Israel is located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered on the north by Lebanon, on the northeast by Syria, on the east by Jordan and the West Bank, and on the southwest by Egypt and the Gaza Strip. It is located between 29° and 34° north latitude and 34° and 36° east longitude.
Israel’s sovereign territory (as defined by the 1949 Armistice Agreements and excludes all areas seized by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War) is about 20,770 square kilometers (8,019 square miles), with two percent of that area being water. Israel, on the other hand, is so small that its exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean is twice the size of the nation. The entire area under Israeli law, which includes East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 square miles), whereas the total area under Israeli authority, which includes the military-controlled and partly Palestinian-governed West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi). Despite its small size, Israel has a diverse landscape, ranging from the Negev desert in the south to the interior lush Jezreel Valley, Galilee and Carmel mountain ranges, and the Golan Heights in the north. The Israeli Coastal Plain, which runs along the Mediterranean coast, is home to 57% of the country’s population. The Jordan Rift Valley, located east of the central highlands, is a tiny portion of the 6,500-kilometer (4,039-mile) Great Rift Valley.
The Jordan River flows from Mount Hermon via the Hulah Valley and the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, which is the lowest point on the planet’s surface. The Arabah continues south till it reaches the Red Sea’s Gulf of Eilat. Makhteshim, or erosion cirques, are unique to Israel and the Sinai Peninsula. Ramon Crater in the Negev is the world’s biggest makhtesh, measuring 40 by 8 kilometers (25 by 5 mi). According to a study on the Mediterranean basin’s environmental condition, Israel has the most plant species per square meter of any of the basin’s nations.
Tectonics and seismicity
Tectonic movements within the Dead Sea Transform (DSF) fault system created the Jordan Rift Valley. The DSF connects the African Plate to the west with the Arabian Plate to the east, forming a transform boundary. The Arabian Plate includes the Golan Heights and all of Jordan, whereas the African Plate includes the Galilee, West Bank, Coastal Plain, and Negev, as well as the Sinai Peninsula. As a result of this tectonic configuration, the area has a high level of seismic activity. The whole Jordan Valley section is believed to have ruptured many times, including during the most recent two large earthquakes along this structure in 749 and 1033. The slip deficit that has built up since the 1033 incident is enough to produce a Mw7.4 earthquake.
The most devastating earthquakes that we are aware of happened in 31 BCE, 363, 749, and 1033 CE, or about every 400 years on average. Every 80 years, destructive earthquakes with significant loss of life occur. While there are strict construction regulations in place now, and newly built structures are earthquake-safe, as of 2007, the majority of Israel’s buildings were older than these regulations, and many public buildings, as well as 50,000 residential buildings, did not meet the new standards and were “expected to collapse” if exposed to a strong quake. Given the region’s unstable political status and the presence of important holy sites, an earthquake of magnitude 7 on the Richter scale may have disastrous repercussions for global peace.
Israel has a broad range of temperatures, particularly in the winter. The climate in coastal regions like Tel Aviv and Haifa is characteristic of the Mediterranean, with mild, wet winters and long, scorching summers. The climate of Beersheba and the Northern Negev is semi-arid, with scorching summers, mild winters, and fewer rainy days than in the Mediterranean. The southern Negev and Arava regions have a desert climate, with hot, dry summers and moderate winters with few rainy days. In 1942, in Tirat Zvi kibbutz in the northern Jordan river valley, the hottest temperature on the Asian continent (54.0 °C or 129.2 °F) was recorded.
Mountainous regions, on the other hand, may be windy and chilly, with places of 750 meters or higher (the same height as Jerusalem) receiving at least one snowfall per year. Rain is uncommon in Israel from May through September. Due to a scarcity of water, Israel has created a number of water-saving methods, such as drip irrigation. Israelis also utilize solar energy to take advantage of the abundant sunshine, making Israel the world leader in solar energy usage per capita (practically every house uses solar panels for water heating).
Due to Israel’s position between the temperate and tropical zones, between the Mediterranean Sea in the west and the desert in the east, the nation has four distinct phytogeographic areas. As a result, Israel’s flora and wildlife are very varied. In Israel, there are 2,867 plant species that have been identified. There are at least 253 imported and non-native species among them. There are 380 nature reserves in Israel.
In 2016, Israel’s population was projected to be 8,541,000 persons, with 6,388,800 (74.8%) Jews according to the civil administration. Arabs made up 20.8 percent of the population, with non-Arab Christians and individuals with no faith recorded in the civil register accounting for the remaining 4.4 percent. Large numbers of migrant laborers from Romania, Thailand, China, Africa, and South America have arrived in Israel during the past decade. Because many of them are in the nation illegally, exact numbers are unclear, although estimates put the number at about 203,000. Approximately 60,000 African migrants have reached Israel by June 2012. Approximately 92 percent of Israelis reside in cities.
When compared to other nations with significant immigration, Israel’s population retention rate has been approximately the same or higher since 1948. Jewish emigration from Israel (called yerida in Hebrew) is characterized by demographers as moderate, although it is often highlighted by Israeli government departments as a significant danger to Israel’s future.
In 2009, approximately 300,000 Israeli citizens resided in West Bank settlements such as Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel, as well as pre-state colonies in towns like Hebron and Gush Etzion that were re-established following the Six-Day War. In 2011, East Jerusalem had a population of 250,000 Jews. The settlements on the Golan Heights are home to 20,000 Israelis. There are approximately 500,000 Israeli settlers in all (6.5 percent of the Israeli population). Approximately 7,800 Israelis resided in Gaza Strip communities until the government removed them as part of its 2005 disengagement plan.
