|The State of Israel is a parliamentary
democracy, located in Southwest Asia, on the eastern edge of the
Mediterranean Sea. Formed in 1948 by the partition of Palestine, Israel was
invaded the day after its establishment by Arab armies; since then it has
fought several wars with neighbouring Arab states.
It is a country whose exact territorial boundaries and borders
are widely disputed. The territory Israel controls, including the West
Bank and Gaza Strip, borders the states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and
Egypt. Israel shares the coastlines of the Mediterranean, the Gulf of
Aqaba, and the Dead Sea. Israel has a technologically advanced market
economy with substantial government participation. It depends on imports
of fossil fuels, grains, beef, raw materials, and military equipment.
Despite limited natural resources, Israel has intensively developed its
agricultural and industrial sectors over the past 20 years. Israel is
largely self-sufficient in food production except for grains and beef.
Diamonds, high-technology, military equipment, software,
pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, and agricultural products (fruits,
vegetables, and flowers) are leading exports. Israel usually posts
sizable current account deficits, which are covered by large transfer
payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Israel possesses extensive
facilities for oil refining, diamond polishing, and semiconductor
In spite of its security problems, Israel has a substantial tourist
industry, mainly because of its climate, beaches, and the presence of
important historical sites, many of them of religious significance. In 2012
Israel’s 8 million people played host to over 3.5 million tourists from all
over the world. The most visited city is Jerusalem, a city
holy to three religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Here visitors will
see the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre. Temple Mount is the site of the ancient Jewish temple, and the
Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalene is here in the city. Jerusalem is
considered a sacred site in Sunni Islamic tradition: the prophet Muhammad
visited the city and the Dome of the Rock before he ascended into heaven.
From Jerusalem you can take day trips to Bethlehem,
birthplace of Jesus. Nazareth, his home town, is in Galilee
and is the largest Arab city in Israel. Of more recent origin than these
sites holy to three religions are: the Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem; the
Museum of the History of Jerusalem; and the Israel Museum. However the
single most visited site in Israel is not in Jerusalem, but on the top of an
isolated rock 400m (1,300 ft) high on the edge of the Judaean Desert and
overlooking the Dead Sea. This is the ancient fortress of Masada,
scene of a mass suicide of 960 Jewish rebels and their families during the
occupation by the Romans.
It is not only the important archaeological religious sites that attract
visitors to Israel. Eilat on the Red Sea is one of the best
places in the world for diving, with reefs and wrecks providing rich
under-water habitats. It is possible to swim with dolphins there too,
and there are diving courses and clubs along the bay. Eilat is also the
place for other adventurous activities, like kite-surfing, climbing,
biking and 4x4 trips into the desert and mountains.
|For those who like nightlife,
Israel’s second largest city, Tel Aviv, ‘the city that
never sleeps’ is the place to go. Also being on the beach, Tel Aviv attracts
nearly 3 million tourists a year, some coming to see the UNESCO world
Heritage Area of Bauhaus architecture.
A final thought: Israel is a geographically small country to visit; the
distance from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv is only around 64 km (39 miles) and even
Eilat in the far south is only 284 km (153 miles) from the capital city.