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מדינת ישראל Medinat Yisra'el
State of Israel
Flag of Israel
Coat of arms of Israel
flag emblem
Official language Hebrew
recognized minority language : Arabic
Capital Jerusalem
State and form of government parliamentary republic
Head of state President
Reuven Rivlin
Head of government Prime Minister
Naftali Bennett
surface Heartland 22,380  km² ( 152 ) ,
Occupied Territories 6,831 km²
population 9,136,000 including East Jerusalem and Golan District; Update December 2019 ; 391,000 Israeli settlers live in Judea and Samaria ( West Bank ) (2016 estimate) ( 96th / 94th )
Population density 410 inhabitants per km²
Population development + 1.9% (estimate for 2019)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 395 billion ( 33rd )
  • $ 378 billion ( 50th )
  • 43,603 USD ( 21. )
  • 41,786 USD ( 36. )
Human Development Index 0.919 ( 19. ) (2019)
currency New (Israeli) Shekel (ILS)
independence May 14, 1948 (5th Ijjar 5708 )
National anthem HaTikwa (German: "Hope")
National holiday 5. Ijjar ( Independence Day )
Time zone UTC + 2
UTC + 3 (daylight saving time)
License Plate IL
ISO 3166 IL , ISR, 376
Internet TLD .il
Phone code +972
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Template: Infobox State / Maintenance / NAME-GERMAN

Israel ( Hebrew ישראל Jisra'el ), in long form State of Israel ( Hebrew Audio file / audio sample מדינת ישראל ? / i Medinat Jisra'el ), is a state in Western Asia on the east coast of the Mediterranean . Israel is the only state in the world with a predominantly Jewish population and, according to its own self-image, a national state of the Jewish people . Geographically, Israel belongs to the Mashreq and borders Lebanon , Syria , Jordan , Egypt as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank . The capital and most populous city ​​of Israel is Jerusalem ; however, the United Nations and the majority of its member states do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The largest conurbation is Gush Dan around the Mediterranean metropolis Tel Aviv-Jaffa .

The area of ​​today's Israel is considered to be the cradle of Judaism and later of the two younger Abrahamic religions . It stood since 63 BC. Chr. Successively under Roman , Byzantine , Arab , Ottoman and British rule. The Jews (biblical: Israelites , Hebrews ) who have lived there for around 3,000 years have been expelled or forced to emigrate several times in the course of history ( Jewish diaspora ). From the end of the 19th century , there were efforts among European Jews, not least because of the increasing persecution of Jews in Europe , to establish a Jewish state again in what was then Ottoman Palestine ( Zionism , named after Zion , the Temple Mount ). The first cornerstone for this was laid at the first Zionist Congress (1897 in Basel ) under the leadership of Theodor Herzl ; the plan to found a state took on more concrete forms with the British Balfour Declaration of 1917. From 1920 to 1948 the League of Nations mandate for Palestine existed , which had been given to Great Britain after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire . Increased Jewish immigration and the development of proto-state structures led to initial conflicts with the Arab population during this period. The 1947 UN partition plan for Palestine aimed to settle this, but was rejected by the Arab side. Nevertheless, the Israeli declaration of independence took place on May 14, 1948 , and immediately afterwards the first Palestinian war began with the military attack of the neighboring Arab states on the young state. The following decades of Israel's history were decisively shaped by the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict .

The political system of Israel is based on a parliamentary system of government . The head of government is the Prime Minister appointed by the Knesset ; the head of state is the president , who mainly performs representative tasks. Israel is structured as a free, democratic constitutional state with a pronounced welfare state ; the country is often referred to as "the only democracy in the Middle East". The predominantly centrally administered Israeli state is divided into six districts , and these are in turn divided into 71 cities , 141 municipalities and 53 regional associations (associations of smaller localities to form administrative communities).

The densely populated country has around 9 million inhabitants in 2019, including around 6.7 million Jews (74.2%), 1.9 million non-Jewish Arabs (20.9%) and some other minorities traditionally resident in the country such as Christian Arameans , Samaritans , Armenians , Circassians and Roma . The Law of Return allows all Jews in the world to settle in Israel. Since around 1990, more and more legal Asian and Eastern European labor migrants as well as illegal immigrants from Africa have been living in the country.

The Jewish population is made up of Ashkenazim , Misrahim , Sephardim , Falashes and Yemeni Jews , but an increasing amalgamation of these groups can be observed. The majority of Arab Israelis are Muslims , with Arab Christians and Druze forming a minority .

Despite adverse external circumstances (exposed geographical location, wars with neighboring Arab states, lack of water and raw materials, dependence on foreign capital), Israel has succeeded in developing a highly developed economic and scientific sector. The Israeli economy is characterized by advanced agriculture and a specialized, heavily export-oriented industry. Important industrial sectors are diamond processing, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry and semiconductor technology ; In the service sector, finance, software development and tourism are particularly noteworthy. The high-tech industry is of growing importance ; the country has the highest spending on research and development per inhabitant and the highest density of start-ups in the world.

What is pronounced, however, is the high level of social inequality , which is mainly due to the inadequate economic integration of the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sections of the population. The country has been a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) since 2010 . According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Israel ranks 22nd (1st place in the Middle East , 4th place in Asia , as of 2017), making it one of the most highly developed economies.


The Egyptian Merenptah stele - the oldest evidence for the word "Israel"

The oldest evidence for the name "Israel" is found in the Egyptian Merenptah stele , which is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It describes a campaign by Pharaoh against Israel in the land of Canaan and is dated to 1211 BC. Dated. The Bible tells of the "children of Israel", who are equated with the " Hebrews " also mentioned by it , and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah , which lasted until the conquest by Assyria (destruction of Israel in 722 BC) and until the Babylonian The exile of the King of Judah and his people (from 597 BC) formed two small states that were involved in numerous political alliances and conflicts with their neighbors and fought one another. The ruling dynasty of Judah was derived from the all-Israelite King David (10th century BC).

The folk etymology of the Old Testament interprets “Israel” as “fighters for God” ( Gen 32.29  EU ). Jakob got this nickname after wrestling with a mysterious opponent. His descendants, the twelve tribes, were referred to as "Children of Israel", " Israelites " or "Israel" for short. The name corresponds to a widespread Semitic name form, which contains a verb in the past tense and the theophore element El as the subject. The verbal element is seen in this interpretation as derived from the Semitic root שרה "sarah = wrestle, fight". However, a derivation from the root שרר "sarar = to rule" is also possible. The Hebrew past tense can be reproduced in German with the present tense or the desired form, so that the following possible translations result: “God quarrels (for us)” or “God may fight (for us)” and “God rules” or “God may to rule".

Derivations from the name Israel are: Israeli, Israeli (based on today's state) and Israelit, Israelite (in the sense of Jew, Jewish, especially related to the biblical people of Israel).

Other suggested names before the founding of the state (1948), but which were rejected, were: Eretz Israel (Land of Israel), Zion , Judah and New Judah.


Israel lies on a land bridge between Asia and Africa on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea . Geographically, it belongs to the Middle East , but geologically to Africa , since it is located on the African continental plate. In the east lies the Arabian Plate and the border to it forms the Jordan Valley, which is part of the Great African Rift Valley . Israel borders Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, the Gaza Strip and Egypt to the southwest, and the Red Sea to the south .


The area of ​​Israel within the so-called Green Line , the Armistice Line of 1949, is 20,991 km², of which 20,551 km² is land and 440 km² is water. That corresponds roughly to the size of Hesse . As a result of the Jerusalem Act 1980 and the annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981, Israel has an area of ​​22,380 km² from the Israeli point of view and is therefore about twice the size of Lebanon . The country measures 470 km in length from north to south. At its widest point the country measures 135 km, at the narrowest only 15 km.

The territories conquered by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967 have an area of ​​over 67,000 km², with around 60,000 km² on the Sinai Peninsula, which was returned to Egypt in 1982 . The area of ​​the Golan annexed by Israel is 1150 km², that of East Jerusalem and the surrounding area is 70 km². The West Bank, historically and officially called Judea and Samaria in Israel , covers 5879 km², 220 km² of which is water, and the Gaza Strip measures 360 km².

In the course of the First Lebanon War in 1982, Israel briefly occupied about 6500 km² of Lebanon and advanced as far as Beirut , but then withdrew to southern Lebanon and occupied an area of ​​3,058 km² by 1985. The subsequently established security zone south of the Litani River was evacuated in May 2000.


Har Meron in Galilee
The dead sea
Date palms in the Arava

Israel can be divided into four regions: the Mediterranean coast, the hilly landscape in the center, the Jordan Valley and the Negev desert.

The Dead Sea is 418 meters below sea level the lowest point of Israel and the earth, the highest point in the country is Mount Meron in the Galilee with 1,208  m , respectively, from an Israeli perspective, a 2248  m high pre-summit of Hermon .

The coastal plain runs from the Lebanese border to Gaza in the south, only interrupted by the Cape Carmel in Haifa Bay . It is around 40 km wide around Gaza, narrows towards the north and is only five kilometers wide at the Lebanese border. It is subtropical and is used for growing wine and citrus fruits. The most densely populated part is the Tel Aviv ( Gush Dan ) area. The Sharon Plain to the north is also very densely populated . The plain is crossed by several short rivers, only two of which, the Yarkon and the Kishon , carry water all year round.

To the east of the coast, in the center of the country, there is a hilly landscape. In the north are the mountains and hills of the Upper and Lower Galilee , further to the south, in the politically controversial West Bank, the hills of the biblical Samaria with their fertile valleys are connected, which are replaced south of Jerusalem by the Judean mountains with its rather barren hills. The hill country is on average 610 meters above sea level and reaches its highest point in Galilee with Mount Meron (1208 m). Many valleys cut the landscape in an east-west direction. The largest is the Jezreel plain (biblically referred to as the Esdrelon valley), which extends from Haifa 48 km in a south-easterly direction to the Jordan Valley. It is 19 km at its widest point.

