Israel (Hebrew: מדינת ישראל; Arabic: دولة إسرائيل) is a small yet diverse Middle Eastern country with a long coastline on the eastern Mediterranean Sea and a small window on the Red Sea at the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba). Israel is bordered by Egypt and the Gaza Strip to the southwest, by Jordan to the east, and by Syria and Lebanon to the north. It shares borders to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea with the West Bank and Jordan. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been under Israeli de-facto rule since 1967. In addition to the majority Palestinian Arab populations living in these regions, the Israeli Government has built many Israeli settlements in the West Bank as well as in the annexed Golan Heights.
Israel was established as a state for the Jewish people, following the Second World War. Israel is considered part of the Holy Land (together with areas of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories). The three major monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—all have historical ties to the region. Israel thus contains a vibrant modern history and culture, based in part on the diverse, immigrant origins of its inhabitants returning from the Jewish Diaspora. These aspects make Israel a fascinating destination for many travelers and pilgrims. As a result of this vast mix of culture, in addition to the official languages of Hebrew and Arabic, Russian, French, Spanish, Amharic and Yiddish are also spoken by a significant minority of Israelis. English in many ways acts as second language. Within Israel’s recognized pre-1967 borders, about 80% of Israelis identify themselves as Jewish, the remainder classify themselves as either as Arab and/or Palestinian, Bedouin or Druze.
Israel is a highly urbanized and economically developed society and is therefore best divided for the traveler into its main cities and towns, followed by the regions and other sites.
Government Parliamentary Republic
Currency New Israeli Shekel (₪)
Area total: 20,770 km2
water: 440 km2
land: 20,330 km2
Population 7,933,200 (2012 estimate)
Language Hebrew (official), Arabic (official), Russian and English most commonly used foreign languages
Religion Jewish 75%, Muslim 16% (mostly Sunni Muslim), Christian 2%, other 1% (2008 est.)
Electricity 230V/50Hz (Israeli plug)
Country code +972
Internet TLD .il
Time Zone UTC +2/DST +3
Emergencies dial 100 for police
102 for fire
101 for medical