Israel Facts

Israel Facts and History


Israel – the Jewish state

Israel is located on the Mediterranean Sea and is about half the size of Switzerland. It borders Egypt to the southeast, Jordan and Syria to the east, and Lebanon to the north. There are many bathing beaches and a wide belt of dunes along the approximately 270 kilometers wide coastline. In the direction of the east, the country turns into mountains: the Galilean, Samaritan and Judean mountains. Behind the mountains the land drops steeply to the Jordan Rift, which lies below sea level. The lowland flows into the Dead Sea, the water level of which is approx. 400 meters below sea level. The highest point in Israel is Mount Hare Meron with a height of 1208 meters.

The landscape is mainly characterized by sand and gravel deserts. But that does not mean that the conditions in Israel made life impossible for flora and fauna. Since the country is climatically on the border between the Mediterranean and the Near East desert, the biodiversity is remarkably high. Here you can meet leopards, jackals, wolves and much more. Millions upon millions of migratory birds are observed here every spring and autumn. Some rare flowers can only be seen in Israel. The environmental policy is exemplary and attempts are being made to reintroduce many endangered species.

Israel is unique both historically and culturally. This is where Judaism and Christianity emerged, on which Islam is based. Thus three world religions were born here. In Jerusalem you can find the remains of the (second) Jewish temple on the Temple Mount, which was destroyed by the Romans after a revolt in 70 AD. The western enclosure wall is now visited by countless pilgrims as the Western Wall. The 170 meter long and 18 meter high wall is a place of silent, personal prayer. In the cracks in the wall the believers stick rolled up pieces of paper with prayers.

The place has also become a symbol of the conflict between Judaism and Islam, because the Temple Mount is on the Muslim side of the city and on the mountain are the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, two of the highest Muslim shrines. This is said to have been Muhammad’s ascension. The situation is extremely explosive. In the autumn of 2000 clashes broke out here, which triggered the Al-Aqsa intifada. To this day the country has not come to rest.

At the end of 2008, for example, Israel massively attacked Hamaz in the Gaza Strip. First from the air and later from the sea and in the end even with ground troops. The fighting probably killed 13 Israelis and over 1,400 Palestinians, including many women and around 500 children. On the 22nd day of the war – January 17, 2009 – Israel declared a unilateral armistice.

The visitor to the country should also remember that the Sabat is a special day on which almost all public life in the country comes to a standstill. In the neighborhoods of the ultra-orthodox, violations are sometimes punished quite brutally.

At the end of May 2010, Israeli “elite soldiers” attacked an unarmed aid convoy attempting to ship goods from Cyprus to the sealed Gaza Strip, killing 9 people in the storm and injuring dozen.

In July 2010, a 30-year-old Arab from eastern Jerusalem was sentenced to 18 months in prison for rape. The man had slept with a Jewess – and absolutely by agreement. Nevertheless, he was convicted because he had not told the woman that he was an Arab. Since he had introduced himself by his nickname Dudu, she assumed that he was Jewish.

In the city of Bet Shemesh women and girls have to use special sidewalks so that they cannot meet men. They also have to dress modestly. A seven-year-old girl who broke was spat on and beaten by Orthodox Jews in December 2011.

Name of the country State of Israel
Form of government Parliamentary republic
Geographical location In the “Middle East” on the eastern Mediterranean in Western Asia
Head of state President Shimon Peres
National anthem Hatikvah (hope)
Population around 8.5 million, with the occupied territories (settlers) around 8.9 million when the state was founded it was only around 600,000 (Credit: Countryaah: Israel Population)
Ethnicities around 70% come from Europe and Russia,the rest comes from Ethiopia, Morocco or the USA, among others
Religions Jews approx. 80%, Muslims approx. 15%, Christians 2-3%, Druze approx. 1.5%
Languages The official languages are Hebrew and Arabic, as well as Russian in particular
Capital since 1980 Jerusalem, which is only recognized by a few states.The USA is an exception
Surface Heartland 22,380 km² with the occupied areas an additional 6,830 km²
Highest mountain Hare Meron (Mount Hermon), 1,208 m
Longest river Jordan, with a length of 320 km
Largest lake Dead Sea, with an area of 1,020 km²
International license plate IL
Currency Shekels = 100 ago red
Difference to CET +2 h
Deepest region Dead Sea, with a water surface height of 400 m below sea level
International phone code 00972
Mains voltage, frequency 220 volts, 50 hertz, adapter required
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .il