To the east of the hilly landscape lies the Jordan Valley, which forms a short section of the 6500 km long Great Rift Valley . The Jordan , with 322 km Israel's longest river, is fed by the source rivers Dan , Banijas and Hasbani in the north. The Jordan flows south through the Chula Plain into the Sea of ​​Galilee ( Hebrew ים כנרת Jam Kinneret ). The lake has an area of ​​165 km² and is about 213 m below sea level . With a storage capacity of three cubic kilometers, it is the National Water Carrier's most important water reservoir . The Jordan flows off in the south of the Sea of ​​Galilee and finally ends in the Dead Sea , which is an extremely salty and drainless lake. The Dead Sea, which Israel shares with the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, is the lowest point on the earth's surface. It is 418 m below sea level and has an area of ​​1020 km². South of the Dead Sea, the rift valley leads to the Arava Depression, which has no permanent water flow for more than 170 km, to the Gulf of Aqaba. The Arava Depression forms the border with Jordan.

With an area of ​​around 12,000 km², the Negev covers more than half of Israel's land area. Geographically, it belongs to the Sinai desert. The desert region begins in the north approximately at the height of Be'er Scheva and ends at Eilat , the southernmost city of Israel.

Rivers and seas

The Banyas , one of the source rivers of the Jordan

Israel borders two seas: the Mediterranean to the west and the Red Sea to the south. Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat have some large ports that are an important part of the Israeli economy. The most important water sources in Israel are the source rivers of the Jordan: The Hasbani , the Dan in northern Israel and the Banyas (also called Hermon River) in the northern Golan Heights arise in the area around the Hermon Mountains . They unite in the area around Sede Nehemija to the Jordan, which then crosses the Hule Plain of Northern Galilee in a north-south direction before flowing into the Sea of ​​Galilee at Bethsaida . To the south of the lake, it enters the Jordan Rift and continues on the left-hand side of the river with the only two larger tributaries, Jarmuk and Jabbok . To the southeast of Jericho it flows into the Dead Sea , a drainless end lake .

In almost the entire southern course of the river (with the exception of the stretch from the Sea of ​​Galilee to Bet She'an ) the Jordan forms the border between Israel and Jordan . In the northern area it flows along the Israeli Golan Heights.

The Jordan Rift Valley with the Dead Sea forms a geological depression and, as a rift valley , is highly prone to earthquakes.


The climate in Israel is determined by its location between the subtropical dryness of the Sahara and the Arabian deserts on the one hand and the subtropical humidity of the Levant on the other. Although Israel is a rather small country, it has several climatic zones . The climate depends on the distance to the Mediterranean Sea, on the altitude and the geographical latitude. Temperate and forested in the north, Israel is hot and desolate in the south. In total, 50% of the country is steppe and desert , with the Negev desert being the largest area. On the Mediterranean coast there is a subtropical Mediterranean climate , which is characterized by dry, hot summers and rainy, mild winters.

January is the coldest month with average temperatures between 6 ° C and 15 ° C, July and August are the warmest months with 22 ° C to 33 ° C. The summers on the Mediterranean coast are characterized by high humidity , but quite dry in the interior of the country, the Jordan Valley and the Negev. The highest temperatures are often reached in Eilat, locally up to 46 ° C. More than 70% of the average rainfall falls between November and March. There is usually no rain from June to September. The amount of precipitation decreases sharply from north to south, so that in the very south an average of only 30 mm, in the north more than 900 mm per year can be expected. In the Negev in particular, the amount of rainfall varies greatly from year to year. In winter there can be snow in the higher regions, occasionally also in Jerusalem. The three peaks of Hermon are covered in snow for several months in winter.

The areas with precipitation of more than 300 mm per year are used particularly intensively for agriculture. About a third of the land can be built on.

In the rainy season, storms and hail are also possible and waterspouts can hit the Mediterranean coast, but cause very little damage. However, on April 4, 2006, the western Galilee was hit by thunderstorm cells and an F2 tornado , which caused major damage and injured 75 people.

Cities and towns

Night view of Tel Aviv-Jaffa , Israel's second largest city and economic metropolis

There are 68 cities and hundreds of smaller towns in Israel. City status is granted by the Israeli Minister of the Interior to applying places, usually only if they have more than 20,000 inhabitants.

Larger cities are Jerusalem (901,302 inhabitants), Tel Aviv-Jaffa (443,939 inhabitants), Haifa (281,087 inhabitants), Rishon LeZion (249,860 inhabitants), Ashdod (222,883 inhabitants) and Be'er Sheva (207,551 inhabitants). In Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa or Akko and Ramla , the Arab and Jewish populations sometimes live together. The largest predominantly Arab city is Nazareth (76,551 inhabitants), followed by Umm al-Fahm (54,240 inhabitants); the largest city inhabited by Bedouins is Rahat in the Negev (66,791 inhabitants).

An Israeli peculiarity are the kibbutzim and moshavim . These are localities with a socialist-collective or cooperative constitution. In the course of time, however, the degree of cooperative cooperation has decreased, locally it has been completely abolished.

In the occupied territories in the West Bank there are a little over 200 Israeli settlements , four of them cities with over 15,000 inhabitants and around 145 unapproved so-called "outposts", in East Jerusalem there are 32 and on the Golan Heights 42 Jewish settlements (estimate from 2010) .

The Israeli settlements in the territories conquered by Israel in June 1967 , including those annexed by Israel, are considered by various international organizations to be illegal settlements under current international law , which prohibits the transfer of population to occupied territories ( IV. Geneva Convention, Art. 49 ). However, Israel denies that these are areas in which the fourth Geneva Convention is valid.

Safed in winter

Flora and fauna


Example image of the flora of Israel

Due to the different climatic conditions in the individual parts of the country, Israel has a great variety of landscapes. The flora of Israel ranges from the fertile vegetation in parts of the north to some oases in the south.

Olive trees , oaks , fig trees and carob trees have always grown in Israel . Since the 1950s, coniferous forests , mainly Aleppo pine and Mediterranean cypress , and orchards have been planted in Israel . In total, more than 240 million trees have been planted to date. Today about 3% of the area of ​​Israel (213,000 hectares) is forested.

About 125 species of plants that are also cultivated and bred as ornamental plants grow wild in Israel , including crown anemone , sun-eye tulip , ostrich daffodil and Madonna lily . However, it is considered unlikely that these garden plants were domesticated here. The cactus Opuntia ficus-indica, introduced from America, grows in the Negev desert . In the south of the country there have also been artificially planted acacias and chestnuts since around 1985 . Date palms grow on the coastal areas and in parts of the Negev .

In Israel there are numerous protected areas in which 63 (as of 2008) facilities developed for tourism are located, which are designated by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) as Israeli national parks and nature reserves managed and maintained.


Mesopotamian fallow deer in the
Chai Bar Karmel wildlife park

Due to the different climatic conditions and different landforms, Israel also has a very diverse fauna. However, numerous animals are threatened with extinction and the northeastern Nile crocodile ( Crocodylus niloticus niloticus ), the Syrian brown bear ( Ursus arctos syriacus ), the Asiatic cheetah ( Acinonyx jubatus venaticus ) and the Syrian half donkey ( Equus hemionus ) died from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century hemippus ), the Arabian ostrich ( Struthio camelus syriacus ) and the Arabian crop gazelle ( Gazella subguttorosa marica ) in Israel. The Asiatic lion ( Panthera leo persica ) and the Caucasian red deer ( Cervus elaphus maral ) died out in Israel in the early Middle Ages and the hippopotamus in the Iron Age. A few specimens of the rare Arabian leopard ( Panthera pardus nimr ) can still be found in the Judean Desert and the Negev . Among the large animals, for example, the Syrian ibex was able to keep up .

Arabian oryx and Persian half-ass ( Equus hemionus onager ), which are bred in the wildlife park of Chai Bar Jotvata, have been reintroduced in the desert regions of the Avara and Negev . In the north there is a similar wildlife park, Chai Bar Karmel , in which species from the Mediterranean climatic zones such as Armenian wild sheep ( Ovis orientalis gmelini ) and Mesopotamian fallow deer ( Dama dama mesopotamica ) are bred. The latter are also called Persian fallow deer and are also found in freedom in northern Israel. The roe deer ( Capreolus capreolus coxi ) was also reintroduced .

Greater flamingos ( Phoenicopterus roseus ) live near salt ponds near Eilat . The Syrian striped hyena ( hyaena syriaca ), the Arabian Wolf ( Canis lupus arabs ), the two sub-species of mountain gazelle , Palestine Mountain Gazelle ( Gazella gazella gazella ) and Acacia Gazelle ( Gazella gazella acaciae ), the Dorcas gazelle ( Gazella dorcas ) and wild boar ( Sus scrofa ) are other animals living in Israel.


General demographics

Population pyramid of Israel 2016: Israel's population is very young.

At the end of 2020 Israel had 9,291,000 inhabitants, around 6,870,000 (73.9%) of them Jews and 1,956,000 (21.1%) Arabs . The number of other residents was around 456,000 (5.0%).

In terms of population, Israel ranks 99th of all countries in 2018, after Austria and ahead of Switzerland .

About 92% of the population live in urban areas, 25% in one of the big cities. Around 75% of the Jewish population were born in the country, 28% are younger than 14 years and 10.3% are older than 65 years. The average age in 2017 was 29.5 years. The population density is 373.2 people per km². In 2018, life expectancy was 80.6 years for men and 84.2 years for women, making it the eighth highest in the world.

