Driving Directions Israel

ISRAEL is a republic that was created in 1948 after the British with­drawal from Palestine when the region partitioned following a recommendation made by the United Nations. The new country was born into conflict, for the declaration of its existence by Jewish lead­ers led to immediate warfare with Arab neighbors – the first of five such Arablsraeli wars. Israel won this first war (and all others since) and, as a result, immediately acquired new territory beyond that envisaged by the United Nations.

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Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel took control of East Jerusalem, the West Bank (the region between Jerusalem and the River Jordan, previously Jordanian), the Golan Heights (Syrian), the Gaza Strip (a narrow band of territory in southwest Israel beside the Mediterranean Sea administered by Egypt) and the Sinai Peninsula (also Egyptian). A degree of self-rule has since awarded to Palestinian settlements in the West Bank. Israel has also withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula (returned to Egypt) and the Gaza Strip (now administered by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and containing several vast Arab refugee camps).

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Israel occupies a long narrow stretch of land in the southeast of the Mediterranean. Its eastern boundary formed by the Great Rift Valley through which the River Jordan flows to the Dead Sea. The River Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea occupy the Great Rift Valley, which extends from beyond the source of the Jordan through the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea and on into East Africa. The south of the country made up of the triangular wedge of the Negev Desert, which ends at the Gulf of Aqaba.

Israel has quite a varied topography of plains, hills, mountains, and deserts. Narrow coastal plains extend from north to south along the Mediterranean shores and are densely populated. The Plain of Esdraelon extends across the northern part of Israel from Haifa to the valley of the River Jordan and reclaimed marshland, which intensively cultivated and settled. The Hills of Galilee occupies the northern part of Israel from the Sea of Galilee to the coast. The Judean and Samarian Hills extend in a north-south direction behind the coastal plains throughout most of Israel.

Natural vegetation varies according to location and amount of rainfall but most plants are adapted to withstand drought. Wooded areas cover about 6 per cent of Israel and there has been an extensive programme to replant native species. Wildlife includes wolf, jackal, hyena, mongoose, porcupine and gazelle.

The climate in summer is hot and dry and in winter mild with some rain but colder in the north. Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv-Yafo) is the country’s capital and main commercial centre. Israel’s agriculture is based on collective settlements known as kibbutz.

The country is virtually self-sufficient in foodstuffs and a major exporter of its produce. The Negev Desert has mineral resources, such as copper, phosphates and manganese, plus commercial amounts of natural gas and petroleum. Other assets are the vast amounts of potash, bromine and other minerals found in the Dead Sea.

A wide range of products is processed or finished in the country and main exports include finished diamonds, textiles, fruit, vegetables, chemicals, machinery and fertilisers.

Tourism also makes an important contribution to the economy.

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