Israel, officially the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia. It has an area of 20,770 square km. Jerusalem is its capital and largest city. Hebrew is the official language of Israel and New shekel (₪) (ILS) is its official currency. Its shares its land border with four countries (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.) The Mediterranean sea is the western border of Israel. The citizens or permanent residents of the State of Israel are called Israelis. Israel is located on the continent of Asia.
Israel is a small but diverse country in the Middle East with many attractions for tourists, including its temperate climate; many beaches; and archaeological, historical and biblical sites of interest. With these 50 facts about Israel; let’s discover more about its: history, culture, people, economy, conflict with Palestine; the Jews and Judaism.
Facts about Israel’s economy and people
1. Israel’s $100 billion economy is larger than all its abutting neighbors combined. It has the highest standard of living in the Middle East. It also has the highest per capita home computer ownership.
2. Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech and startup companies (over 3,000) in the world outside of the United States. It has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world for woman and people over 55, and the third highest in general overall.
Israel on the map
3. Israel is a world leader in the invention of new technologies. Some of the technologies it has produced are: the cell phone, voice mail technology, the first antivirus software, the Pentium MMX chip technology and most of the Window NT operating system.
4. Of Israel’s total workforce, 24 percent hold college degrees and 12 percent hold advanced degrees.
5. The world’s largest wholesale diamond center is Israel and most of the cut and polished diamonds in the world come from the country. It was also the first nation to adopt the Kimberly process. This is a new international standard that certifies diamonds as “conflict free”.
Israel’s cultural facts
6. Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing country in the world, in proportion to its population size. With people from more than 100 countries from five continents, Israel’s culture is extremely varied.
7. The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. The Hebrew language was dead and had not been spoken for centuries until the Israelis revived it.
8. Israel is the only country in the world that has a mandatory military service requirement for women.
9. Over 90 percent of the land is owned by the State of Israel and managed by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) which issues long-term leasing rights for it.
10. All citizens in Israel, Jews and Arabs, enjoy full political rights. Women also enjoy full rights, like they are not afforded anywhere else in the Middle East.
11. Hiking and camping are an integral part of the country’s culture. Israeli school and youth groups are taken on annual hiking trips throughout Israel, raising their children with the love for hiking and outdoor exercise.
12. While everyone in Israel does not keep kosher, the observance of kashrut influences the menus in public institutions and restaurants. There are 40 kosher McDonald’s fast food restaurants in Israel. Bamba, a peanut butter flavored snack, is made exclusively in Israel and considered by many to be the national food.
13. Israel has more of each of these per capita than any other country: more books printed, more museums and more orchestras. The most free and independent Arabic press in the Middle East is in the country of Israel.
14. Israel recycles wastewater and 50 percent of its irrigated water comes from this. More than 85 percent of Israel’s solid waste is treated to be environmentally sound as well, making Israel one of the most environmentally clean nations on earth.
15. Folk dancing is highly popular in Israel, especially the traditional folk dance called the Hora. Israeli modern dance companies are highly acclaimed in the international dance world. This folk dancing is also choreographed for recreational and performance dance groups.
Amazing and funny facts about Israel
16. Israelis, per capita, are the world’s biggest consumers of fruits and vegetables.
17. Israeli banknotes have Braille markings on them so the blind can “read” them.
18. Israeli scientists have ruled that giraffe meat and milk are kosher.
19. Israel has become the first country to ban the use of underweight models on catwalks, in order to combat anorexia.
20. According to the most recent statistics, the most popular baby name in Israel is Noam, for girls as well as boys. Noam means “pleasant”.
21. Israel actually began the 21st century with more trees (a net gain in their number of trees). It was one of only two countries in the world that did.
22. A company in Israel has developed the first jellyfish repellent in the world.
23. The airspace above Israel is a bird superhighway. At least 500 million birds in 200 different species fly through there each spring and fall, headed to and from Asia, Africa, and Europe.
24. In 1952, the famous scientist Albert Einstein was offered the position of President of Israel. He politely turned down the position.
25. Approximately 1,000 letters arrive in Jerusalem, Israel annually addressed to God.
Facts about Israel’s History
26. Israel is the only country in the world that has the same name, is located in the same land and speaks the same language as it did 3,000 years ago. Most of the Jews were forced by the Romans into the Diaspora (exile) after the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. But the Jewish people did not all leave.
27. Communities were reestablished in Tiberius and Jerusalem in the ninth century. Five other communities grew in the 11th century. Many Jews died during the 12th century Crusades but communities rebounded and established new communities in the following three centuries. From their inception until the present the Jewish people have maintained ties to their homeland for over 3,700 years.
28. Beginning in 1870, 78 years of nation-building efforts culminated in the reestablishment of the Jewish State of Israel. In 1917 the British government supports the establishment of a permanent Jewish state in Palestine with the Balfour Declaration, which is incorporated into the League of Nations Mandate in 1922.
29. Following the United Nations partition resolution of 1947 approving a plan for the partition of Palestine, around 600,000 Arabs are displaced between 1947 and 1949. The independent state of Israel is declared on May 14, 1948. David Ben-Gurion is the prime minister.
30. Military forces from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq immediately invade Israel, beginning the first in a series of Arab-Israeli wars. An armistice agreement is reached in 1949 and the West Bank is divided from Israel to become part of Jordan while the Gaza Strip becomes Egypt’s. This agreement is meant to be temporary and serve as a prelude to permanent peace treaties as Israel is admitted into the United Nations that same year.
31. The Israeli government adopts the Law of Return in 1950 stating that “Every Jew had the right to come to this country…” as an immigrant. They declare Jerusalem as their capital.
