21 June 2016

“Israel” A glance

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The State of Israel, an independent nation in southwest Asia, is located between the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and the head of the Gulf of AQABA, an arm of the Red Sea. Israel was established on May 14, 1948, as a Jewish state. Israel is considered the Holy Land for Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

The official language of Israel is Hebrew. English is widely used as a second language, and recently Russian has become commonplace. 

Freedom of religion and the inviolability of the holy places and centers of worship for all religions are guaranteed by law. For the Jewish population, supreme religious authority is vested in the Chief Rabbinate, made up of a chief rabbi. From the Ashkenazim and one from the Sephardim, along with the Supreme Rabbinical Council.


Israel's climate is Mediterranean in the north and arid in the south. In summer the entire area is dominated by a subtropical high that brings cloudless skies and no precipitation. In winter, the southern half of the country remains under the subtropical high, but weather in the northern half is influenced by cyclonic depressions that pass over the Mediterranean, bringing moderate rainfall. Precipitation in the north averages 700 mm (28 in), falling primarily from October to March. Rainfall amounts diminish rapidly to the south. Beyond BEERSHEBA and GAZA desert conditions predominate.

Average summer temperatures range from 18 degrees to 32 degrees C (65 degrees to 90 degrees F) over most of the country. Winters are mild, with temperatures averaging 14 degrees C (57 degrees F) along the coast and 9 degrees C (48 degrees F) in the mountains. The Rift Valley is about 9 C degrees (15 F degrees) warmer than the rest of the nation in winter. The Dead Sea area is the lowest place on the planet and the climate is one of the hottest regions in the world.
The rich variety of Israel’s plant and animal life reflects its geographical location as well as its varied topography and climate. Over 500 kinds of birds, some 200 mammal and reptile species, and 2,600 plant types (150 of which are endemic to Israel) are found within its borders. Over 150 nature reserves and 65 national parks, encompassing nearly 400 square miles (almost 1,000 sq. km.) have been established throughout the country.

The scarcity of water in the region has generated intense efforts to maximize use of the available supply and to seek new resources. In the 1960s, Israel’s freshwater sources were joined in an integrated grid whose main artery, the National Water Carrier, brings water from the north and center to the semi-arid south. Ongoing projects for utilizing new sources include cloud seeding, recycling of sewage water and the desalination of seawater.

Israel is a country of immigrants. Since its inception in 1948, Israel's population has grown almost ten-fold. Its 7.4 million inhabitants comprise a mosaic of people with varied ethnic backgrounds, lifestyles, religions, cultures and traditions. Today Jews comprise some 75.6% of the country’s population, while the country’s non-Jewish citizens, mostly Arabs, number about 24.2%.

About 90% of Israel’s inhabitants live in some 200 urban centers, some of which are located on ancient historical sites. About 5% are members of unique rural cooperative settlements - the kibbutz and the moshav.
Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel's capital (population 747,600), has stood at the center of the Jewish  people’s national and spiritual life since King David made it the capital of his kingdom some 3000 years ago. Today it is a flourishing, vibrant metropolis, the seat of the government and Israel’s largest city. Tel Aviv-Yafo (population 390,100), which was founded in 1909 as the first Jewish city in modern times, is today the center of the country’s industrial, commercial, financial and cultural life. Haifa (population 264,900), a known coastal town since ancient times, is a major Mediterranean port and the industrial and commercial center of northern Israel. Be'er Sheva  (population 184,500), named in the Bible as an encampment of the patriarchs, is today the largest urban center in the south. It provides administrative, economic, health, education and cultural services for the entire southern region.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy with legislative, executive and judicial branches. The head of the state is the president, whose duties are mostly ceremonial and formal; the office symbolizes the unity and sovereignty of the state. The Knesset, Israel’s legislative authority, is a 120-member unicameral parliament which operates in plenary session and through 12 standing committees. Its members are elected every four years in universal nation wide elections. The government (cabinet of ministers) is charged with administering internal and foreign affairs. It is headed by a prime minister and is collectively responsible to the Knesset.

School attendance is mandatory from age five, and free through age 18. Almost all three- and four-year-olds attend some kind of preschool program.  Israel’s institutions of higher education include universities, offering a wide range of subjects in science and humanities, and serving as research institutions of worldwide repute, colleges offering academic courses and vocational schools. The country’s high level of scientific research and development and the application of R&D compensate for the country’s lack of natural resources.

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he National Health Insurance Law, in effect from January 1995, provides for a standardized basket of medical services, including hospitalization, for all residents of Israel. All medical services continue to be supplied by the country’s four health care organizations.  Life expectancy is 82.2 years for women and 78.5 years for men; the infant mortality rate is 3.9 per 1,000 live births. The ratio of physicians to population and the number of specialists compare favorably with those in most developed countries.



The social service system is based on legislation which provides for workers’ protection and a broad range of national and community services, including care of the elderly, assistance for single parents, programs for children and youth, adoption agencies, as well as prevention and treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse. The National Insurance Institute provides all permanent residents (including non-citizens) with a broad range of benefits, including unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, survivors’ benefits, maternity grants and allowances, child allowances, income support payments and more.

Israel's industry concentrates on manufacturing products with a high added value that are primarily based on technological innovation. These include medical electronics, agro technology, telecommunications, computer hardware and software, solar energy, food processing and fine chemicals.

Israel's agricultural successes are the result of a long struggle against harsh, adverse conditions and of making maximum use of scarce water and arable land. Today, agriculture represents some 2.4% of GNP and 2% of exports. Israel produces 93% of its own food requirements, supplemented by imports of grain, oil seeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar, which are more than offset by the wide range of agricultural products for export.

Trade is conducted with countries on six continents. Some 54% of imports and 33% of exports are with Europe, boosted by Israel’s free trade agreement with the EU (concluded in 1975). A similar agreement was signed with the United States (1985), whose trade with Israel accounts for 17% of Israel’s imports and 40% of its exports.

Thousands of years of history, the ingathering of the Jews from over 70 countries, a society of multi-ethnic communities living side by side, and an unending flow of international input via satellite and cable have contributed to the development of an Israeli culture which reflects worldwide elements while striving for an identity of its own. Cultural expression through the arts is as varied as the people themselves, with literature, theater, concerts, radio and television programming, entertainment, museums and galleries for every interest and taste.

The official languages of the country are Hebrew and Arabic, but in the country’s streets many other languages can be heard. Hebrew, the language of the Bible, long restricted to liturgy and literature, was revived a century ago, accompanying the renewal of Jewish life in the Land.

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