Created as a new state in 1948, Israel lies on the eastern Mediterranean. The current phase of the Palestinian intifada (armed struggle) against Israeli occupation began in 2000.
Geography: Coastal plain. Desert in the south. In the east lie the Great Rift Valley and the Dead Sea – the lowest point on the Earth’s land surface.
Climate: Summers are hot and dry. Wet season, March–November, is mild.
People and Society: Large numbers of Jews settled in Palestine before Israel was founded in 1948. After World War II, there was a massive increase in immigration. Sephardi Jews from the Middle East and Mediterranean are now in the majority, but Ashkenazi Jews from central Europe still dominate business and politics. Palestinians in Gaza and Jericho gained limited autonomy in 1994 but their desire, backed by most of the world, for a separate state has led to years of fierce violence.
The Economy; High-tech industries, modern infrastructure and educated workforce, but hampered by conflict and boycotts.
Insight: All Jews worldwide have the right to Israeli citizenship
Official Name: State of Israel
Date of Formation: 1948
Capital: Jerusalem (unrecognized by UN)
Population: 7.17 million
Total Area: 8019 sq. miles (20,770 sq. km)
Density: 913 people per sq. mile
Languages: Hebrew*, Arabic*, Yiddish, German, Russian, Polish, other
Religions: Jewish 76%, Muslim (mainly Sunni) 16%, other 6%, Christian 2%
Ethnic Mix: Jewish 76%, other (mostly Arab) 24%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Shekel = 100 agorot