Driving Directions Israel

ISRAEL is a republic created in 1948 after the British with­drawal from Palestine when the region was 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 been 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 Israel has also withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula (returned to Egypt) and the Gaza Strip (now administered by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and containing several vast Arab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).

Israel occupies a long narrow stretch of land in the southeast of the Mediterranean. Its eastern boundary is 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 Jordan source through the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea and on into East Africa. The south of the country is made up of the Negev Desert’s triangular wedge, 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 percent of Israel, and there has been an extensive program to replant native species. Wildlife includes wolf, jackal, hyena, mongoose, porcupine, and gazelle.

The summer climate 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 center. Israel’s agriculture is based on collective settlements known as a 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, manganese, and 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 fertilizers.

Tourism also makes an important contribution to the economy.

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Located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Israel occupies most of the region historically known as Palestine. A dramatic variety of physical landscapes are found within Israel’s narrow borders, including the hills and mountains of Galilee, the Mediterranean coastal plains, the Negev Desert’s dry area, and the Dead Sea – the lowest point on the surface of the earth. The country can be divided into four major regions: the coastal plain to the west, the upland areas in the central and northern parts of the country, the Great Rift Valley along its eastern border, and the Negev Desert south.

The Golan Heights, located to the northeast along the Israeli-Syrian border, is an upland region covering 1,710 square kilometers (660 square miles). Its major topographical sections are the Hermon Range to the north and the Golan plateau to the south. The West Bank (5,878 square kilometers/2,270 square miles) is the former Jordanian section of Palestine, whose major physical features are Judea and Samaria’s hills and the Jordan River Valley. The Gaza Strip is a narrow strip of land at the southern end of Israel’s Mediterranean coast, adjacent to Egypt, with an area of only 363 square kilometers (140 square miles) and a maximum width of only 13 kilometers (8 miles).

Israel is situated along the border between the African Tectonic Plate and the Arabian Tectonic Plate. The border between these two plates forms part of the Great Rift Valley, the world’s most extensive geological fault, extending southward through eastern Africa as far south as Mozambique.

Israel lies on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean coastline is almost entirely smooth. The southern tip of Israel borders the Gulf of Aqaba, a gulf of the Red Sea. The soft pink and red coral that lines the Gulf of Aqaba’s shores gives the Red Sea its name. The coral and the plentiful marine life in these waters make the City of Elat popular diving and snorkeling center and home to an extensive underwater observatory and aquarium.

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