32. The Six-Day War is fought in 1967 between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Afterwards, Israel now includes double its land, along with the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. In 1973 Egypt and Syria begin air strikes against Israeli on Yom Kippur, its holy day. The fighting ends in two weeks with a U. N. resolution.
33. In 1977 Egyptian President Anwar Sadat meets with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in Jerusalem for peace talks. They continue with President Jimmy Carter at Camp David in 1978 and The Framework for Peace in the Middle East is established. Sadat and Begin share the Nobel Peace Prize that year. By March 1979 the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty is signed and Israel agrees to withdraw from the Sinai. Egypt agrees to allow Israeli ships free passage through the Suez Canal and to establish diplomatic relations with them. Egypt is kicked out of the Arab League and Sadat is assassinated.
34. In 1987 a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank known as the Intifada begins. (The Palestine Liberation Organization or PLO was formed in 1964.) The PLO accepts two U.N. resolutions: to recognize Israel as a sovereign country and to renounce terrorism. In 1991 the Madrid Peace Conference is organized by the U. S. and attended by Middle East heads of state. In 1993 PLO leader Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Rabin shake hands on a Middle East peace agreement. In 1994 they share the Nobel Peace Prize. Rabin is assassinated in 1995.
35. In 2003 Palestinian and Israeli leaders agree to the broad outlines of President George W. Bush’s Road Map to Peace but fighting continues to the present.
The Flag of Israel
Facts about Israel — Palestinian Arab Conflict
36. Palestinian Arabs deliberately targeted Jewish civilians in 1920-21 in violent riots in Jaffa and Jerusalem. More than 85 Jews were massacred in several locations in 1929. The Black Hand (the first Palestinian terror organization and a forerunner to the PLO) carried out attacks against Jews in the early 1930s. During the 1936-39 Arab Revolt, violence against Jewish civilians in Palestine was widespread.
37. In 1947 the U.N. voted to partition not only the state of Israel but also the British Mandate of Palestine, in recognition that both Arabs and Jews had legitimate claims to the land. Israel then, and repeatedly since, accepted the two-state solution with an internationally administered zone in Jerusalem. The Arab population refused and rioted. In 1948 the Palestinians ambushed and destroyed a medical convoy and the civilians with it. The Arab-Israeli conflict is, at heart, about the existence of Israel and not about occupation.
38. Since the founding of the PLO in 1964, leader Yasser Arafat repeatedly stated his goal was the complete elimination of the state of Israel. Following him, the leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas in Palestine, along with Iranian president Ahmadinejad, continued with the same aim: to destroy Israel entirely. To this day, the Palestinian media announces this goal repeatedly and the conflict continues. During the Six Day War schools children were massacred. Eleven Israeli athletics were killed at the 1972 Olympic Games.
39. War, terrorist acts, retaliations, and acts of violence have been ongoing for more than four decades. Suicide bombings began in 1989 and continue to this day. In recent years, shelling of Israeli targets has been done. Palestinians terrorists have their military targets embedded within civilian centers to increase the amount of collateral damage from any retaliatory strikes and swing public opinion away from Israel.
40. Notable in the midst of all the conflict are the two countries which have forged lasting peace accords with Israel and established diplomatic relationships with the state of Israel. The nations of Egypt and Jordan are the only ones.
41. The Jews are an ethno-religious group originating from the Hebrews, or Israelites. The Jewish people’s nationhood, religion and ethnicity are strongly interrelated; Judaism is their traditional faith but its observance may vary from strict observance to no observance at all.
42. Israel is the only Jewish state in the world. The Jewish people have maintained an unbroken presence there for well over 3,000 years. Its historical and archaeological sites testify to Jewish life through the centuries. Even the Koran refers to the Jews as the “Children of Israel”. The land of Israel is central to Judaism as the land God gave to them.
43. Historically from the time of Abraham for about 1,500 years, having a Jewish father made someone a Jew. For the following 1,900 years having a Jewish mother made someone a Jew. That rule has changed in the last 20 years. Now if you are Orthodox or Conservative, you are a Jew if your mother is Jewish. If you are a Reform or Reconstructionist Jew, you are Jewish if either parent is. You are born a Jew and no one can take that away from you.
44. The Yiddish language has been a part of Jewish identity for over a thousand years. Yiddish is used in a by Orthodox Jews worldwide and is Haredi Judaism’s first language of the home, school, and in many social settings. It is also used in Hasidic Yeshivas.
45. Today there are around 14,500,000 Jewish people in the world.
Facts about Judaism
46. Judaism is the religion, culture, philosophy and way of life of the Jewish people. An ancient monotheistic religion, Judaism is the 10th largest religion in the world. Judaism is the expression of the covenantal relationship God has established with the “children of Israel”.
47. In Judaism, religion and life are one. They cannot be separated. There are celebrations and holidays throughout the year, like Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Judaism and the Jews use the lunar calendar in which the New Year comes as early as August through October. In Israel on Yom Kippur all stores are closed and there is no traffic as everyone stays home to celebrate. When a Jewish boy turns 13 or a Jewish girl turns 12 they celebrate their Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, which is a rite of passage into adulthood. Other holidays include the Sabbath, the Festival of Booths, Hanukkah and Purim.
48. Judaism has developed different sects and faith expressions over time. These include Conservative, Orthodox, Hasidic, and reformed Judaism. The Star of David is the religious symbol of Judaism. The brimless skullcap worn in Temple (and at all times by some men) is a kippah and a prayer shawl is called a Tallit.
49. A kosher diet involves eating according to dietary laws found in the Torah. Kosher means fit for use and as it relates to food, it means not only eating according to the prescribed Biblical code but also with reverence for all life and the connection between what we eat and how we act in the world.
50. Different foods go with different Judaic holidays and celebrations. For Passover dinner, Jews still eat crispy flat bread called matza. The bread made for the Sabbath dinner is called challah.