Jews: Israeli by birth 76.3%, European / American by birth 16.2%, African by birth 4.8% and Asian by birth 2.7%. About 187,000 Jews live in the West Bank, about 5,000 in the Gaza Strip, about 20,000 in the Golan Heights and about 175,000 in East Jerusalem. Today more than 1.5 million Arabs live in Israel, 80% of whom are Muslims. The remaining 20% consists of Christians and Druze. About 1.7 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Population density IsraelPopulation density IsraelPhoto: Ynhockey CC 4.0 International no changes made

The population is very unevenly spread across the country: in the North district, north of Haifa, and in the South district, south of Jerusalem, - together 85% of the total area of the country - only about 27% of the total population. Israel is therefore one of the most urbanized countries in the world: more than 90% of the population lives in the cities, especially in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. The population density for all of Israel is approximately 376 inhabitants per km2. In the region around Tel Aviv, the average population density is approximately 7,000 inhabitants per km2. Israel is estimated to be one of the most densely populated countries in the world by 2020. The population density will then be about 750 people per km2.

Most of the Palestinians live in the countryside and in the cities of the territories occupied by Israel. The number of residents of the collective kibbutz has decreased significantly since 1948 in favor of the cooperative Moshavim. The Moshavim is an agricultural living pattern, in which about 4% of the Israeli population lives. The land is jointly owned and managed jointly.

The growth of the Jewish population in Israel has been very significant in a number of periods. In the period from 1948 to 1980 there was even talk of a growth of over 300%, until the early 1970s mainly a result of the enormous immigration. Since then, immigration has fallen sharply (in 1987 the number of emigrants exceeded that of the immigrants). From the early 1990s, many Jews immigrated from the Soviet Union. Since 1948, more than 2 million people have immigrated to Israel and it is therefore sometimes said that Israel is one nation, made up of a hundred nationalities. A global dichotomy that can be made distinguishes between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. The Ashkenazim mainly come from the countries north of the Mediterranean. Sephardic Jews come from the countries south and east of the Mediterranean.

The composition of the Jewish population is very diverse. In general eight groups can be distinguished according to origin:

-A rather heterogeneous category of pre-modern immigration (aliyah) Jewish residents of Palestine. In 1882, the year in which modern Jewish emigration to Palestine actually began, there were approximately 24,000 Jews living in Eretz Yisrael.

- The approximately 150,000 Jews who entered the country as settlers in four waves between 1882 and 1931, mainly come from Eastern European countries.

-A number of more than 300,000 Jews from Central Europe, especially Germany and the territories occupied by Germany, who fled from their country of birth.

-The Jews who entered the country legally or illegally in the period 1945-1948, predominantly Jews who had escaped Nazi persecution or survived the concentration camps.

-The hundreds of thousands of Jews after 1948 who poured into the country from Iraq, Yemen and North Africa, in the eighties also from Iran and Ethiopia, the Falashas. The emigration of the Ethiopian Jews took place through Operation Moses, in which in the eighties and nineties of the last century approximately 30,000 people were brought to Israel in two stages.

-The Sabras, the Jews born in Israel (now by far the majority of the population).

-East European immigrants from after 1957, especially many from the Soviet Union after 1989.

-Zionists from the European countries, North and South America, South Africa and Australia.

Population growth was 1.51% in 2017 (birth rate 18.1 per 1000 inhabitants, death rate 5.2). The birth rate of the Palestinian population in Israel is greater than that of the Jewish population, while the death rates are almost the same.

In 2017, 27.5% of the population was under 15 years old; only 11.3% were over 65 years old. The average life expectancy in 2017 was 80.6 years for men and 84.5 years for women.

Israel's three largest cities:

Tel Aviv / Jaffa 3,608,000

Haifa 1,097,000

Jerusalem 839,000


Hebrew written in HebrewHebrew written in HebrewPhoto: Tenth Plague CC 4.0 International no changes made

There are two official languages in Israel: (modern) Hebrew and Arabic. Modern Hebrew, also called Ivrit, is spoken by almost the entire Jewish population.A number of groups of immigrants have also retained their language of origin.

The main languages are briefly described below:

Biblical Hebrew

Biblical Hebrew was from the 2nd century AD. a dead language until the end of the 19th century. The Old Testament, based on the Jewish Tanakh, the part of the Bible that dates from before the beginning of our era, was originally drawn up almost entirely in Hebrew.

In Hebrew we can distinguish:

1. Classical Hebrew (of which Biblical Hebrew is the bulk)

2. Post-Biblical Hebrew (from the Talmud and the so-called "midrashim", texts that explain the biblical texts)

3. Medieval Hebrew (that was when people first started writing about non-religious matters and because of that all kinds of new words had to be added.

