Geographical Location and Conditions
Israel is situated in the Middle East and borders on Lebanon on the north, Jordan on the east and Egypt on the south and west. In its north-western part, Israel is washed by the Mediterranean Sea. The country is rather small, being a little smaller than New Jersey (if to compare with the US states). The greatest part of the country’s territory is occupied by the Negev desert; there are also some coastal plains, mountains in the centre and the Jordan Rift Valley. The only important river is the Jordan. The climate is moderate, with hot and dry conditions prevailing in the southern and eastern areas. Natural resources comprise timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, clay, sand and phosphate rock. Current environmental problems include a shortage of freshwater resources and arable land, and air and water pollution of air and water.
People and Social Life
The population of Israel comprises about 6,9 million inhabitants (estimated in May 2005). The majority of the population are Jewish ethnic groups (about 82%), the rest being non-Jewish. The government politics is directed towards encouraging Jewish people coming to settle down in Israel. Hebrew and Arabic are two recognized official languages, the latter being used by the Arab minority of the country. English is a commonly used foreign language. There are four main religions practices in Israel: Judaism, Islam, Arab Christian and Druze.
The official name of the country is the State of Israel. It is divided into six districts with Jerusalem as a capital city. Although Jerusalem was proclaimed a capital in 1950, the US, like many other countries, has their Embassies in Tel Aviv. There is no formally established constitution in the country. The Declaration of Establishment (1948), the laws of the Knesset (parliament) and the Israeli citizenship law are the main legislative acts in correspondence to which the country is ruled. The Knesset elects the president every 5 years, and the prime minister is elected by popular vote every 4 years. In 1948 and after there was a number of wars induced by the Jewish-Arab confrontation, which didn’t, however, end in any success. Several peace treaties were signed and in 2005 there was a governing coalition formed by the Likud, Labor and United Torah Judaism parties, but the internal situation remains not very stable.
Israel has a developed market economy, highly supplied with modern technological inventions and characterized by large government participation. Having limited natural resources, the country imports grain, raw materials, military equipment. However, over the past 20 years it has provided itself with most of the food products owing to the development of agricultural and industrial sectors of the economy. Cut diamond, high-tech equipment, fruit and vegetables belong to the exporting products.
After the Cold War, when Jewish-nationality people were welcome to come and settle down in Israel, the large flow of people boosted the economy. However, higher fiscal and monitoring policies imposed in 1996 by the government added by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict slowed down the process. Today the economy begins to pick up thanks to rising consumer confidence, developing tourism sector, foreign direct investment and higher demand for Israeli exports.