Citizenship can be obtained in several ways: on the one hand, through descent, on the other, through naturalization or through domicile. This area principle was applied to those residents of Palestine who lived in the area of ​​Israel after 1948. Naturalization is also possible by granting citizenship. In principle, all Jews who immigrate to Israel can acquire Israeli citizenship through the Return Act, although dual citizenship is possible. Non-Jewish residents of the territories conquered in the Six Day War in 1967, which Israel added to its national territory ( East Jerusalem and Golan Heights ), can apply for naturalization.

growth of population

Population development in Israel since 1949

After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, about 806,000 people lived on Israeli territory. In the following years the population increased sharply. This increase was due to the immigration of Jews from Europe and some Arab states.

The total population of Israel never decreased in the course of the state's history. Despite the Middle East conflict and the Arab-Israeli wars, the population continues to grow. Just because of the Yom Kippur War , over 130,000 Israelis emigrated from Israel. However, this loss of population was made up for by the high birth rate of Jewish families. After the collapse of the Soviet Union , over 700,000 Soviet Jews came to Israel, which meant a population increase of over 20%. Population growth began to slow from 1996 as the government tightened fiscal and monetary policies. The population has been increasing again since the 2000s. The population growth is mainly driven by the high birth rate of the ultra-Orthodox and Muslim populations. Both groups together were responsible for over 40% of newborns in 2015.

The current population growth is around 1.8 percent per year and thus exceeds the percentage population growth of India and the People's Republic of China .

Population of Israel since 1948
year Residents
1948 0.806,000
1950 1,370,000
1955 1,789,000
1960 2,150,000
1965 2,598,000
1970 3,022,000
1975 3,493,000
1980 3,922,000
year Residents
1985 4,266,000
1990 4,822,000
1995 5,619,000
2000 6,289,000
2006 7,116,000
2010 7,695,000
2015 8,463,500
2020 9,291,000

Spatial distribution

Population density
Population density of Israel in 2008

Israel has a population density of around 381 people per square kilometer. However, the population density is unevenly distributed. Areas hostile to life such as the Negev desert have a low population density; the Golan Heights are also rather sparsely populated. In Arava , the most sparsely populated part of the country, an average of only 20 to 30 people live in one square kilometer.

By far the largest part of the population lives in the major cities such as Tel Aviv-Jaffa , Rishon LeZion and Haifa on the coastal regions in the west of the country. With over 3000 people per square kilometer, these are the most densely populated places. Other densely populated places are Jerusalem and the area around the city. Israel is the 33rd most densely populated country on earth and the most densely populated state in the Middle East.


When the state was founded in 1948, only about 30 percent of the population lived in cities, with the difference between Arabs and Jews being large; about 75 percent of Israeli Jews lived in cities at the time. According to the Israeli government, the level of urbanization reached over 78 percent in 2013. This means that the degree of urbanization is much higher than in other industrialized countries. This is mainly due to the fact that the cities were almost the only settable living space in Israel until the 1960s. In addition, until the Six Day War of 1967 there were repeated Arab terrorist attacks on Jewish settlements in the border region, in which numerous people died and many families fled. The level of urbanization in Israel has been falling again since the mid-1980s, made possible by the colonization of hostile zones in the national territory.

Population groups

Israeli statistics differentiate between “Jews” and “Arabs”, to which a further “other” group has been added since 1995.

Jewish population

Arab minority in Israel (2000)

At the end of 2020, 73.9% of Israelis were Jews. Among the Jewish population of Israel in 2001, 26% had at least one parent born in Israel, 37% were first-generation Israelis, 34.8% immigrants and their direct descendants from Europe and North America, and 25.3% immigrants and their descendants from Asia or Africa , mainly from Muslim countries. After the collapse of the Soviet Union , over a million Jews immigrated to Israel from its successor states, more than 750,000 of them in the period from 1989 to 1999 alone.

Within the Jewish population a distinction is made between

  • Ashkenazim , Jews with roots in Eastern and Central Europe, former states of the USSR , as well as European-born Jews from the USA, Argentina and others. western states as well as their descendants
  • Sephardim , Jews, whose ancestors from the Iberian Peninsula come
  • Mizrachim , Jews from the Middle East and North Africa and their descendants
  • Falaschen , immigrants from Ethiopia who were flown to Israel mainly through the military operations Moses (1984), Joshua (1985), Solomon (1991) and Dove Wings (2011)
  • Yemeni Jews , immigrants from Yemen who were flown to Israel by the Magic Carpet military operation between 1949 and 1950

Arab population

21.1% of the Israeli population are Arabs . The Arab population lives partly in mixed Arab-Jewish cities such as Haifa, Jerusalem, Acre and Ramle. The greater part lives in Arab towns in Galilee, in the eastern part of the coastal plain between Tel Aviv and Haifa, which borders the West Bank, and in the northern part of the Negev. 10% are Bedouins, many with permanent residence, a further 10% are Druze, whose villages are in Galilee, on the Carmel and the Golan.


The population of (at the end of 2020 456,000 inhabitants) referred to as “other” includes, among others, non-Jewish immigrants, the Baha'i , who describe themselves not only as their own religious community but also as a separate population group, the Alawites , the Ahmadi , the Samaritans and two villages Circassian . Since September 2014, Arameans have also been recognized as an independent national population group. Several thousand Asian guest workers and illegal immigrants from Africa have also lived in Israel since the 2000s. There is also a small minority of European Christians in Israel; this consists mainly of Russians , Ukrainians and Poles .

Israelis in the occupied territories

Most of the Israelis in the occupied territories live in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). The Golan Heights and East Jerusalem , annexed in 1981, are home to large numbers of Israelis that far exceed the Arab population.


For several years there have been no more precise data on Israeli emigration.

In the last few decades, emigration from Israel had increased significantly. By 1990, eight percent of Israel's Jewish population had emigrated. 230,000 Israelis emigrated from 1990 to 2005 . Most of them had immigrated to Israel before. By 2005, 15 percent immigrated again. In 2007, 21,500 Israelis emigrated, this was the last major wave of emigration from Israel. The rate of emigration has been falling since 2008, and 73 percent of emigrated Jews and 4 percent of Arabs returned to Israel by 2013.

According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics , 650,000 Israeli immigrants live abroad today.


Nazareth , synagogue church
Bahai Gardens in Haifa

The declaration of independence of the State of Israel in 1948 guarantees freedom of religion. The religious communities manage their religious and holy places themselves, legal regulations should guarantee free access and protect against desecration. Recognized religious communities are the Jewish, the Islamic, the various Christian parishes as well as those of the Druze and the Baha'i. The state-recognized religious communities have a right to internal autonomy and state funding for their houses of prayer and the salaries of religious officials.

A good 75% of the population of Israel are Jews. This makes Israel the only state in the world in which Jews form the majority of the population. According to a survey from 2009

According to a 2015 study, 65 percent of Israelis declared themselves non-religious or atheists. Only 30 percent said they were religious.

The majority of Israeli Arabs are Sunni Muslims . In 2001 there were 1,004,600, around 17% of the population. At the end of 2019 there were 177,000 Christians in Israel, which corresponds to a population share of 2.0%. Around 137,000 (77.5%) of them are Arab Christians, around 40,000 (22.5%) are non-Arab Christians. 143,000 Israelis are Druze (as of 2019). This corresponds to a share of 1.6% of the population.

The world's only community of Samaritans counts 751 people (end of 2011). A good half live in Israel, the rest live in the West Bank .

Around 25,000 Karaites live in Israel, as well as an unknown number of Messianic Jews who have retained certain elements of the Jewish religion, but regard Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and are therefore included in Christianity.

After all, several hundred Baha'i live in Haifa and the surrounding area, where their central sanctuaries are located, which form the Baha'i world center . Since 2008 it belongs to the UNESCO - World Heritage Site .


According to the National State Law of 2018, the official language is only Hebrew ; previously, Hebrew and Arabic were both official languages, although in fact Hebrew was the preferred official language. Arabic is now assigned a "special status", with the law declaring that the previous status of Arabic is to be retained and that the use of Arabic by state institutions is regulated by individual laws.

During the British mandate between 1922 and 1948, English and Arabic were the official languages ​​in addition to Hebrew, with English taking precedence over the other two. After independence, the corresponding clause was repealed and English was no longer actively used as the official language (apart from certain niches such as warning signs), but remained in use, so to speak, "passively", mainly because many state documents were only available in this language. Bilingual signs are more often written in Hebrew and English than in Hebrew and Arabic, and public announcements often appear in English. In addition, like almost everywhere in the world, English plays an important role in science, business and international communication, but is regarded as a foreign language and government publications only appear in this language if they are aimed at an international audience. English is the primary foreign language in schools, and most Israelis are familiar with the language through this and through their consumption of American media.

The Hebrew language, revived in the late 19th century, is spoken by the majority of Israelis. Arabic is also the mother tongue of more than a million Arab and Druze citizens and most of the Jewish immigrants who immigrated from Arab countries in the 1950s and 1960s. Arabic is the school language in Arabic schools in Israel . In Hebrew schools, Arabic is compulsory as a second foreign language alongside English.

Hebrew is used almost exclusively in official dealings, official forms are mostly only available in Hebrew, and Israeli passports are in Hebrew and English. For the Israeli school leaving examination ( Bagrut ), all students must demonstrate a knowledge of Hebrew.

Standard of living

Human Development Index

In the ranking of the Human Development Index published by the United Nations Development Program , Israel ranked 22nd out of 188 countries evaluated in 2017 with 0.903 points. In 2016 and 2015, Israel was in 19th place out of 188 countries evaluated with 0.899 and 0.898 points, respectively.

In 1990 the state was in 15th place with 0.785 points, 17th in 2000 with 0.850 points and 26th in 2010 with 0.833 points.