4. Modern Hebrew

Hebrew alphabetHebrew alphabetPhoto: Maltin75 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Modern Hebrew

The revival of Hebrew as a living language is due to the Lithuanian Jew Eliezer ben-Yehuda, who settled in Jerusalem in 1881. He distributed glossaries for modern society among the new generation of Hebrew speakers. From the introduction of the British Mandate, Hebrew was an official language alongside English and Arabic. New emigrants were required to take a course in modern Hebrew or Ivrit, and this language is now spoken by some five million people in Israel. A Hebrew university was opened as early as 1924, and in 1966 Hebrew author Shmuel Yosef Agnon won the Nobel Prize in literature. Hebrew is a Semitic language which, like Arabic, is written from right to left. It is difficult to convert into Latin letters because it has no upper and lower case letters, for example. In fact, Hebrew has two alphabets, one for printed and one for handwritten text. The Hebrew script has 22 consonants and the missing vowels have been replaced by sound marks. Each letter also represents a number, but numbers are often written as the numbers known to us.


After Muhammad's death, Palestine was one of the first areas to be conquered by the Muslims and rapidly becoming Islamized. In addition to Arabic as a spoken language, there is also a liturgical language, classical Arabic, which, however, is increasingly distinguishing itself from Arabic spoken language. There are various Arabic dialects in Israel, which were brought by Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. The Arabic is written from right to left, except for numbers, which are written from left to right. Just like in Hebrew, vowels are replaced by sound signs

Palestinian Arabic

The Palestinian Arabic dialect is spoken by Palestine-born Arabs and by Jews who settled in the Holy Land before 1948.

This dialect is very similar to the Syrian and Lebanese dialect, but it has also been influenced by Hebrew and English. There are also regional differences and the language sounds different in cities and in the countryside.

English, French, Russian, Spanish, Yiddish

In Israel many other languages are spoken by immigrants who grew up in a different culture. For example, the so-called Jekkés, German immigrants from the 1930s, still only speak German. Other languages still spoken include Amharic, Ethiopian, Dutch, Hungarian, Polish, Chinese, and even Ladin, which is still spoken by descendants of Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492.

English was the official language during the British Mandate and is still very important today. For pupils, English is compulsory at school from the age of 10.

In response to English colonialism, French was the third official language until the Six Day War in 1967, but is increasingly being supplanted by English. Many North African emigrants in particular still speak French.

The number of people who still speak Russian has grown enormously after the massive immigration from the Soviet Union and Russia. They live a lot in new cities like Carmiel, Natzrat Ilit and Arad.

Spanish is still mainly spoken by South American immigrants, who often settled in kibbutzim, but now also live in cities such as Carmiel, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv.

Yiddish originated in medieval Central Europe and is a mixture of Hebrew, German and a number of Slavic languages. After the extermination of the Jews in Eastern Europe, Yiddish seemed to be disappearing, but it is still spoken by a number of immigrants and in ultra-Orthodox communities in Russia, Poland, the Baltic States and Romania. Yiddish language and literature are even still taught in universities.

A few words:

good morningboker tovsabah al cheir
good nightlajla tovtisbah ala cheir
pleasebevàkashamin fadlak



Torah writer, IsraelTorah writer, IsraelPhoto: Willem van der Poll in the public domain

82% of the population adheres to the Jewish faith, about 14% to Islam, 2.7% to Christianity and 1.7% of the population are Druze.

The Jewish religion is based on the belief in one god and the covenant that God made with the Jewish people, the history of which began about 4,000 years ago with the era of Abraham. All aspects of Judaism originate from the Torah, the Mosaic Law. Together with the rabbinic commentaries, the Torah is the source of inspiration for the ideas and practices of all Jewish communities.

The Talmud is a set of beliefs that are the foundation of Judaism to this day. This collection consists of the "Mishna", which contains, in addition to the Torah, commandments and prohibitions, and the "Gemara", which contains rules of life and interpretations of the Torah.

Public life in Israel is dominated by the Jewish religion. The Sabbath rest has even been legislated, supplemented by local arrangements. The traditionally orthodox view of the Torah with its "248 Commandments and 365 Prohibitions" is a source of difficulty for public life in modern times.

The Chief Rabbinate, the highest religious institution of the Jews in Israel, consists of an Ashkenazi and a Sephardic Chief Rabbi. Rabbis are not priests, but teachers who, through their knowledge of the Talmud, come to different interpretations of the scriptures. The liberal Jews enjoy, at least in theory, the same facilities as other religious groups in building synagogues, but their rabbis are still not recognized as such.