Israel: history

Until about the 19th century

In the 13th century BC Various semi-nomadic tribes of the Israelites began colonizing the West Bank, the region on the Mediterranean Sea that is now surrounded by the states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. According to biblical tradition, from around 1020 BC Several tribes together and a monarchy emerged, the first king of which was Saul. The empire, which was often attacked not least because of its strategic location at the junction of three continents, was now able to better protect itself and successfully defend itself against enemy invaders, especially the Philistines. 926 BC The kingdom was divided into a northern part, Israel, and a southern part, which was named Judah.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, in 722 BC Israel was conquered by the Assyrians.

The southern kingdom had to evolve between 605 and 587 BC. To defend against the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in several wars. However, this managed to take the city of Jerusalem, which he then destroyed. Thus, the fall of the southern Reich of Israel was sealed. 538 BC The Persians defeated the Babylonian Empire and Judah became a Persian province as a result. Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt and Judeans who had fled or were deported were able to return to the region.

332 BC The Greeks occupied large parts of Israel under Alexander the Great. The Jewish religion was banned. After a temple desecration under Antiochus Epiphanes IV. In 164 BC. The Israeli population tried a revolt against Greek rule and the prevailing ban on religion. The leader of the Jews, Simon Maccabeus, then founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which gave the country about a hundred years of independence.

In 63 BC Then the Romans took the country under the general Pompey and made it the Roman province of Judea, in which they united territories conquered by different states. In this historical context, a few decades later, the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth began, which marks the beginning of the history of Christianity. In 66 AD there was another uprising of the Jewish population, to which the Romans responded with the siege of Jerusalem. After the city was conquered in AD 70, the Roman army slaughtered all of its residents and completely destroyed Jerusalem. The Jewish War ended in 73 AD with the fall of the rock fortress of Massada on the Dead Sea.

In 135 AD the Romans put down another Jewish revolt, the Bar Kochba revolt. By decree of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the country was renamed Palestine (which means “Philistine country” in German). The Romans built a garrison town on the site of Jerusalem.

In 391 AD, Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity to be the Roman state religion, which would also apply in the Roman province of Judea. By blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus Christ, the church leaders of the time created the cause of centuries of anti-Semitism. In 636 AD began the period of Arab domination over Palestine, which lasted until 1099 AD. Since then the country has been predominantly settled by Arabs. The Islam spread.

In 1099 AD Christian crusaders established the “Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem”. A large part of the remaining Jewish population fell victim to the crusades by the end of the 13th century. Countless Jews in Europe were persecuted by the Inquisition during this period. Due to the prohibition to work as civil servants, farmers or craftsmen, the only way to earn a living was money trading. This in turn gave rise to the growing hatred and stigmatization of Jews among the population.

In 1291 the Mameluks, an Islamic tribe, conquered Palestine and took over rule until 1517. Between 1517 and 1918 the country was ruled by the Ottomans, who incorporated it into the province of Syria. Palestine now had a desert-like character and was only inhabited by a few Jewish settlers and Arab nomads.

The Jews, who have been looking for a new home since the Roman rule over Israel, settled in almost all countries on earth over the centuries, which is also known as diaspora (diaspora comes from the Greek and means dispersion) . Nevertheless, they retained their national and cultural identity as one people. The longing for their original homeland remained an integral part of their religious ceremonies and their literature. The motif of Mount Zion is symbolic of Jerusalem.

20th century until today

In the eighties of the 19th century, the first mass immigration (aliyah) of around 30,000 European Jews into the previously sparsely populated Palestine began. With generous financial support from the French banker Baron Edmond de Rothschild, they began building new settlements. The resulting economic upswing in the region in turn attracted Arabs, who increasingly immigrated and also settled.