Israel ranks 10th on the Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index for 2019. For comparison: Austria came in 13th, Germany in 23rd and the USA in 35th. For the evaluation, the authors of the study on behalf of Bloomberg LP based on criteria such as life expectancy, drinking water supply and health care. Tobacco consumption and obesity were rated negatively.

The life expectancy in Israel is among the highest in the world and was in 2018 82.7 years, 84.7 years for women and 80.8 years for men. The fertility rate of 2.66 in Israel is the highest among industrialized countries.



Prehistory extends from the earliest human traces to the beginning of a broader written tradition. Some representatives of Homo erectus left Africa around two million years ago. The oldest known traces in Israel can be dated to 1.4 million years and were discovered south of the Sea of ​​Galilee on Israeli and Jordanian territory. Another wave of migration followed about 600,000 years ago. At least 250,000 years ago, Neanderthals (stone-working techniques assigned to them could be proven) appeared in the region and others possibly came from Europe in cold times, who lived here at the same time as the archaic Homo sapiens . It is considered the direct ancestor of modern humans, developed at least 200,000 years ago in East Africa and can be found in Palestine 110,000 years ago. Some of these anatomically modern people are thought to have left Africa around 130,000 years ago. But they disappeared from Israel 80,000 years ago, only to reappear 50,000 years ago. Again they lived with Neanderthals in the same region, and it is likely that they had common offspring. The Neanderthals disappeared 45,000 to 28,000 years ago. In the Jordan Valley , a 200 km long, 2,000 km² large lake v to 12,000 was 70,000 years ago. Existed. The people continued to live from hunting big game, smaller animals and fishing also played an increasingly important role, and collecting activities continued.

As early as 18,000 BC There are increasing signs of more permanent storage - a village-like structure has been proven - limited food production and wild barley was ground and baked. The main game were gazelles , and camps were created along their trails. Around 12,000 BC Houses made of semicircular stone settings with structures made of clay appeared, no later than 11,000 BC. Chr. Was corn planted. The signs of rituals and sacrifices increased, the dead were mostly buried in a contracted position, and occasionally the skulls were buried separately. The art that had been quite abstract up until then was supplemented by more realistic representations, which are considered the oldest pictorial documents in the Near East.

In the period between 9500 and 8800 BC Although agriculture was practiced, the manufacture of clay pots was not yet known. The most important site is Jericho , which protrudes from the settlements, which were mostly less than half a hectare in size, with an area of ​​4 hectares. Around 8000 BC The city, which may contain 3000 people, was surrounded by a wall 3 m high, but from 7700 to 7220 BC. The city was uninhabited. Since 8300 BC Grain production , which had been limited to the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights until then , expanded further to around 7600 BC. There was a strong expansion of the settlement area, which went hand in hand with migration or with a stronger population growth. Most of the older settlements have been abandoned.

Jericho was rebuilt around 7220 and was until 6400 BC. Inhabited. The migration patterns of the epochs before the "mega-villages" were resumed around 7000, alongside permanent settlements continued to exist. Only after this phase did the stabilization take place, which provided the prerequisites for urban structures, and ceramics also came into use. Sha'ar HaGolan, a site of 20 hectares, is believed to be the largest city between 6400 and 6000 BC. Have been. Long-distance trade can be documented as far as Anatolia and the Nile ; migrations may have taken place there. Between about 5500 and 4500 BC There were no contacts with Egypt, probably due to climatic deterioration. Between 4400 and 4000 BC There again cattle husbandry and type of agriculture point to Palestinian origins. In the Copper Age, Teleilat Ghassul in the Jordan Valley was one of the largest settlements with an area of ​​20 ha. It housed spacious houses measuring 3.5 by 12 meters and a temple. Between 3500 and 3300 BC There was a drastic cultural collapse, but traces of violence have not yet been proven.

This was followed by a Bronze Age epoch known as “early urban”, which maintained trade relations far beyond Palestine, especially to Egypt. Egyptians can be found in a network of settlements along the trade routes to Palestine. Egypt, now centralized under a pharaoh , tried, sometimes by force, to gain control of raw materials between Sinai and Lebanon , which were of great importance for the enormous construction activity in connection with the pyramids there. The existence of numerous fortified settlements is likely to be closely related to these battles. More than 260 settlements with a total of perhaps 150,000 inhabitants are known from this era in western Palestine alone, especially in Galilee , Samaria and Judah. Among them, Beth Yerah and Yarmuth were the largest with 20 and 16 hectares, some cities had city walls up to 8 m thick, Beth Yerah had perhaps 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants. City gates and large temples like those in Megiddo were built. At the end of the Early Bronze Age , there was a breakdown in urban culture and the dominance of grazing. At the same time, "Asians" repeatedly attacked the Nile Delta until the Semitic Hyksos there after 1700 BC. Took over the rule.

Development from the appearance of the Israelites in Canaan to the 19th century

The Bible tells us that the that the kingdom of Israel after Solomon's death (around 926 v. Chr.) In the by I. Jeroboam ruled the northern kingdom of Israel with its capital Samaria (the blue colored area) and the territory of Rehoboam , king of Judah, around the capital Jerusalem (the ocher-colored area in the south) dissolved.
Treasures from the Jerusalem temple , including the menorah , are brought to
Rome in the Roman triumphal procession after the siege and destruction of Jerusalem (depiction on the inside of the Arch of Titus in Rome)

The first archaeologically proven traces of an early or proto-Israelite settlement of the Mashrek region go back to the time between the 12th and 11th centuries BC. BC (cf. Landing of the Israelites ). According to biblical tradition, Jerusalem was founded around 1000 BC. Conquered by David from the Jebusites and chosen as the capital of his great empire ; this split into two kingdoms after the death of his heir Solomon . The northern kingdom of Israel went into existence in 722 BC. In the fight against the Assyrians under, the southern kingdom of Judah was 587 BC. Conquered by Babylon . The country subsequently became part of the Persian Empire , then the Empire of Alexander the Great , and finally the Empire of the Seleucids .

The Maccabees revolt in 165 BC. BC brought Israel once more state independence for about 100 years. 63 BC The time of Roman supremacy began. The Romans divided the area into two provinces: Syria in the north, Judea in the south. In the Jewish War , Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Temple were completely destroyed in AD 70. The last Jewish uprising in Israel against Roman rule ( Bar Kochba uprising ) was suppressed in AD 135. Part of the Jewish population was expelled. The country itself has been called "Palestine" since then. The country was given this name, which goes back to the Philistines , who had already risen up in the neighboring peoples , on the basis of a decree from Emperor Hadrian to erase the memory of the Judean inhabitants, whose rebellion he put down. Nevertheless, Palestine remained - next to Rome and its provinces in Europe and North Africa and apart from Mesopotamia (Babylonia) - a center of Judaism; Up until the Middle Ages, both the Babylonian and the Palestinian rabbis were pioneers in the development of the Jewish religion and way of life outside of these areas.

In the course of the Islamic expansion , the area came under Arab rule in 636. Since that time, Palestine has been predominantly inhabited by Arabs. The crusaders ruled from 1099 to 1291 what they called the "Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem ". This was followed by the Mamluks from 1291 to 1517 and then the Ottoman rule from 1517 to 1918. None of these authorities had planned their own administration for Palestine or viewed the area as an independent geographical unit. The region was also part of Syria for the Ottomans, probably going back to the Roman name Syria. The country was divided into three districts .

Zionist movement


Edmond De Rothschild (1845-1934)
Max Bodenheimer memorial plaque in Richmodstrasse 6 on Cologne's Neumarkt
Delegation of the Zionists who came to Palestine on November 2, 1898 to meet with Kaiser Wilhelm II . From left to right: Bodenheimer , Wolffsohn , Herzl , Moses Schnirer , Joseph Seidener.

The beginning or forerunner of the Zionist movement is considered to be the Eastern European collection movement Chibbat Zion ("love of Zion ") , which emerged around 1880 . Their local associations were represented in numerous Russian and Romanian cities. Members of Chibbat Zion called themselves Chowewe Zion ("Friends of Zion"). They gathered around 3,000 people willing to emigrate for joint settlement projects in Palestine. During the Ottoman rule, Palestine was sparsely populated and stagnated economically. The arrival of the first Jewish immigrants from 1880 onwards gave impetus to the country's economic development. In the following decades many more people, Jews and Arabs, immigrated to Palestine - also for this reason.

The first major immigration movement ( Aliyah ) of Jews to Palestine took place around 1882. In the summer of 1882, a Russian group of six reached Palestine and, with financial and logistical support from Baron Edmond de Rothschild, built the settlement Rishon LeZion ("First in Zion"). Between 1880 and 1895, Edmond de Rothschild financed the establishment of more than 30 other colonies in Palestine, including the important moshavot (settlements) Petach Tikva , Zichron Ya'akov , Rosh Pina , Hadera and Yesod ha-Ma'aleh. Since then, Baron Edmond de Rothschild has been known as the "father of the colonization of Palestine". In 1891 the German-Jewish Zionist Baron Maurice de Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association , which from 1899 received extensive financial support from Baron de Edmond de Rothschild. According to the Jewish Colonization Association, 5,200 Jews lived in Palestine in model agricultural settlements in 1898.

Between 1890 and 1914 Cologne was the center of the German Zionists and was considered the capital of Zionism for several years. In Cologne in 1893 the two important Zionist functionaries Max I. Bodenheimer and David Wolffsohn founded the Cologne Association for the Promotion of Agriculture and Crafts in Palestine. Bodenheimer also founded the National Jewish Club Zion Cologne , was chairman of the Zionist Association for Germany and built the Jewish National Fund from his apartment on Cologne's Neumarkt from 1905 to 1914 .