The Hebrew calendar has a number of holidays that commemorate important events in the history of the Jewish people.

Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot

This festival is held in memory of the return of the Jewish people to the Promised Land, when the Israelites still lived in tents and huts. The festival also marks the end of the agricultural season and the beginning of the annual cycle of the Torah. The Feast of Tabernacles begins five days after Yom Kippur.


The Feast of Fate, which commemorates the liberation of the Jews from the Persian occupation.

Yom Ha-Atsmaut

This day celebrates the day when the independent state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

The Jewish New Year is celebrated for eight days and this week is concluded by Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jews, where the fate of man is determined by the balance between good and evil deeds.


The feast of light, the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the victory over the Syrians by the Maccabees.


This festival celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and commemorates the killing of the firstborn by the strangler.


Shavuot or Feast of Weeks falls seven weeks after Pesach. On this harvest festival the first fruits are offered in the Temple and it is commemorated that the Torah was given to the Jewish people.

Yom Hashoa

Holocaust Remembrance.

Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, IsraelOrthodox Jews in Jerusalem, IsraelPhoto: Borja García de Sola Fernández CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Some Jewish Communities are:

Practicing Orthodox Jews

These Jews can be recognized by their yarmulke or "kipa", a small cap worn on the back of the head. They are convinced that man is responsible for history, and therefore participate fully in the social, economic and cultural life in Israel.

Reform Judaism

This liberal movement emerged in the 19th century and aimed to facilitate strict religious practices and rules. Even now people are still committed to the achievements of Western society.

Worldly Zionists

These pioneers of the idea of a Jewish state were strongly anti-religious. This does not alter the fact that they simply observe all Jewish holidays and eat kosher foods.


These Orthodox anti-Zionists emerged in Central Europe in the 18th century. They refuse to recognize the political authority of the state and do not view Zionism in the perspective of an explicit relationship with God. They value prayer more than study.


The Holy Scriptures and the prophets foretold the coming of a Messiah. In the Christian faith, the living God of Israel has taken the form of the man Jesus Christ. After his death it became the task of man to build up the Kingdom of God.

Jesus was born between 7 and 5 BC. in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth. Between the ages of 28 and 30 he went with his disciples to Jerusalem via Galilee. On Easter of AD 30, he was sentenced to death and crucified by the Roman occupier.

After the crucifixion and resurrection, the apostles began to teach his teachings. The converted Jews were first called Christians in Antioch. The teachings of Christ were recorded in the four Gospels. The first three were written between the years 70 and 80, the fourth gospel around the year 100. They were written by the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Bethlehem, Church of the NativityBethlehem, Church of the NativityPhoto: Abraham CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Christian holidays:


On Christmas Eve, Catholics celebrate the birth of Christ.


All Christians celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ on this day. Easter concludes Holy Week and the 40-day Lent. The Orthodox Easter celebration is accompanied by many celebrations and the faithful light candles for a month.

Assumption of Mary

This feast has been celebrated since the 7th century, when the transition of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to life with God is commemorated.

Ascension Day

Forty days after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, he gathered his followers and took them to a mountain on the east side of Jerusalem. There he told them that he had finished his work on earth and that he was going to leave for heaven.


Fifty days after Easter, the Holy Spirit was celebrated on the congregation of faith and the foundation of the Church in Jerusalem is commemorated.


This feast is celebrated in the Eastern Churches and celebrates the unity of humanity and the divine nature of Christ, as well as the unity of the Old and New Testaments.

The Christian minority in Israel is represented by seventeen denominations. The many divisions in Christianity have resulted from theological differences and the growing divide between East and West. Following is a description of some of the important Christian denominations present in Israel:


In the mid-18th century, the Armenian people founded a Catholic church. The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem is under the supreme authority of the Armenian Church and numbers about 2500 persons.


A Coptic Patriarchate has been established in Jerusalem since 1899. The Christian Copts come from Egypt and are closely associated with the hermits of the desert, Antony and Pachomius, and the monastic fathers Anasthasius and Cyril of Alexandria.

Greek Orthodox

Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Community is headed by a patriarch and assisted by a synod of bishops, archimandrites and priests. They all still have the Greek nationality.


The Ethiopians were Christianized in the 6th century. An archbishop is at the head of the Jerusalem Church.


Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, and various National Churches, such as the Scottish and Danish Churches, are all represented in Jerusalem.


The Maronite community, of Syrian Christians in origin, was founded in 410 by Saint Maron, and makes up the majority of Christians in Lebanon. About 6,000 Maronites were victorious in Israel.


Islam, a monotheistic religion, is inspired by the Holy Scriptures (Old and New Testaments), and calls for submission to Allah and His divine word, the Quran, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.