Theodor Herzl convened the first Zionist congress in Basel in 1897. On the occasion of the current anti-Semitist riots in Paris (Dreyfus affair), Herzl wrote the book “Der Judenstaat”, which had been published a year earlier in 1896. In 1902 his novel “Altneuland” was published, the Hebrew translation of which was available under the title Tel Aviv a few months later.

The second Aliyah (wave of immigration of Jews to Palestine) took place between 1904 and 1914. During this time, Tel Aviv, the first modern Jewish city, was founded in 1909. In 1911 the first kibbutzim (collective settlement) was established.

Great Britain gained dominance over Palestine during World War I. In the Balfour Declaration, passed in November 1917, the British government promised to create a “national homestead for the Jewish people”, but the area has not yet been determined. In 1922 the League of Nations awarded the mandate for Palestine to Great Britain on the condition that the promises of the Balfour Declaration be fulfilled and that the immigration of Jews into Palestine and their closed settlement in the country would be possible. The civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities already living in the area should not be affected by the entry into force of the declaration.

As a result, Great Britain divided Palestine into two administrative districts in July 1922. The region west of the Jordan, which made up about 22% of the entire area, was designated for the settlement of the Jewish population. The hopes of the Zionists for the establishment of a state of Israel with the borders from the time of the biblical kings David and Solomon were thereby disappointed. In the eastern part, the then Transjordan or today’s Jordan, the Hashemite (an Arab ruling family) King Abdullah was installed.

The Jewish population of Palestine grew rapidly due to the fourth and fifth waves of immigration (from 1924 to 1932 and from 1933 to 1939). To avoid the threat from the National Socialists, more and more European Jews moved to Palestine. This caused unrest among the Arabs residing in Palestine. However, Britain stopped the influx in 1939 and limited the number of immigrants to 75,000 for the next five years. The fear that the Arab states, out of anger at the growing influx of Jewish populations, might side with Nazi and anti-Semitist Germany in the coming war played a role here. Nevertheless, the Jewish underground organization smuggled Haganahapproximately 100,000 refugees entered the country during World War II. The British government had a number of refugees caught en route interned in camps in Cyprus. Of the Jews who remained in Europe, around 6 million people – that was a third of all world Jewry at that time – fell victim to the German annihilation mania. After the Holocaust, another 250,000 European Jews emigrated to Palestine.

A partition plan proposed by the British Pell Commission in 1937, which provided for Galilee as a percentage of the population at the time, as well as a coastal strip as Israeli territory and the remainder as Arab territory, had failed due to resistance from the Arabs. Jordan gained independence in 1946.

In November 1947, the UN decided with a two-thirds majority to divide West Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab-Palestinian state and to internationalize the area around Jerusalem. The resolution met with rejection from the Arab population. Jewish terrorist groups had been carrying out attacks against British institutions since 1942, and underground organizations also drove at least 200,000 Arabs from their homeland. Even after 1945, Great Britain opposed increased Jewish immigration to Palestine. In 1948 Great Britain gave back the League of Nations mandate.

Israel was officially established as the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 under Ben Gurion. There was an immediate declaration of war on the part of the Arab countries Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syriawho did not want to recognize the autonomy of the new state. The “Israeli War of Independence” lasted from May 1948 to July 1949 and gave Israel an expansion of its territory by around 50%, including West Jerusalem, the western Galilee around Akko and the northern Negev. Most of the Arab population fled or were expelled from the Israeli territories. Villages, buildings and documents belonging to the Palestinians in the conquered areas were destroyed. The Jordanians, however, conquered the eastern part of Jerusalem. In turn, they destroyed the Jewish quarter and desecrated the holy places. In the border areas the unrest lasted for several years.

In 1949, ceasefire agreements were signed between Israel and all Arab attackers, with the exception of Iraq. The territories designated for the Palestinians under the partition plan were then administered by Jordan (West Bank including East Jerusalem) and Egypt (Gaza Strip).

In 1950 the Knesset passed the Law of Return, which allowed all Jews in the world to immigrate to Israel. Another 700,000 Jewish immigrants came to the country in the first four years after it was founded. In the same year, 1950, the Arab economic boycott against Israel began.

