Israel – Jewish State
Israel became a country only in 1948. But the region where it is located, formerly called Palestine, has a rich history. It was the ancient home of the Jewish people. In the 600s it became part of the Muslim world. In the late 1800s Jews began a movement, called Zionism, to re-create a Jewish state. The Arabs in Palestine opposed the movement. In 1918 the British occupied Palestine. In the Six-Day-War of 1967 Israel gained more territory. In 1973 Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on the country. In 1979 Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon. Peace talks between Israel, the Arab countries, and Palestinians began in 1992.
The region, especially the city of Jerusalem, is important to people of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths.
Israel is located in the Middle East and borders Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Its area is 20,770 square kilometers. Its official name is State of Israel.
Hebrew and Arabic are the main languages. Many people also speak English.
Jerusalem is the capital of the country. It is a very holy city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The section of Jerusalem called the Old City is full of churches, mosques, and synagogues. You can hear the sound of chanting at the Western Wall, the only remaining part of an ancient Jewish temple. Because of the sound of the prayers the wall is often called the Wailing Wall. Above it is the Temple Mount, which is sacred to Muslims. To the north of the Temple Mount lies Via Dolorosa, or Street of Sorrows. This is believed to be the path Jesus walked while carrying the cross. It ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Christians built it over the place where they believe Jesus was killed, buried, and then raised from the dead.
The Dead Sea is rich in minerals, including potash and bromine. Phosphate, granite, low-grade copper deposits, sand, clay, and gypsum are found in the Negev Desert, and there are oil deposits in the northern Negev and north of Beersheba. The country is a top producer of cut and polished diamonds.
An important feature of Israel is the Jordan River. It flows into the Dead Sea, a large salt lake. Salt water is buoyant—that is, it makes things float.
The country’s highest point, Mount Meron, is in the mountains of Galilee in the north.
Deep canyons are located at the edges of the Golan Plateau. Small caves can be found throughout the country. Sodom Cave, near the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, is a salt cave.