Five Pillars of Islam Five Pillars of IslamPhoto: Xxedcxx CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Islam is based on the Quran and the Sunna (tradition), the account of the actions and words of the Prophet Muhammad. The five pillars of Islam are: the profession of faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting during Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Allah speaks through the mouth of Muhammad and is part of the line of prophets that begins with Adam and continues with Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Joseph and Jesus, among others.

The Quran was written at the time of Othman and consists of 114 chapters or suras, divided into 6243 verses or aja.

Muslims pray five times a day, addressing the holy place of Mecca. The creed consists of uttering the words, "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet." When this so-called "shahada" is publicly repeated three times, this is the sign of conversion to Islam.

Another pillar of Islam is the pilgrimage or "hajj". At least once in his life a Muslim must have made a pilgrimage to Mecca. Dressed in white, he must walk around the Kaaba and walk seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa, the "omra" ritual.

The Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem have been the second most sacred sites of Islam after Mecca and Medina since the 7th century.

Al Aqsa Mosque in JerusalemAl Aqsa Mosque in JerusalemPhoto: Boubakar in the public domain

In Israel there are two main schools of Islam: the Sunnis and the Shias. The Sunnis strongly adhere to the legal aspect of Islam, that is, the law or "Sharia" and Islamic law or "fire". They have four schools of law, the Malikites, the Hanefites, the Caafiites and the Hanbalites. Palestinian Muslims adhere to the Chafi and Hanefite school.

The Shias are a minority in Israel. They are followers of Ali, who in their eyes, along with his sons Hassan and Hussein, are the only one to receive the Prophet's "will". In the eyes of the Shias, Ali is therefore the only legitimate successor to Mohammed.

A small, but emphatically present group are the Druze. The Druze have split off from the Shias again. The Shias recognize twelve Imams as successors to Ali. The Druze limit that number to seven. They settled in Palestine around the year 1000 and adhere to a mixture of Islam and Greek and Indian philosophies. Their texts and ceremonies are secret. The Druze have also had the status of an autonomous religious community since 1957.

Five Major Islamic Festivals:


This festival celebrates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.


On the first day of the ninth month, in which the Divine Word was revealed to the prophet, Ramadan begins, which is why the believers are supposed to fast from sunrise to sunset.

Aïd el-Fitr

The first day of the month of Shawwal is the end of Lent. On that evening they eat pasta with dried apricots (amar ed-din).


The 17th day of the month of Rajab commemorates Muhammad's nocturnal journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, where he ascended to heaven.

Aïd el-Ahda

On the tenth day of dhu-el-Hijja they celebrate the sacrifice of Abraham, and each family slaughters a sheep.

Various faith communities:

Bahai's garden in Haifa, Israel.Bahai's garden in Haifa, IsraelPhoto: Israeltoutism CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Bahá’í Faith

The Bahá'ís are officially recognized as the fourth faith community. The Bahá'í Faith is the youngest world religion (1844) with independent revelation and has about 6 million adherents throughout the world. It teaches that through a series of prophets (including Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed) God conveys to the people the basic teachings that are needed at that time. According to the Bahá'í Faith, the world is one country and all people are brothers and sisters. The center of the Bahá'í Faith is in Haifa, amid beautifully landscaped gardens and terraces that take the visitor all the way up from the base of Mount Carmel. There are a number of buildings on the site, including a tomb with a golden dome. It was built in 1909 by Abdu'l-Bahá, son of the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh.


The Samaritans were already persecuted in the Bible as a religious community. It now consists of only about 100 families living near the sacred Mount Gerazim near Nablus. They consider the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, and the Book of Joshua to be holy scriptures. Their first language is Arabic.


The 15,000 Karaites is a religious group that believes in the Torah as God's Word, but rejects all later writings. They are neither Arabic nor Islamic in origin and even have their own language.


State structure

Israel does not have a written constitution because the orthodox and liberal currents could not agree on points of principle. In 1950, the Knesset (literally "meeting" or "assembly") decided to pass so-called fundamental laws from time to time, which together are to take the place of a constitution.

Knesset, IsraelKnesset, IsraelPhoto: James Emery CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Republic of Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a president as head of state. Executive power rests with the prime minister and the ministers, who together form the government; they need the confidence of the parliament, the Knesset. The president asks the leader of the party with the most seats to form the government. The 120-member Knesset has legislative power and is elected by the people once every four years, under a system of proportional, direct and secret suffrage. All citizens aged 18 and over have the right to vote. Each voter has two votes: one for the Prime Minister and one for a party; there is no division into electoral districts. There is a 1% electoral threshold, which means that the political landscape is highly fragmented. A clear drawback is that the need for coalition governments results in a kind of dictatorship of the small parties. No Israeli party has ever achieved an absolute majority. The electoral law was changed in March 2001 and the old system will be used again with effect from the new elections. This means that one vote is cast for one party.