In 1956 there was the Suez crisis. After years of border disputes, Egypt had declared the Suez Canal its own national territory and closed it to Israeli shipping. After Israeli troops regained access with British and French support, the USA and the Soviet Union (see Russia) forced them to withdraw. In 1958/59 Palestinian refugees founded the Fatah liberation movement in Kuwait. In 1964, at the session of the First Palestinian National Congress, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded.

To forestall an impending attack by Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Israel waged a preemptive strike in 1967, known as the Six Day War, in which it recaptured the eastern part of Jerusalem from Jordanian rule. It also annexed the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Several hundred thousand Palestinians fled. Subsequent restitution of the territories was refused by Egypt and Jordan because the Arab population living in these regions represented a source of unrest that threatened the Egyptian and Jordanian royal families. To gain better control over their territory, the government built Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. These settlements subsequently required a constant military presence, which made up a significant part of the annual government expenditure. The international community of states has and continues to condemn these settlements for the most part as contrary to international law, since international law permits the temporary confiscation of land in occupied areas only for military purposes. Israel has been asked several times by the UN to stop building settlements. Only the USA shows a tolerant attitude towards this approach.

In 1969 and 1970 there were again disputes on the Suez Canal, which led to a war of attrition between Egypt and Israel. This war was ended by diplomatic efforts on the part of the USA. In 1972 there was a Palestinian attack on the Israeli Olympic team.

Another attack by Syria and Egypt against Israel in 1973 on the highest Jewish holiday, Yom-Kippur, was repulsed by Israel. As a result, Israel occupied the Sinai peninsula. The Yom Kippur War, as it was called, lasted only a few weeks and yet it had far-reaching consequences for the Arab-Israeli relationship. The following negotiations between Israel and the neighboring Arab states led to the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement in 1979. In October 1974, the PLO was recognized as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the Arab summit conference in Rabat (Morocco). Its chairman, Yasser Arafat, gave a lecture to the UN General Assembly in New York in November of the same year.

In March 1977 the 13th meeting of the National Council of the PLO took place in Cairo at which a majority voted for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in a part of the country. In May of the same year, the right-wing national party won the Israeli parliamentary elections for the first time and replaced the previously ruling Labor Party. Menachem Begin was appointed prime minister. The new government pursued an uncompromising policy towards the Palestinians.

In November 1977 the Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat made a state visit to Jerusalem. Egypt was the first Arab country to be ready to recognize Israel as a separate state under international law. This was a consequence of Egypt’s turning away from the Soviet Union and the resulting relations with the United States. In September 1978, an agreement between Egypt, Israel and the United States (Jimmy Carter) was signed at Camp David, in which, among other things, the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories were soon to gain autonomy.

In March 1979, Egypt became the first Arab country to make peace with Israel. Egyptian President Sadat, who signed the peace treaty with Israel, was assassinated a few years later, in October 1982, in what was believed to be a fundamentalist attack.

In April 1982 Israel withdrew completely from the Sinai Peninsula, which belongs to Egypt.

After the expulsion of the Palestinian fedayeen (guerrillas) from Jordan, who then resided in southern Lebanon, the fighting on Israel’s northern border increased in the 1970s. After rocket attacks on Galilee, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon in 1982. They penetrated as far as Beirut and besieged the city until the Palestinian fighters withdrew. The aims of the Israeli invasion were to smash the military organization of the PLO and to install an Israeli-friendly government under Maronite leadership (Lebanese Christians) in Lebanon. However, these goals could not be achieved. A large part of the Israeli population also rejected this war. Thereupon the withdrawal took place in 1985. UN security troops were to be stationed in the region in order to ensure a permanent ceasefire in the border area between Israel and Lebanon. However, Israel retained control of a narrow strip of southern Lebanon as a “security zone”. However, this did not prevent that Israeli cities and villages in the north of the country were repeatedly taken under rocket fire by the deproiran Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah (“God’s Fighter”). Under these circumstances, the PLO established its new headquarters inTunis.

In 1984, about 8,000 Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel as part of the secret operation Moses. The campaign became known ahead of time through a press release and had to be canceled. Around 20,000 Ethiopian Jews remained exposed to the bloody persecution in their homeland.

