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Israel Information - Page 2
Canaanites were early inhabitants of the land which was later known as Israel and Palestine. It is thought that Abraham, the Patriarch of the Jewish people, was a semi-nomadic chieftain who lived in Canaan for some of his lifetime. Abraham's descendants migrated to Egypt at a time of famine and returned to Canaan after many years.

Saul was chosen as the first King of Israel, followed by David and Solomon. During the reign of Solomon's son, Rehoboam, the twelve tribes divided into the Kingdom of Israel ruled by Jeroboam and the Kingdom of Judah (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) ruled by Rehoboam in Jerusalem.

In the eighth century BC the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians from Mesopotamia (Iraq). The Assyrians deported the Ten Tribes of Israel, scattering them, in groups, throughout the Middle East. They became known as the Lost Tribes.

The remaining Tribes of Judah and Benjamin survived wars and deportation until the Roman army, led by Titus, conquered Jerusalem the capital city. In 70 AD the Romans began to expel the Judaeans. Jews dispersed to Africa, Asia and Europe (the Jewish Diaspora).

Over the years the Roman Empire evolved into the Byzantine Empire and continued to rule the land they called Palestine. (The Roman Emperor Diocletian divided the Roman Empire into two halves, with the Eastern Capital in Constantinople - or Byzantium. The Eastern Empire prospered while the West crumbled.)

In 638 Jerusalem was taken from the Byzantines by the Arabs under the leadership of Caliph Umar - Jerusalem became one of the three holy cities of Islam. A number of centuries later Pope Urban II decided to reclaim Jerusalem for the Christians. In 1095 he appealed to the kings and noblemen of Europe to join in a Crusade to take the city from the Arabs.

Struggles over Jerusalem continued for many years, followed by Ottoman rule from 1516 until the First World War (1914-1918). After the War, Palestine became a League of Nations Mandate governed by Great Britain (the British Mandate for Palestine included Jordan).

During the Second World War (1939-1945) the Nazis killed millions of Jewish people in Europe during the Holocaust. Following the War the momentum grew for a Jewish homeland and on 14 May 1948 Israel became a Jewish state.

Tension in the region was high, and the War of Independence broke out immediately following the proclamation of the State of Israel. The region remained volatile and a number of wars took place in the following decades: the Suez-Sinai War (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the War of Attrition (1967-1970) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).

War and occupation of territory meant that the [proposed UN] Palestinian Arab state did not come into being. In March 2002 the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel: "a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders."

The State of Israel is a technologically advanced country with a market economy.

Israel has few natural resources and needs to import oil, raw materials and grain. Scarcity of land suitable for farming and lack of fresh water resources pose problems for the farming industry. Despite these drawbacks the country is mainly self-sufficient in food production.

Agricultural products include vegetables, citrus fruits, dairy produce and eggs. Acquaculture is part of the fishing industry.

Industries are potash, phosphates, caustic soda, construction, cement, metal products, chemicals, plastics, wood and paper products, diamond cutting, textiles, clothing, food processing and wine.

With the break-up of the USSR in the 1990s Russian Jews arrived in Israel bringing with them skills in high technology. These skills have assisted Israel to become a world leader in computer software and communications. Other high technology projects are aviation, medical electronics and fibre optics.

The services sector provides the highest percentage of the country's Gross Domestic Product. Tourism has been an important earner of foreign currency but the threat of terrorism has dampened growth in this sector.

The global economic crisis affected Israel's exports to the United States and EU, Israel's top trading partners. However, in the summer of 2009 the economy began to show signs of recovery. (2011)

The Jewish Diaspora led to a Jewish contribution to the arts in countries throughout the world. For example, in music, the composers Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) - the Czech Republic; Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) - Austria and Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) - the USA.

In 1936, Bronislaw Huberman, a Polish musician, founded The Palestine Orchestra. Once the State of Israel was established (1948), the Orchestra changed its name to The Israel Philarmonic Orchestra.

In literature, Lea Goldberg (1911-1970), a Jewish poet and writer born in Lithuania, became one of Israel's most popular writers for children. 1966 saw an award in the Nobel Prize in Literature to Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970), an Israeli born in Galicia in Poland. (Agnon shared the Nobel Prize with Nelly Sachs).

In the world of art Israel has many painters, sculptors and photographers.

Basketball, volleyball, rugby, football, cricket and tennis are played in Israel. There are also plenty of opportunities for water sports such as sailing, surfing, diving and swimming.

Israel started to compete in the Olympic Games in 1952. Twenty years later, in Munich, terrorism was brought to the Olympic Games on 5 September 1972 when members of the Black September terrorist group killed eleven members of the Israeli Olympic Team.

Traditional Jewish holidays and holy days include the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Tu B'Shvat, Passover, Purim and Shavout.

Independence Day (14 May 1948) and Holocaust Memorial Day are also commemorated.

News from Israel is available in Newslink.

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