The president appoints the cabinet formator after consulting the representatives of the party factions in the Knesset. The president himself is elected by secret ballot by the Knesset for a term of five years and is himself a member of the Knesset. There is the possibility of re-election for another five years. Ministers can also be members of the Knesset, but not necessarily. In fact, although the president is the head of state, he only holds a ceremonial position.

The judiciary are the judges and the courts. Israeli criminal law consists of three parts: the laws from the time when the country was a province of the Ottoman Empire (until 1917), the laws from the time of the British Mandate, and the laws of the State of Israel itself. A number of family cases are heard by religious courts in Israel. The Supreme Court makes the final decision. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Administrative division

Districts of IsraelDistricts of IsraelPhoto:Golbez CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The country is divided into six districts and 17 subdistricts. The municipal councils are elected for four years and the occupied areas are under military administration, advised by civilian officials.

Six districs:

HadaromBe’ér Sheva’14.231 km2950.000
HamerkazRamla1.276 km21.550.000
HazafonNazerat ‘Illit3.324 km21.130.000
HefaHefa863 km2840.000
Tel AvivTel Aviv-Yafo171 km21.165.000
YerushalayimYerushalayim652 km2795.000


University of HaifaUniversity of HaifaPhoto: Zvi Roger CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The education system in Israel is partly in line with Europe, partly with the United States; education is given in Hebrew or Arabic for the Arabs. Israel has more than 3,000 schools and more than 110,000 teachers. On average, Israelis have more than 12 years of education and illiteracy is below 3%.

There are four types of education in Israel: state education, religious education, Arab education, and private education. 56% of people aged 20-24 go to university and more than half of university students are women.

Israeli children attend kindergarten for a year from the age of five, before attending primary school for six years. This is followed by a three-year middle school, after which the ten-year compulsory education comes to an end.

After middle school, the majority of the students go to a vocational school or to a higher school. About a quarter of Jewish families send their children to one of the many religious schools.

Israel has six universities: the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the National Religious School of Bar-Ilan near Tel Aviv, the Ben Gurion University of Beersheva and the Israeli Institute of Technology (Technion) in Haifa. Furthermore, the Weizmann Institute is also considered a university.

Almost a quarter of the working population has completed a university education, placing Israel in third place in the world ranking after the United States and the Netherlands.

Typically Israeli

Kibbutz Gat from the airKibbutz Gat from the airPhoto: Amos Meron CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


The kibbutzim (IvrieT: kibbutz, kibbutzim) are a typical Israeli experiment. They were built not only to achieve the socialist ideal of equality, but also for security reasons. The first kibbutz was founded in 1909 in an area south of Lake Genesareth. At present, Israel has about 270 kibbutzim and new kibbutzim are still being set up. On average there are about 400 people working in a kibbutz, but a few villages have more than 1000 inhabitants.

These agricultural settlements are based on the principle of joint production and consumption and equality of all members. Today only three percent of Israelis live in kibbutzim. Almost half of all agricultural products come from these companies and many of them also make industrial products. About fifty kibbutzim in holiday areas have embraced tourism. Several dozen of them are members of the Kibbutz Hotels Chain, which has its own headquarters in Tel Aviv. The kibbutz movement has its own institutes for higher education and scientific research, in addition to its own chamber orchestra, theater groups, dance groups, galleries and publishers. Education, health care, childcare, laundries and other services are free.

In the past, all the buildings of the kibbutz were within a walled space with only one entrance. From the 1930s onwards, the houses and relaxation rooms were no longer around the courtyard, but separated from the other buildings. During the British Mandate the first kibbutzim consisted of dilapidated wooden barracks, with palisades and guarded by a watchtower.

From the kibbutzim emerged the "mosjavim", a type of cooperative in which families combine the individual exploitation of their farming business with joint ownership of means of production and services. The moshav does not have a fixed design, but each family receives an approximately equal plot of land of equal quality. The first moshav was built in 1920 and today about 4% of the Israeli population lives in one of the 450 moshavim.

In the "mosjavim shitufim" the land is also common property and there is joint management.


Kosher McDonalds in IsraelKosher McDonalds in IsraelPhoto: Andrés Monroy-Hernández CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The indication "kosher" at a restaurant means that the kitchen is under the supervision of the chief rabbinate. Kosher guarantees that the choice of ingredients and preparation are under strict supervision. Non-kosher foods are unclean, or "tefa".