In the 1980s, the tension between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories had intensified and in December 1987 there was an open outbreak of a mainly youth-led rebellion against the occupation regime, the so-called First Intifada (Arabic: liberation uprising) lasted until around 1993. Several suicide attacks were carried out by Palestinian terrorists even then. After the first peace negotiations, the Israeli government granted self-government to the areas of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Iraqi Scud missiles fell on Israel during the First Gulf War.

Between 1990 and 2000, around one million Jews immigrated from the former Soviet Union. The influx of scientists and academics brought about a period of economic growth in Israel. In 1991, right after the overthrow of the dictator Haile Mariam and before the rebels entered Addis Ababa, around 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were hurriedly flown to Israel as part of “Operation Shlomo”. In October 1991, a meeting took place in Madrid between the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union and Israeli, Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian and Palestinian politicians, which formed the basis for a number of further negotiations and agreements. In May 1994 Israel and the PLO signed the so-called Gaza-Jericho Agreement.

In October 1994, Israel and Jordan, which had been formally at war for over 45 years, signed a peace treaty. Israel returned a small part of the disputed area to Jordan. In 1995 the Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and the PLO Chairman Arafat concluded the “Oslo2” agreement. The agreement dealt with the expansion of Palestinian self-government. In October 1995, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzchak Rabin received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Shortly afterwards, a national-religious Israeli murdered the Israeli politician Rabin. In January 1996 Arafat became President of the newly established Palestinian Parliament. In May 1996 Benjamin Netanyahu was appointed Prime Minister of Israel.

At the beginning of 1997 the Israeli government handed over 80% of the Hebron settlement to the administration of the Palestinians. Peace negotiations, brokered by President Clinton, took place in October 1998 in Wye, Maryland, between Arafat and Netanyahu. However, they failed in early 1999 due to the instability of the Israeli government. In May 1999 Ehud Barak (Labor Party) became the country’s new Prime Minister. At the July 2000 Clinton meeting between Barak and Arafat at Camp David, no agreement could be reached.

The situation between Israelis and Palestinians subsequently worsened. After the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, all peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians were broken off. A series of Palestinian suicide bombings followed, to which the Israelis reacted, among other things, by occupying Arab cities. By 2005 there were several thousand deaths on both sides. The al-Aqsa Intifada ended on February 8, 2005 with the signing of the Sharm El-Sheikh Agreement by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the head of the Palestinian Movement Mahmud Abbas, the Egyptian President Husni Mubarak and King Abdullah II of Jordan. In August 2005, the Sharon government cleared all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four smaller settlements in the West Bank. Around a quarter of a million Israelis still live in the West Bank. However, the road network between the Jewish settlements, which is strictly guarded by the military and intended only for Israelis, hinders development in the Palestinian autonomous regions. On January 4, 2006, Ariel Sharon suffered a life-threatening stroke. Since then, his deputy Ehud Olmert (born 1945) has been in charge of official business as deputy. He is one of the co-founders of the new Kadina party, which is mainly composed of former Likud party members. Since the election in March 2006, he has been the country’s new prime minister. Ariel Sharon died in November 2006 of complications from his stroke.

At the end of 2008 At the beginning of 2009, Israel massively attacked the Gaza Strip from the air and sea as well as with ground troops in order to put an end to the rocket fire by the Hamaz. When the fighting ended on January 17, 2009, large parts of the Gaza Strip were in ruins and around 1,400 Palestinians were killed and around 5,000 injured.

Election on January 10, 2009

In the early election on January 10, 2009, the distribution of seats for the largest parties in the 120-member Knesset resulted. In total, the religious-national camp has 65 of the 120 seats.

A total of 33 parties ran for the election

Kadima with the top candidate Zipi Livni: 28 seats

Likud with the top candidate Benjamin Netanyahu: 27 seats

Israel Our house with the top candidate Avigdor Liebermann: 15 seats

Labor Party with the top candidate Ehud Barak: 13 seats

Shass party: 11 seats in

Torahudia: 5 seats

On April 1, 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu was inducted into office as Prime Minister of Israel. The cabinet consists of 30 ministers and 9 deputy ministers. Avigdor Liebermann became the country’s foreign minister. And Ehud Barak kept his post as Minister of Defense.

Israel Facts