Israel was founded as a Jewish homeland and is often referred to as a Jewish state. The country’s Law of Return gives Israeli citizenship to all Jews and those of Jewish heritage. Over three-quarters of the population, or 75.5 percent, are Jews from various Jewish origins. Around 4% of Israelis (300,000) are Russian descendants of Jewish ancestors or family members who are not Jewish according to rabbinical law but were eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Around 76 percent of Israeli Jews were born in the country, while 16 percent came from Europe and the Americas and 8% came from Asia and Africa (including the Arab World). Jews from Europe and the former Soviet Union, as well as their descendants born in Israel, account for about half of all Jewish Israelis, including Ashkenazi Jews. The remainder of the Jewish community is made up of Jews who left or fled Arab and Muslim nations, as well as their descendants, including both Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews. Intermarriage rates among Jews are above 35%, according to recent research, and the proportion of Israelis descended from both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews is increasing by 0.5 percent each year, with over 25% of schoolchildren currently coming from both groups.
Israel is a key portion of the Holy Land, which is important to all Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druze, and the Bahá’ Faith.
According to a sociological study of Israeli Jews over the age of 20, 55 percent identify as “traditional,” whereas 20 percent identify as “secular Jews,” 17 percent identify as “Religious Zionists,” and 8% identify as “Haredi Jews.” By 2028, Haredi Jews are projected to account for more than 20% of Israel’s Jewish population.
Muslims are Israel’s biggest religious minority, accounting for 16 percent of the population. Christians make up around 2% of the population, whereas Druze make about 1.5 percent. Most Christians and Jews regard Messianic Judaism to be a type of Christianity. The Christian community consists mainly of Arab Christians, but it also includes post-Soviet immigration, multinational foreign workers, and Messianic Judaism adherents. Many other religious groups, such as Buddhists and Hindus, have a presence in Israel, albeit in tiny numbers. The Orthodox rabbinate considers approximately 300,000 of Israel’s more than one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union to be non-Jewish.
The Old City of Jerusalem, which includes the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is of particular significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians since it is home to landmarks that are central to their respective beliefs. Other holy sites in Israel include Nazareth (the site of the Annunciation of Mary in Christianity), Tiberias and Safed (two of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities), the White Mosque in Ramla (the shrine of the prophet Saleh in Islam), and the Church of Saint George in Lod (holy in Christianity and Islam as the tomb of Saint George or Al Khidr). The West Bank also has a number of additional holy sites, including Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, the birthplace of Jesus and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The Bahá’ World Centre in Haifa houses the Bahá’ Faith’s administrative headquarters as well as the Báb’s Shrine; the faith’s founder is buried in Acre. Apart from maintenance workers, there is no Bahá’ community in Israel, despite the fact that it is a popular pilgrimage destination. Following stringent regulation, Bahá’ staff in Israel do not preach their religion to Israelis. The reformist Ahmadiyya movement’s Middle East center lies a few kilometers south of the Bahá’ World Centre. Its mixed-race neighborhood of Jews and Ahmadi Arabs is the country’s only one of its type.
In terms of economic and industrial growth, Israel is the most advanced nation in Southwest Asia and the Middle East. Israel’s high-tech boom and fast economic growth are mainly due to the country’s high-quality university education and the creation of a highly motivated and educated population. It became a member of the OECD in 2010. On the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the nation is rated third in the area and 38th globally. It boasts the world’s second-largest number of startup businesses (after the United States) and the most NASDAQ-listed companies outside of North America. According to the IMD’s World Competitiveness Yearbook, Israel was rated 17th among the world’s most economically developed countries in 2010. The Israeli economy was rated first in the rate of research and development center investments, as well as the world’s most resilient economy in the face of disasters. The Bank of Israel was rated #1 among central banks in terms of efficiency, up from eighth position in 2009. Israel was also rated first in the world for trained labor supply. The Bank of Israel has foreign-exchange reserves of $78 billion.
Apart from cereals and cattle, Israel has become virtually self-sufficient in food production due to intense growth of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the last decades, despite limited natural resources. Raw materials, military equipment, investment products, rough diamonds, energy, cereals, and consumer items were among the $77.59 billion in imports to Israel in 2012. Electronics, software, computerized systems, communications technology, medical equipment, medicines, fruits, chemicals, military technology, and cut diamonds are among Israel’s most popular exports; in 2012, the country’s exports totaled $64.74 billion. Israel is a pioneer in the field of solar energy development. Israel is a world leader in water conservation and geothermal energy, and its advancements in software, communications, and life sciences have drawn parallels to Silicon Valley. Israel is also rated first in the world in terms of R&D spending as a proportion of GDP, according to the OECD.  Israel has a strong track record of developing profit-driven innovations, making it a preferred destination for many corporate executives and high-tech sector titans. Intel and Microsoft established their first foreign R&D centers in Israel, and other high-tech multinational companies such as IBM, Google, Apple, HP, Cisco Systems, Facebook, and Motorola have also established R&D centers there.
Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company of American billionaire Warren Buffett, purchased Iscar, an Israeli business, for $4 billion in July 2007. It was Berkshire Hathaway’s first acquisition outside of the United States. Since the 1970s, the United States has provided Israel with military help as well as economic support in the form of loan guarantees, which currently account for almost half of Israel’s foreign debt. In terms of net external debt (the entire value of assets vs. obligations in debt instruments owing overseas), Israel has one of the lowest foreign debts in the industrialized world, with a surplus of US$118 billion in December 2015.
In Israel, working days are either Sunday through Thursday (for a five-day workweek) or Friday through Sunday (for a four-day workweek) (for a six-day workweek). Friday is a “short day” in Shabbat observance in areas where Friday is a work day and the majority of the population is Jewish, typically lasting until 14:00 in the winter or 16:00 in the summer. Several suggestions have been made to align the work week with the rest of the world, such as making Sunday a non-working day while increasing the working hours on other days or replacing Friday with Sunday as a work day.