In principle, a distinction is made between natural products that do not require any special preparation, such as fruits, vegetables and coffee. Meat may be used under certain conditions and there are unclean products that should never be used.

Kosher is only the flesh of animals slaughtered with a razor-sharp knife so that it no longer contains blood, because blood is considered part of the soul.

Kosher mammals are cloven-hoofed ruminant animals such as beef, lamb, and goat, but not pig, rabbit, or camel, which are either non-cloven-hoofed or do not chew their food. Of poultry, duck, goose chicken, pigeon, pheasant and turkey is kosher, game fowl is not. Of the aquatic animals, kosher is what has scales, so mussels and crustaceans do not.

Dairy products must come from kosher animals and meat and milk must be strictly separated. Dairy products should only be consumed five hours after a meat meal. After a milk product you have to wait another two hours.



Weizmann Institute of Technology, IsraelWeizmann Institute of Technology, IsraelPhoto: Niv CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The period after the proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948 to 1973 was characterized by rapid growth of the economy: the gross national product (GNP) increased by approximately 9% annually. This development was made possible by large capital imports in the form of foreign aid and loans, large donations from Jews outside Israel, payments and supplies in the context of German reparations and increased productivity.

After 1973 the economic situation deteriorated rapidly: in 1977 economic growth was only 0.5%. By 1982, economic growth had almost come to a standstill, after which it gradually recovered to growth of 5.2% in 1987, after which it fell to just 1% in 1989 and was even negative in 2002, -0, 8%. In recent years, the economy of Israel has grown considerably again at around three percent. (3.8% in 2013)

The most important economic problems include high inflation (58% in 1974, 440% in 1984, a very tight austerity policy then drastically reduced inflation to 16% in 1987, rose again in 1989 to almost 21% over the period 1985 to 1994 average 18%, over 1995-1996 8.3%, in 2002 5.7%), in recent years it has been improving with percentages of 1.7% in both 2012 and 2013), balance of payments, high defense costs, sharply increased debt to foreign countries and unemployment (6.8% in 2013). Unemployment fell from 11% in 1992). Unemployment is still high, especially in peripheral areas and among minorities. The biggest blows have been in traditional industries, which face increasing competition from low-wage countries.

GDP is growing by 6 to 7% annually and was $ 36,400 per capita in 2017. The composition of the GNP in 2017 was as follows (in brackets the distribution of the labor force): agriculture 2.4% (1.1%), industry, mining and construction 25.6% (17.3%), government, services and transport 69.5% (81.6%). 40% of the working population is made up of women.

Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing

Orange cultivation IsraelOrange cultivation IsraelPhoto: Lehava Activity 2013 Pikiwiki Israel CC 2.5 no changes made

About 20% of Israel is cultivated for agriculture, about 4100 km2. Domestic production provides the vast majority of Israel's food needs, and that has been agricultural policy since 1948. The significance of the agricultural sector for the Israeli economy has declined dramatically since 1948, from over 60% in 1948 to just over dn 1% in 2017. The mosjavim and the kibbutzim are the most important business form in agriculture. However, many of these cooperatives were in financial difficulties. Given the low annual rainfall, irrigation is essential. Advanced irrigation systems are used to make more and more land in more southern desert-like areas suitable for agricultural purposes. Citrus fruits are the principal agricultural produce, and the production of horticultural crops such as vegetables and flowers, as well as cotton, dates, olives, almonds, grapes, avocados and bananas are important. In recent years, more and more investments have been made in new products, mainly floriculture, advanced technology and know-how. About 90% of the flower production, intended for export, goes to the Netherlands, where it is auctioned and distributed to the rest of Europe. Bulk production is increasingly being abandoned. Grain is mainly grown in the valleys of Jezreel and Harod.

Livestock farming mainly includes sheep, goats, cattle and poultry. Israel provides for its own needs for milk, eggs, chicken and turkey. Beef and mutton often have to be imported.

Forestry is of exceptional importance, given the great hydrological value of the forests. More than 600 km2 is occupied by forest.

Fishing is practiced in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, but is not very economic. Freshwater fish supplies Lake Kinneret and the fish farming ponds (carp) in the former Choelemeer area. Most fish is currently still being imported, about 90,000 tons.

Mining and energy supply

The Dead Sea contains billions of tons of various salts. In modern Sodom, the Dead Sea Works extract potassium carbonate and bromine from it, using natural gas extracted at Arad. Israel is the world's largest exporter of bromine. Furthermore, the Negev desert in particular is rich in minerals such as copper, phosphate, marble, gypsum and glass sand. The exploitation of minerals is predominantly in the hands of the state. The raw materials for the chemical industry are extracted from the natural resources of Israel, mainly minerals such as potash, magnesium and bromide from the Dead Sea and phosphate from the Negev.