Delegate to the First World Zionist Congress in Basel , 1897

However, Theodor Herzl became the key and leading figure of political Zionism . During the Dreyfus Affair in France, Herzl wrote the book Der Judenstaat - An attempt at a modern solution to the Jewish question in 1896 . In it, Herzl outlined his idea of ​​a sovereign state organization in order to give the haphazard and scattered emigration of European Jews a common goal and to secure the Jewish settlement work under international law. Herzl hardly justified his idea with religious motives, but with the failure of Jewish emancipation, especially in the civilized countries of Europe. Up until then, Herzl had seen France in particular as a haven of social and cultural progress. Now he judged that anti-Semitism would never go away and that all efforts by the Jews to assimilate would only reinforce it. Only the gathering of the Jews in their own country could therefore be the way out.

In contrast to the writings of his ideological predecessors, Herzl's book received a lot of attention and gave the impetus to the international merger of the existing national Jewish associations. On August 29, 1897, 200 delegates elected by their associations met in Basel for the first Zionist congress . It was there that Herzl called for a Jewish state in Palestine that was legalized under international law. In response, the established World Zionist Organization (World Zionist Organization, WCO for short) with the maxim: "Zionism aims at the creation of a publicly legally secured homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people." In his diary Herzl wrote: "In Basel I have the Jewish state founded ... Maybe in five years, at least in fifty everyone will see it. "

In 1901 the World Zionist Organization founded the Jewish National Fund at the 5th Zionist Congress in Basel in order to specifically promote Jewish settlements in Palestine for the first time. The second Aliyah was triggered by pogroms and the failure of the Russian Revolution in 1905. By 1914, around 40,000 mostly young Russian Jews emigrated to Palestine. The Jewish population there grew to around 85,000 by 1914. In 1907 the World Zionist Organization founded the Office of Palestine in Jaffa at the 8th Zionist Congress , and David Wolffsohn was elected President of the World Zionist Organization. With a loan from the Jewish National Fund, he made it possible to build the first houses in Ahuzat Bajit , later Tel Aviv , and thus laid the foundation stone for the first Hebrew city, founded in 1909. By 1938 the population of Tel Avis grew to 150,000.


Arthur Balfour and the Balfour Declaration

In the middle of the First World War , the most important chapter in the founding of Israel followed: On November 2, 1917, on the initiative of the British diplomat Lord Milner, the British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour wrote the Balfour Declaration named after him to the committed British Zionist Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Exit Rothschild . Thereafter, the British government viewed the "establishment of a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine" with benevolence and would "make the greatest effort to facilitate the achievement of this goal." This declaration adopted the goals of the World Zionist Organization (WCO). This was the first time a European state had recognized the Zionist goal of a Jewish state in Palestine. The rights of the resident non-Jewish population should be preserved.

With the victory of the British in World War I , Ottoman rule in Palestine was ended in 1917. Following the Sanremo Conference in 1920, the League of Nations gave Great Britain the mandate for Palestine in 1922, including the territory that is now jointly occupied by Israel and Jordan. One of the terms of the mandate was that the British should enable the Balfour Declaration to be implemented, but that it should not affect the rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. The mandate power was called upon to enable Jewish immigration to settle these Jewish immigrants as a group and to use the former Ottoman state land for this purpose. It should be ensured that "nothing should be done that could prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political position enjoyed by Jews in any other country".

In July 1922, the British divided Palestine into two administrative districts, Palestine and Transjordan , which comprised about three-quarters of the mandate area. Initially, Transjordan and Palestine were viewed as an administrative unit with uniform mandate laws, the same currency and the same mandate passports ( see also: White Paper of 1939 ), but Jews were only allowed to settle west of the Jordan. In the eastern part, in Transjordan, today's Jordan, the British installed the Hashemite ruler Abdallah , who had been expelled from the Arabian Peninsula.

Baron Edmond de Rothschild founded the Palestine-Jewish Colonization Association (PICA) in 1924 and put his son James Armand de Rothschild as director of the organization. The fourth aliyah followed between 1924 and 1932 . When the NSDAP came to power on January 30, 1933, the nationwide persecution of Jews began in Germany. The first measures taken by the Nazi regime were the boycott of the Jews of April 1, the law to restore the civil service and the law on admission to the legal profession of April 7, 1933, which caused many German Jews to lose property, occupation and social position. On August 25, 1933, the Ha'avara Agreement between the Jewish Agency , the Zionist Association for Germany and the German Reich Ministry of Economics came into force to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine. During the fifth Aliyah, between 1933 and the start of the war in 1939, 250,000 German Jews emigrated to other countries. From 1933 to 1941 about 55,000 Jews reached Palestine from the German Reich - about a quarter of all Jewish immigrants. The National Socialist persecution of the Jews accelerated the influx of European Jews to Palestine from 1935 onwards. Since the refugees were allowed to take up to 1,000 pounds sterling with them, Palestine experienced an economic boom, which in turn increased the influx of Arabs there. 75 percent of the financial transactions required for emigration from Germany to Palestine were handled by the Palestine Treuhandstelle zur Beratung Deutscher Juden GmbH (Paltreu). The Paltreu was after the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 by Max M. Warburg , his Hamburg MMWarburg - CO - & -Bank, Berliner Bank AE Aquarius and of Theodor Herzl created Anglo-Palestine Bank established.

After the Arab uprising against Palestinian Jews began in 1936, the British refused to implement the Balfour Declaration. Instead, the British Peel Commission presented a first partition plan in July 1937. Accordingly, a large part of Palestine should be assigned to the Arabs, the smaller part with the most Jewish settlements, to the Jews. Jerusalem and a stretch of coast were to remain under British mandate. Chaim Weizmann , who has headed the WZO since 1935, spoke out at the 20th Zionist Congress in favor of adopting this plan in order to save as many persecuted Jews as possible. The newly immigrated Jews were immediately enthusiastic, but the Arab representatives rejected the plan and demanded that the whole of Palestine be turned into an Arab state. The plan failed.

In the 1939 White Paper , the British government unilaterally stipulated that the Balfour Declaration had already been implemented. A maximum of 75,000 Jews should be allowed to immigrate to Palestine within the next five years. At a conference in London in August 1939, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried to persuade the representatives of the WCO to renounce a Jewish state in Palestine. Chamberlain's attempts were unsuccessful.

German policy towards the Orient culminated in fraternization with Arab nationalists in a joint struggle against the British and the Jews. In 1941, the British appointed Amin al-Husseini , Mufti of Jerusalem and influential leader of the Arab national movement, was received by Adolf Hitler in Berlin. From Berlin he is said to have planned the murder of the Jews living in the Arab region with Adolf Eichmann .

With the attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Shoah began with organized mass murders of Soviet Jews and the deportation of German and Eastern European Jews to ghettos and camps in Eastern Europe. The most important decisions to expand the extermination of the Jews were made between July and October 1941: the construction of extermination camps began and German Jews were ordered to wear the Star of David throughout the Reich. The ongoing Holocaust became known outside of Germany in autumn 1941, but this did not lead to any targeted countermeasures. At the Biltmore Conference convened in New York City in 1942 , the US delegates of the World Zionist Organization and a group led by the later Israeli founder David Ben-Gurion called for the first time to “open the gates of Palestine” in order to establish a Jewish Commonwealth with a democratic constitution to set up a European model. This was rejected by the British government and prohibited the publication of the Biltmore program in Great Britain and Palestine.

Since the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in January 1943, the number of Jewish refugees has increased again. The British government now increasingly searched Jewish settlements in Palestine, arrested illegal immigrants and banned Zionist newspapers. In 1944 the Zionist underground organizations Irgun and Lechi expanded their attacks against the British. At the same time around 100,000 of the 500,000 Palestinian Jews fought with the Allies in Europe against the Germans. In the last months of the war, the Allies liberated some of the Nazi extermination camps, including the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, 1945 . No European state except France and Sweden declared itself ready to take in the surviving Jews after the end of the war on May 8, 1945. The World Zionist Organization demanded that at least the surviving concentration camp inmates be allowed to immigrate. US President Harry S. Truman called on the British to immediately admit 100,000 Jewish immigrants, but British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin stuck to the low monthly quota. Since February 1946, around 175,000 Polish Jews displaced by the Nazi regime have been deported to their home country from the Soviet Union, but rejected there by the local Poles, who had taken over their property many times. 95,000 of them then fled to Palestine via Western Europe. The Hagana , the British army's Jewish brigade, and the Mossad jointly organized the illegal immigration of Shoah survivors, the so-called Bericha .

The British had 50,000 of them brought back to displaced persons camps in the American occupation zone in Germany in 1945/46; others were interned in Cyprus. During a raid on June 29, 1946, the British army captured all members of the Jewish Agency and leading Zionists who could be found in Palestine and arrested them for weeks in a camp in Lod, about 20 kilometers east of Tel Aviv.

Jewish settlements from 1947
Partition plan of the UN from 1947

In 1946, attacks by the underground terrorist organization Irgun, especially on British railways, increased steadily. Paramilitary troops from Hagana, now split from the British, blew up ten bridges from May 16-17. In response to the terrorist attacks, the British elected officials arrested all Zionist leaders on June 29th, whereupon Irgun, under the leadership of the future Israeli Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Menachem Begin , blew up a wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where the British headquarters were located . There were numerous deaths, the number of victims varied between 91 and 176.

The escalation of unrest ran through the year 1947 - to the United Nations General Assembly on 29 November by a two-thirds majority for the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab state agreed, with the Greater Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under international control should be made. With the UN resolution and the beginning of the British withdrawal, the Arab unrest and attacks increased again. The day after the UN partition plan was announced on November 30, 1947, the initially guerrilla-like Israeli-Arab civil war, the Palestine War, began . There were raids by Arab militants on Jewish settlements and residential areas and counterattacks by the paramilitary associations of the Jews. Shortly afterwards, the Arab population began to flee and expel the territories now assigned to Israel, sometimes accompanied by the destruction of their villages, buildings and documents. Often the proof of the existence of the Palestinian population and thus of their legal entitlement was lost. The Arab population subsequently rejected Israel's right to exist , which has had consequences for the region to this day.

