|Background: Following World War II, the British withdrew from
their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and
Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the
Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep
tensions between the two sides. The territories occupied by Israel since
the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless
otherwise noted. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid
Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations are being conducted
between Israel and Palestinian representatives (from the Israeli-occupied
West Bank and Gaza Strip) and Israel and Syria, to achieve a permanent
settlement. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to
the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Outstanding territorial and other
disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan
Treaty of Peace. On 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from
southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982.
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Currency: 1 new Israeli shekel (NIS) = 100 new agorot
Geography of Israel
Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and
People of Israel
Of the approximately 6.4 million Israelis (Nov. 2001), about 5.2 million were counted as Jewish, though some of those are not considered Jewish under Orthodox Jewish law. Since 1989, nearly a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union have arrived in Israel, making this the largest wave of immigration since independence. In addition, almost 50,000 members of the Ethiopian Jewish community have immigrated to Israel, 14,000 of them during the dramatic May 1991 Operation Solomon airlift. Thirty-six percent of Israelis were born outside Israel.
The three broad Jewish groupings are the Ashkenazim, or Jews who trace their ancestry to western, central, and eastern Europe; the Sephardim, who trace their origin to Spain, Portugal, southern Europe, and North Africa; and Eastern or Oriental Jews, who descend from ancient communities in Islamic lands. Of the non-Jewish population, about 80% are Muslims, 10% are Christian, and about 10% are Druze.
Education is compulsory from age 6 to 16 and is free up to age 18. The school system is organized into kindergartens, 6-year primary schools, 3-year junior secondary schools, and 3-year senior secondary schools, after which a comprehensive examination is offered for university admissions. There are seven university-level institutions in Israel, a number of regional colleges, and an Open University program.
With a population drawn from more than 100 countries on 5 continents, Israeli society is rich in cultural diversity and artistic creativity. The arts are actively encouraged and supported by the government. The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra performs throughout the country and frequently tours abroad. The Jerusalem Symphony and the New Israel Opera also tour frequently, as do other musical ensembles. Almost every municipality has a chamber orchestra or ensemble, many boasting the talents of gifted performers from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Israel has several professional ballet and modern dance companies, and folk dancing, which draws upon the cultural heritage of many immigrant groups, continues to be very popular. There is great public interest in the theater; the repertoire covers the entire range of classical and contemporary drama in translation as well as plays by Israeli authors. Of the three major repertory companies, the most famous, Habimah, was founded in 1917.
Population: 6,276,883 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Israel > Map Economy History