Refinery in Haifa, IsraelRefinery in Haifa, IsraelPhoto: Pikiwikisrael CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

By far the most important energy source is petroleum, which, however, must be imported almost entirely. After the return of Abu Rodeis' fields in 1975 and the Alma fields to Egypt in 1979, the United States has guaranteed Israeli oil supplies. Ashdod and Haifa have refineries, and small oil fields have been found at Ashdod. The Haifa refinery has a capacity of more than 6 million tons per year, more than enough to meet its own needs. Natural gas is extracted from the Dead Sea, but exploitable gas fields have now also been discovered in the portion of the Mediterranean Sea under Israeli authority.

In 1979, a coal-fired power plant in Hadera was commissioned. Much value is attached to the development of nuclear energy. In 1976 an agreement was signed with the United States for the construction of two nuclear power plants, the first of which was commissioned in 1986. A small hydroelectric power station is located on the Jarmuk, a tributary of the Jordan. Many houses are equipped with amenities that allow you to take advantage of solar energy. Israel is committed to the development of alternative and clean energy sources and is already the world leader in solar energy.

Due to the current water crisis, Israel will invest approximately 4 billion euros in water management and water supplies over the next ten years. These funds mainly go to desalination facilities and also to other purification facilities and other supplies. This is desperately needed, because the population growth is expected to double current water consumption. Dry winters have highlighted the need for structural solutions, not just for Israel, but for the entire region. The water supply for Israel is also closely linked to the security issue. Two thirds of the water sources are outside Israel, on the Golan Heights and the West Bank. For the time being, a lot of water will still have to be imported.


Aircraft industry IsraelAircraft industry IsraelPhoto: Tiraden CC 4.0 International no changes made

The lack of raw materials and energy and the small domestic market mean that industrial development is limited. The fastest growing industrial sectors are the capital-intensive electronic and metal industries, including aircraft construction and the arms industry. The chemical industry is one of the driving forces in the Israeli economy. In 2017, this sector constituted 25% of the total industry and one of the main export sectors of Israel (70% goes to the United States). Food and textile industry declined in importance. Also important are diamond, cement and wood processing.

Major industrial centers are Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Ramle, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Hadera and Petach Tikwa.

The software industry is very important to the Israeli high-tech sector, with sales of billions of dollars and approximately 13,000 most highly educated employees. Initially this sector relied mainly on the military sector, nowadays the emphasis has shifted to civil applications.


Export IsraelExport IsraelPhoto: R. Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo CC 3.0 no changes made

Important imports are petroleum, machinery, means of transport rough diamonds, weapons, grain, edible oil and fats.

In 1975 a trade agreement was concluded with the EU, which stipulated that from 1980 there would be no mutual import restrictions on each other's industrial products. A free trade agreement with the United States was concluded in 1986 and new agreements with the EU followed in 1988.

In 2017, 30% of exports went to the EU, 28.8% to the United States, 7% to Hong Kong. In the same year, 40% of Israeli imports came from the EC and 11.7% from the United States. In 2017, the main import partners were the United States, China, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. The main export partners in that year were the United States, Belgium, China and Hong Kong.


Ben Gurion Airport IsraelBen Gurion Airport IsraelPhoto: Chris Hoare CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The highways connecting Eilat to Haifa form a significant road link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. The road network covers more than 20,000 kilometers, of which 500 km consists of four-lane roads.

There are a number of railway lines (total length 1275 km), but their density is low. The railway line going south from Beersjeba to Eilat is important for opening up the Negev. However, as the railways are very sensitive to attacks, few goods and people are transported by train. There are plans at central and local level for the expansion and improvement of the national railway network and the construction of light rail connections in the major cities.

Public passenger transport takes place mainly by means of approximately 6000 passenger buses. The Egged Transportation Cooperative Society is the world's largest public transport company after London Transport.

Much use is made of the sjerut taxis, collective taxis, in which people only pay for their own seat. A striking feature in the infrastructure of the Occupied Territories is the network of Israeli roads. These are not accessible to Palestinian residents and form a kind of corridors between the various Jewish settlements and the Israeli territory.

For a long time, Israel had only one modern seaport, namely Haifa. The outdated port of Jaffa-Tel Aviv has closed; In Ashdod, 30 km south of Tel Aviv, a second Mediterranean seaport was built in 1965, and the new seaport of Eilat was established in the same year. Israel Shipyards in Haifa is one of the largest shipyards in the Eastern Mediterranean.

There are passenger ferry services from Haifa to Cyprus, Greece and Italy. Eilat is mainly used for import from and export to Asia and Australia. The main shipping company is Zim Israel Navigation, one of the ten largest container shipping companies in the world.