History of the State of Israel

1948: Establishment of the State of Israel

David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel on May 14, 1948

Since the British mandate for Palestine was supposed to end at midnight on May 14, 1948, a Friday, the Jewish National Council met in the house of former Mayor Dizengoff in Tel Aviv at 4 p.m. before sunset and thus before the Sabbath began . Under a portrait of the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the state of Israel in the declaration of independence “by virtue of the natural and historical right of the Jewish people and based on the resolution of the UN General Assembly” . Eleven minutes later, the United States of America recognized the new state through US President Harry S. Truman , the Soviet Union followed on May 16 and Czechoslovakia on May 18.

The anniversary of the founding of the state, Yom HaAtzma'ut , is celebrated on the 5th Ijjar according to the Jewish calendar (approximately from April 20th to May 20th according to the Gregorian calendar ).

1948: War of Independence

Chaim Weizmann , the first President of Israel
David and Paula Ben-Gurion

On the very night of the founding, Egypt , Saudi Arabia , Transjordan , Lebanon , Iraq and Syria declared war on the new state. This was followed by the Israeli War of Independence (First Arab-Israeli War), which lasted from May 1948 to January 1949 and which brought Israel considerable territorial gains compared to the partition plan - especially in the western Galilee around Akko and in the northern Negev. In 1949 a ceasefire agreement was signed with each of the Arab attackers . Iraq withdrew from the West Bank without such an agreement. The territories intended for the Palestinians under the partition plan came under Jordanian ( West Bank including East Jerusalem ) or Egyptian occupation (Gaza Strip).

Around 850,000 Arabs fled Palestine during the war. Some of these refugees were driven out by the Israeli armed forces, and some were evacuated by the Arab armed forces for strategic reasons. As a result of this decline in the Arab population, the majority in the State of Israel has consisted of Jews since then.

In the first election to a constituent assembly on January 25, 1949, the socialist-Zionist Mapei party emerged victorious, followed by the left-wing socialist Mapam. David Ben-Gurion became Prime Minister. In the following years there were changing coalitions of Zionist-socialist, religious and Arab parties.

After the nationalization of the Suez Canal , which Egypt carried out against existing law, France, Great Britain and Israel decided on the Suez Campaign in 1956 . After an Israeli attack, the two former great powers were supposed to intervene as seemingly neutral forces and occupy the canal area. On October 29, 1956, Israeli troops advanced into Gaza and Sinai, and on November 5, European troops began to land, but the campaign had to end. Under pressure from the United States and the UN, the three attackers withdrew from the occupied territories by March 1957. However, the Israeli-Egyptian border was subsequently secured by UN peacekeeping forces, and access to the Gulf of Aqaba was free for Israeli shipping to the Israeli port of Eilat. The US committed itself to Israel to keep this international waterway open.

1967: Six Day War

In 1966 the number of attacks by Arab terrorists had risen to 41, and in the first four months of 1967 there were 37 attacks. Egyptian forces occupied the demilitarized zone of Sinai on May 15, 1967 (the anniversary of the Israeli declaration of independence). They were supported by exiled Palestinian combat units. On May 16, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser asked the UN troops, which had been stationed since 1956, to leave the border area with Israel. On May 18, the Syrian troops prepared for combat operations in the Golan Heights and the UN Secretary-General Sithu U Thant followed Nasser's request without resistance and withdrew the UN troops. Radio Cairo reported on May 18th: “As of today there are no more international peacekeeping forces protecting Israel. Our patience is over. We will no longer complain to the United Nations about Israel. From now on there is total war against Israel and it will lead to the eradication of Zionism " , and from Syria it was said on May 20 by Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad: " Our armed forces are absolutely equipped to repel not only the aggression, but also one To start liberation and to blow the Zionist presence out of our Arab homeland. The Syrian army, finger on the trigger, is in agreement ... as a military, I firmly believe that the time has come to enter a battle of annihilation. "

On May 22nd, the Egyptian army again closed the Strait of Tiran (access to the Gulf of Aqaba) to Israeli shipping. On May 30, Jordan also signed a military pact with Egypt. In response, Nasser announced, “The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon have deployed on the borders of Israel ... they will accept the challenge. Behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the entire Arab world. This will amaze the whole world. Today she will realize that the Arabs are ready to fight. The hour of decision has arrived. The time for declarations is over, the time for action has come. "

On June 4, Iraq joined the military alliance of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and Iraqi President Abd al-Rahman Arif commented: “The existence of Israel is a mistake that needs to be corrected. This is an opportunity to erase the disgrace that has been inflicted upon us since 1948. Our goal is clear: to wipe Israel off the map. "

The Six Day War began on June 5, 1967. Israel anticipated the looming joint attack by Egypt, Syria and Jordan with a pre-emptive strike and, following military success, controlled the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula , the West Bank and East Jerusalem and finally the Golan Heights . The armistice was signed on June 11th. On June 19, the Israeli cabinet decided to return the territories in peace negotiations. On September 1, the Arab states passed the Khartoum resolution , which stipulated not to negotiate with Israel. In UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967, Israel called on Israel to withdraw from areas that had been conquered in the Six Day War. In return, Israel should be guaranteed territorial integrity.

More than 175,000 Palestinians fled their homes. After the war, Israel began building Jewish settlements in order to increase the strategic depth of Israel and better control the occupied territories.

Golda Meir , the country's Prime Minister from 1969 to 1974

Between 1968 and 1970 the " war of attrition " took place between Israel and Egypt. From 1969 to 1974, Golda Meir was the first woman to hold the office of Israeli Prime Minister.

1973: Yom Kippur War

On October 6, 1973, the Jewish festival of reconciliation, Yom Kippur , Syria and Egypt attacked Israel in the Yom Kippur War .

The attack took the unprepared Israelis by surprise and initially brought the attackers initial military success. From the Israeli point of view, contrary to what the Arab strategists had thought, the surprise attack did not have a negative effect on the conscription. On the contrary, the reservists were called up exceptionally quickly, despite the initial surprise and some confusion in the mobilization depots . During the highest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, public life was almost completely idle, so that no road traffic obstructed military transports and the reservists could be quickly located in their homes and synagogues. Less than 24 hours after the fighting began, the first parts of two reserve divisions under Avraham Adan and Ariel Sharon reached Baluza and Tasa, each 250 kilometers from their home bases.

The Syrians penetrated the Golan Heights with over 1,400 tanks , the Egyptians broke through the Israeli defensive positions and crossed the Suez Canal. With the exception of a small area around Port Said on the Mediterranean coast, the Egyptians succeeded in taking the Bar-Lew Line and occupying a strip parallel to the Suez Canal.

However, the Israelis soon succeeded in repelling the attackers. In the north, the counter-offensive led to a defeat for the Syrian army, which was defeated in a few days - by October 10 - and had to leave behind 870 tanks as well as thousands of vehicles and artillery. The Syrians were pushed back up to 32 kilometers from Damascus , the Syrian capital was massively bombed, resulting in many civilian casualties. However, the Israeli troops failed to break through the Syrian front.

On the Sinai Peninsula , Israeli troops also pushed back the Egyptians and crossed the Suez Canal on October 16. South of the bitter lakes , the Israelis, led by General Ariel Sharon, succeeded in encircling the Egyptian 3rd Army remaining on the east bank. The Israeli army was now across the Suez Canal, 120 km from Cairo.

On October 22, the calling of the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 338 to US pressure on all parties to cease fire. When the armistice came into force on October 22nd (northern front) and October 24th (southern front), the Syrians were defeated; the trapped and unsupplied Egyptian 3rd Army was facing annihilation.

After the ceasefire began, negotiations on the disengagement of troops between the warring parties began in a tent at milestone 101 on the road between Cairo and Suez. These negotiations dragged on for months.

The losses were high on both sides. More than 2,600 Israeli soldiers fell, 7,500 were wounded and 300 were captured. The Israeli Air Force suffered heavy losses from the use of anti-aircraft missiles made by the Soviet Union. There were over 8,500 deaths on the Arab side.

The war resulted in a traumatization of the Israeli public, which had hardly noticed the foreign policy threat because the Israeli army had been considered invincible until then. The allegations due to the massive losses forced the Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign in April 1974.

For the Arab world, the war was a political success. With the war it was possible to signal to Israel that the Arab world was an enemy that should not be underestimated from a military point of view.

The Yom Kippur War triggered the 1973 oil price crisis .

1977: start of the peace process

Menachem Begin, the first Israeli Prime Minister of the revisionist wing of Zionism

In May 1977 the 9th Knesset election changed the country's political landscape. Left-wing governments have dominated the country since the state was founded, but now for the first time there has been a conservative majority in parliament; Menachem Begin became prime minister of a coalition of conservatives, liberal and religious parties.

On November 9, 1977, the Egyptian President Anwar as-Sadat announced a peace initiative in the Egyptian parliament, as in 1971. To what extent this was based on a real will to reconcile with Israel from the start, or just the goal of getting the Suez Canal and Sinai back, cannot be fully understood, since the 1971 initiative was followed by the attack on Israel (Yom Kippur War) . The fact is: On President Sadat's initiative, a peace process was set in motion in 1977 , and the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty ( see also Camp David Agreement ) was signed, which, among other things, regulated the return of Sinai by 1982.

Immediately after the Six Day War in 1967, Israeli legislation was extended to the occupied eastern part of Jerusalem. On July 30, 1980, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law , declaring Jerusalem the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel. The annexation of East Jerusalem and the 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights are not recognized or condemned internationally.

During the First Gulf War between Iraq and Iran, Israeli planes bombed and destroyed the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad in June 1981 ( Operation Opera ). This operation was justified with the atomic threat to Israel from Iraq.

From the 1980s onwards, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians increased.

In June 1982 the first Lebanon war began due to attacks by the PLO against Israel. In response, the Israeli prime minister was Menachem Begin to Lebanon by the Israeli forces attack since the PLO actions Beirut coordinated. After the Israelis occupied Beirut, the PLO withdrew from Lebanon. The war ended in September of the same year and it is estimated that 10,000 people were killed. Israel occupied southern Lebanon until 1985, after which Israel established a security zone with the SLA until 2000 . Syria occupied Lebanon de facto until 2005.

1987: First Intifada

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated in 1995

In 1987 violent riots broke out among Palestinians, known as the First Intifada . The following years were marked by this dispute, but also by peace negotiations that led to the introduction of Palestinian self-government for the areas of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Progress in the meantime contrasted with regression and severe crises - for example the murder of Yitzchak Rabin by a Jewish extremist and repeated suicide bombings by Palestinian terrorists. The time being the largest standstill reached the so-called Oslo peace process , after 2000, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO boss Yasser Arafat in Camp David under the mediation of former US President Bill Clinton did not have to agree. The main points of contention were the return of the Palestinian refugees, the partition of Jerusalem and the abandonment of areas that Israel had conquered in the Six Day War. Even relatively far-reaching concessions by the Israelis, such as giving up 95% of the disputed areas, could not prevent the negotiations from failing.

When assessing the negotiations and the reasons for their failure, there are different, controversial views (see Camp David II ).

2000: Second Intifada

Only a few months later, in September 2000, the Second Intifada broke out, during which the peace negotiations were broken off. Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli military actions, such as the invasion of Arab cities, cost several thousand people on both sides their lives by the beginning of 2005. The Al-Aqsa intifada ended with the Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement , which was signed on February 8, 2005 by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon , the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas , the Egyptian President Husni Mubarak and King Abdullah II of Jordan .

After the success of the radical Islamic terrorist organization and Hamas party in the parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories and the Israeli Kadima party in the 2006 Knesset elections, from which Ehud Olmert emerged as the new prime minister, the domestic political situation in Israel worsened dramatically. The situation escalated in the summer of 2006 when Israel responded to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hamas with attacks in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. With Hezbollah showing solidarity with Hamas by kidnapping more Israeli soldiers, the second Lebanon war began .

After years of obstacles, diplomatic rapprochement between the Vatican and Israel seems to be becoming more concrete. The point of contention is an old law that is still in force in Israel and denies the churches permission to own property. The Holy See wants to get back its historical possessions that have been "stolen" by the state. This includes, for example, the pilgrim house in the sea city of Caesarea .

On December 28, 2008, the Israeli army launched Operation Cast Lead, a series of heavy air strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip after short-range missiles were fired at Israeli towns. On January 3, 2009, the operation expanded into a ground offensive.

On May 31, 2010, the Ship-to-Gaza incident occurred in which a number of ships were intercepted by the Israeli military trying to break the sea blockade of the Gaza Strip . Nine activists were killed. Relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated massively since then. Even before that, under the Erdogan government, Turkey had distanced itself from Israel, developed into an advocate for Hamas and sought solidarity with Iran, whose president he called his “best friend”.

In July 2014, after the murder of three Jewish religious students and an as yet unexplained revenge murder of a Palestinian youth, another conflict broke out between Israel and Hamas. The Israeli army launched Operation Protective Edge and began invading Gaza. On August 26, the fighting ended in a truce.

After a government crisis between Likud and the liberal parties in November 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed his Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni from their offices on December 2 . In March 2015, new elections were held, which Netanyahu's party won.

Since October 2015 there have been repeated knife attacks by Palestinian terrorists on passers-by and security forces. In this new wave of acts of violence, 34 Israelis and at least 220 Palestinians as well as one tourist from the USA have been killed (as of July 1, 2016). Most of the Palestinians were shot dead by the security forces in attacks and attempted attacks on Israelis. Often the perpetrators act alone and without a superordinate structure. The Israeli authorities blame radical incitement to the Palestinians.


Political indices
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Democracy index 7.84 out of 10 27 of 167 Incomplete democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = complete democracy
Freedom in the World Index 76 of 100 - Freedom status: free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 30.84 out of 100 88 of 180 Recognizable problems for the freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 60 out of 100 35 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020

Political system

The Knesset , the Israeli parliament building

The State of Israel is a parliamentary democracy based on the Western model. The organization Freedom House and the magazine The Economist classify Israel as the only country in the Middle East as a free democracy. In the 2019 Democracy Index of the British magazine The Economist, Israel ranks 27th out of 167 countries, which is the best ranking among the countries of the Middle East (followed by Lebanon in 108th place). According to the index, Israel is considered an "incomplete democracy".


Israel is one of three countries in the world, alongside the United Kingdom and New Zealand, without a codified constitution .

On June 13, 1950, the Knesset passed the Hariri resolution, according to which a constitution should be established in the form of individual "basic laws". Each basic law should be presented to parliament individually, the entirety of these basic laws should be considered the "constitution" of Israel. The declaration of independence of May 14, 1948 as well as eleven basic laws replace a constitution.

The eight basic laws passed between 1958 and 1984 deal with the institutions of the State of Israel. In 1992 they were supplemented for the first time by the protection of basic rights through the basic laws on freedom of occupation and human dignity and freedom.

On July 19, 2018, the Israeli parliament passed the National State Law (officially Basic Law: Israel - The National State of the Jewish People ). This is anchored in Israel's claim to be the “national home of the Jewish people”. Furthermore, the law makes the united Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The flag, national anthem, the Hebrew calendar and Jewish holidays have since become national symbols, with Hebrew being the only official language. The Arabic language is given a special status; an addition makes it clear that the previous use and status of the language will not be affected by the law.


Meeting room in the Presidential Palace in Jerusalem

The President (Hebrew Nasi ) is elected by the Knesset in a secret ballot by an absolute majority for a seven-year term. Re-election is not possible. The office of president symbolizes the unity of the state across party-political boundaries. His duties are representative and formal. On June 10, 2014, Reuven Rivlin was elected President, who took office on July 24, 2014. His predecessor was Shimon Peres .

houses of Parliament

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset , was elected for the first time on January 25, 1949. The 120 members of the Knesset are elected for four years by secret ballot. The women's suffrage led Israel already 1946th The general elections provide for closed lists , which means that voters only vote for party lists and cannot influence the order within the lists. There are no different constituencies , all voters vote for the same party lists. The Knesset elects the president and passes the laws. The highest court can only repeal a law if it violates the constitution.


The prime minister (head of government ), ( Hebrew ראש הממשלה, Rosh haMemschala "head of government") and his cabinet exercise the executive power .

The president instructs the party leader who must be a member of the Knesset to form a new government who is most capable of doing so. After the election of the president, the elected prime minister has 45 days to form a government, which then has to be approved collectively by the Knesset. The Prime Minister also presents the basic lines of his government policy.

The government is responsible for the conduct of internal and foreign affairs. The possibilities of setting the guidelines of the policy are very extensive, and the Prime Minister is authorized to take action on any subject unless this has been delegated to another authority by law.

Ministers are responsible to the Prime Minister for the performance of their duties and are obliged to report to the Knesset for their actions. Most ministers have a portfolio and head a ministry; others work without a division, but can be assigned special tasks.

At least half of the ministers must belong to the Knesset as MPs, although all ministers must be suitable candidates for the Knesset. The Prime Minister, or any other minister with the Prime Minister's approval, appoints a maximum of six Deputy Ministers, all of whom must be members of the Knesset.

So far, all governments in Israel have been formed on the basis of a coalition of different parties, since no party could unite a sufficient number of mandates in the Knesset to form a government on its own.

The government usually remains in office for four years. The prime minister and ministers of an outgoing government continue to perform their duties until a new government takes up its work. If the Prime Minister can no longer fulfill his duties, in the event of his resignation, an indictment brought against him, a successful Knesset vote of no confidence, or his death, the government transfers office to one of its members, who is also a member of the Knesset. This incumbent Prime Minister has all the authority; an exception, however, is the possibility of dissolving the Knesset.

Prime Minister has been Naftali Bennett since June 13, 2021 , who replaced Benjamin Netanyahu , who had ruled since 2009 .

Parties and political organizations

Israel has a multi-party system. Since the state was founded, there have never been fewer than ten parties represented in parliament. The reasons for this are the low threshold clause and, above all, the heterogeneity of the population that has grown due to immigration.

The most important dividing line between the parties since the Six Day War has been that between “pigeons” and “hawks”. “Doves” represent the principle of “land for peace”. They advocate the establishment of a Palestinian state and the division of Jerusalem between Israel and Palestine. The so-called “hawks”, on the other hand, represent the formula “peace for peace”, which means that the occupied territories are to be annexed in whole or in part in the long term. Traditionally, the Avoda as the leading party of the "dove" camp and Likud as the leading party of the "hawks" face each other. Until 1977 all prime ministers belonged to Avoda or their predecessors, since then there have been predominantly heads of government from the Likud.

The largest right-wing party is traditionally the Likud, alongside smaller right-wing parties such as Yisrael Beitenu (mainly elected by Russian immigrants). The religious parties, which differentiate between ultra-orthodox ( Shas and United Torah Judaism ) and national religious (mainly Jamina ), were mostly allied with the Likud since 1977. The largest left party is traditionally the social democratic Avoda, further to the left there is Meretz . Avoda and left parties as a whole have lost importance. Since the late 1970s, centrist parties have often been founded, often short-lived, the most important in the Knesset elected in 2021 is Yesch Atid (liberal, secular). Often, before elections, new parties or alliances of existing parties are formed. In addition, there are parties that are predominantly ( Chadasch ) or exclusively supported by Arabs and often run in different constellations with common lists.