The international airport is Ben Gurion in Lydda (Lod) near Tel Aviv. The Israeli airline El Al from there maintains air connections with four continents. Foreign airlines also regularly fly to Ben Goerion. The other Israeli airports only have significance for domestic traffic, provided by the airline Arkia.

Israel is one of the world leaders in aircraft technology, including Israel Aircraft Industries.

Economy in the Occupied Territories

Micro industry GazaMicro industry GazaPhoto: Ehabich at English Wikipedia CC 3.0 no changes made

The Palestinian economy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is highly dependent on Israel. In the 1990s, more than 80% of imports came from Israel and the Palestinian economy also exported more than 80% of its total exports to Israel. Palestinian workers in Israel contribute more than a quarter of the gross national product by transferring part of their wages to family members in the Palestinian territories.

A characteristic of the Palestinian economy is small-scale agriculture and production (olives, citrus fruits). The economy is highly dependent on imports. The Palestinian economy is especially vulnerable because of Israel's security policy. Israel's closing of the borders hampers the free movement of people and goods, which has disastrous consequences for the Palestinian economy. The Palestinian economy also has to contend with the barriers Israel imposes on foreign investment.

In many ways, the Palestinian economy has characteristics of a developing country: malfunctioning government services, poorly developed infrastructure, unclear tax laws and a lack of a well-functioning banking system. On the other hand, the Palestinian population is highly educated and there are many skilled workers.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Dead Sea, IsraelDead Sea, IsraelPhoto: Yair Haklai CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Tourism has become of great importance to the Israeli economy since the 1990s. A lot of foreign money comes in and many people have found a job in tourism. The problem for Israel is political instability in the region, which means that the number of tourists can vary widely each year. Most tourists come from the United States, Germany, France and the Netherlands In the first half of 2008, more than 1.5 million international travelers visited the country. Israel expects to attract about 2.8 million visitors throughout 2008. Well-known attractions are the Dead Sea, the City of Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat, the latter two are discussed in more detail below.

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock and Western Wall, IsraelJerusalem, Dome of the Rock and Western Wall, IsraelPhoto: Publc domain

A visit to the city of Jerusalem, which is sacred to Christians as well as Muslims and Jews is one of those things you must do once in your life. A must visit place in the city is the Wailing Wall or the Kotel on the Temple Mount. The wall is a remnant of the Jewish Temple that once stood there, it was the western part. That is why it is also called the Western Wall. Jews have been gathering here since 70 BC to pray. Traditionally, notes with wishes are placed between the stones of the wall. The Western Wall is the stage for many festive events such as Bar Mitzwa’s. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is Jerusalem's main Christian pilgrimage site. It is believed that Jesus was crucified and buried here. The church dates from 1149 and is built in the Gothic style. This holy place is well worth a visit. The Dome of the Rock, with its impressive golden dome, should not be missing from this list. Like the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, this is a place of great religious importance. This is where Mohammend is said to have started his journey to heaven and Abraham is said to have sacrificed his son here. Believe this or not, the Dome of the Rock is a particularly beautiful building and well worth seeing. The dome was built in 691 and Quranic verses can be found on the walls. The ceiling painting is also very worthwhile.

Eilat at night, IsraelEilat at night, IsraelPhoto: Gal Gubesi CC 4.0 International no changes made

Eilat has become Israel's vacation paradise in recent years. The Israelis themselves discovered this a long time ago, but now the resort is also gaining fame among foreign holidaymakers. The attraction of the town mainly consists of the rich underwater world and the pleasant climate. The reef off the coast of Eilat is home to over 230 species of coral, home to the most wonderful fish and even turtles and dolphins. A vacation in Eilat simply cannot pass without checking out the coral reef. Diving and snorkelling are of course possible, but also a fun way to admire the underwater life is a trip in a glass bottom boat, so that you can see everything below the surface. Interested in more natural beauty? Not far from the seaside resort you will find the Timna Valley, where copper ore was formerly extracted, but which is now a nature park where the special Pillars of Solomon, the Mushroom and the famous arches have been carved in the rocks.

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Cahill, M.J. / Israel
Chelsea House Publishers

Gerhard, C. / Israël
Van Reemst

Griver, S. / Israël : inclusief de Palestijnse Autonome Gebieden

Groeneveld, M. / Israël: een leesboek

Het Heilig Land

Rauch, M. / Israël

Sanger, A. / Israël
Van Reemst

Semsek, H.-G. / Israël : Westelijke-Jordaanoever, excursies naar Jordanië
Het Spectrum

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Last updated December 2021
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