The strong socialist beginnings of the Israeli state explain the important role that the Histadrut , the General Union of Israeli Workers , plays in political life.

In Germany, the best-known groups of the Israeli peace movement are Gush Schalom and Peace Now . There are also several other independent human rights organizations such as B'Tselem and Machsom Watch (Checkpoint Watch) and the civil rights group ICAHD .

Women's suffrage

In 1920 the yishuv created an assembly of representatives. This did not have any legal legitimacy, since the power lay with the British mandate power ; but this was encouraged to cooperate with Jewish representations. Ultra-Orthodox men successfully blocked women's suffrage in the yishuv in the beginning. As a compromise solution, women were given the right to vote for a limited time in April 1920. The ultra-Orthodox men were compensated by receiving two votes: one for themselves and one for their wife. There was a permanent right to vote for women from 1925 in the elections for the second legislative assembly. However, the principle of one vote per person was not applied until the election of the fourth legislative assembly in August 1944. The rules governing this election formed the basis for the constitution of the State of Israel, which became independent on May 15, 1948. After the declaration of independence, a constituent assembly was supposed to draw up a constitution within five months, but this was not possible because of the war. In January 1949, Knesset elections were held according to the system that had applied to the Assembly of Representatives (see above). On February 16, 1949, some basic laws were passed by the Constituent Assembly. The rule that gender shouldn't matter was part of these basic laws.

Administrative structure

Ägypten Saudi-Arabien Jordanien Libanon Syrien Syrien (von der UN überwachtes demilitarisiertes Puffergebiet) Bezirk Tel Aviv Bezirk Haifa Zentralbezirk Südbezirk Bezirk Jerusalem de-facto Israel (von Israel als zum Bezirk Jerusalem gehörig gezählt; von der Palästinensischen Autonomiebehörde als Teil des Westjordanlandes beansprucht) de-facto Israel (Zentralbezirk; von der Palästinensischen Autonomiebehörde als Teil des Westjordanlandes beansprucht) de-facto unter Kontrolle Israels (von Israel als Judäa und Samaria bezeichnet; teils unter Verwaltung der Palästinensischen Autonomiebehörde und von dieser als Westjordanland bezeichnet und vollständig beansprucht) Gazastreifen (offiziell unter Verwaltung der Palästinensischen Autonomiebehörde, von Israel de-facto abhängig, offiziell aber nicht als Teil Israels betrachtet) Nordbezirk (Israel) Golanhöhen (de-facto Israel, von Israel als Teil des Nordbezirks angesehen; von Syrien beansprucht) Nordbezirk (demilitarisierter Teil des Nordbezirks)
Map of the districts in the state of Israel


The state territory of Israel is in six districts, Hebrew מחוזות mechozot ( singular machoz ), divided. Almost all of the districts are in a total of 15 subdistricts, in Hebrew נפות nafot (singular. nafa ) divided. In addition, the military district of Judea and Samaria is included in the official statistics . This includes the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The six districts of Israel are:

Local government

Local government consists of three different types: city government, municipal government and regional government.

City administration

A city government, in Hebrew Iriyah , is the largest form of local government in Israel. City administration status is granted by the Israeli Minister of the Interior to applying localities, which normally have more than 20,000 inhabitants. Exceptions are possible in isolated cases. In 2008 there were 71 city administrations.

Local government

A local government, in Hebrew מועצה מקומית Mo'atzah Mekomit , English local council , hence also local association, is an administrative unit for the smaller urban settlements and the larger agricultural towns. A local government has between 2000 and 20,000 inhabitants and is therefore part of the administrative structure of Israel between cities and rural regional associations. In 2007 there were a total of 141 local governments in Israel.

Regional administration

The Menashe Regional Association Office

Regional administrations, Hebrew מועצה אזורית Mo'atza Azorit , are the third type of local government in Israel. This is often a two-level administration.

The regional administration is responsible for several smaller settlements in rural areas, which often have their own community committee. The settlements are usually spread over a larger area, but in geographical proximity to each other. The individual settlements within a regional association have fewer than 2000 inhabitants.

The community committee of a settlement sends delegates to the regional administration, who are appointed directly or by election, in proportion to the number of inhabitants. Many kibbutzim and moshavim are part of a regional administration. In 2003 there were 53 regional associations in Israel.

Foreign and Security Policy

States with embassies from Israel
States that have embassies in Israel

The aim of Israeli foreign policy is a solution to the Middle East conflict, as a result of which it is hoped that relations with the Arab countries will improve in the long term. Israel has signed a peace treaty with both Egypt and Jordan . In January 2007, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz also reported that there had been secret peace negotiations with Syria between 2004 and 2006.

Another goal of Israeli security policy is the immigration of as many Jews as possible, especially those who, from the Israeli point of view, are exposed to existential threats. In several spectacular actions, Israel brought Jews to Israel, sometimes with the help of the military, even if they were not Israeli citizens , for example the evacuation of Ethiopian Jews during the famine in their country.

The US is Israel's most important ally and grants it the status of an " important ally outside of NATO ". Israel is given preferential treatment over Jordan and Egypt, which are also allied with the United States. This concerns, for example, access to intelligence information or armaments technology.

Indeed, the United States has a far-reaching independent interest in the region and in the continued existence of Israel. Israel is one of those states to which Congress grants military development aid of the highest level as part of the so-called Foreign Military Financing program, but which is granted on the condition that the recipient country procures military equipment exclusively from American arms companies. In addition, the US must agree to the resale of defense equipment acquired through this funding program on a case-by-case basis.

Israel also cooperates in many areas with the People's Republic of China and especially with India. Since the 1950s, Israel has been providing development policy in Africa and, with less effort, in Asia. The driving force behind this was Golda Meir and Moshe Sharet . The aim of development policy was to break the encirclement by hostile Arab states and to weaken the unrestricted support for the Arab countries by black African nations. In the case of Ethiopia, there was also an interest in ensuring the security of the local Jewish minority.

On September 7, 2010, Israel acceded to the OECD .

After three and a half years of construction, a 400 km long barrier to Egypt was completed in December 2013 to prevent illegal migrants from Africa from immigrating to Israel and to curb drug and weapons smuggling. The construction cost was 450 million US dollars.

A peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates , also known as the Abraham Agreement, was signed on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 at 1:37 p.m. in front of the White House in Washington in the presence of US President Trump by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Foreign Minister signed by the Emirates Abdullah bin Said al-Nahjan . At the same time there was a peace treaty between Israel and Bahrain with the Kingdom of Bahrain through Abdullatif bin Raschid al-Sajani , as well as with Morocco and Sudan . So far, however, there has been no recognition of Israel's right to exist by other Arab states.

Israel and Kosovo agreed to establish diplomatic relations on February 1, 2021. With the agreement, another country with a majority Muslim population recognizes Israel. Kosovo is also the first European country to open its embassy in Israel's capital, Jerusalem. So far, only the USA and Guatemala have moved their diplomatic missions from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. However, the foreign policy spokesman for the European Union , Peter Stano , threatened that the embassy decision would gamble Kosovo away from its prospects of EU membership, which does not prevent Kosovo from doing so. Also Equatorial Guinea wants to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Israeli peace diplomacy

Peace offer made by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with a solution to the settlement problem through a territorial exchange to create a sovereign state of Palestine in territory equivalent to the size of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Both the early Zionist representatives before Israel's independence and several Israeli heads of government afterwards have made several agreements with Arab representatives since 1919 and submitted a large number of peace offers, but none of these has been able to establish a regional peace for various reasons. These peace offers should finally clarify the central conflict issues in the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab talks - borders, Israeli settlements, security and refugees.

These offers included the peace offer made to Syria and Egypt nine days after Israel's victory in the Six Day War , which was conveyed through American diplomatic channels and offered the return of the Golan Heights to Syria and the return of the Sinai to Egypt in return for a peace treaty. However, through the Khartoum resolution, the Arab League categorically rejected all negotiations with Israel (no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel). Furthermore, the return of up to 98% of the West Bank to Jordan was offered as part of the Allon Plan from 1967 to 1970 , but King Hussein I refused.

Other important events were the handover of 40% of the West Bank with over 90% of the population to the Palestinian Authority in the course of the Oslo peace process and Israel's approval of the Clinton parameters . These envisaged a future Palestinian state in all of Gaza and up to 97% of the West Bank. In addition, in 2005 Israel ceded all of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority under the “Sharon Plan” and in 2008 offered a territorial solution for the disputed areas of the West Bank, which enabled a Palestinian state in the West Bank through a mutual exchange of territory (see illustration). However, this proposal was rejected by Mahmoud Abbas.


The Merkava 4, Israel's most modern main battle tank

The Israel Defense Forces ( Hebrew צבא ההגנה לישראל Tzwa haHagana leJisra'el , shortצה"ל Tzahal , or English Israel Defense Forces , shortly IDF ) are considered the strongest armed forces in the region. The number of personnel and the number of weapon systems are subject to confidentiality. Estimates assume a workforce of around 176,500 men and women (including Army: 133,000, Air Force: 34,000, Navy: 9,500), which can be increased to over 600,000 in the event of a defense. After the end of the Cold War, the military threat to Israel has changed from symmetrically aligned opponents to asymmetrically fighting Palestinian and Lebanese organizations.

Conscription in Israel is 36 months for men and 24 months for women, excluding Israeli Arabs and all non-Jewish, pregnant or married women. Only women are allowed to refuse military service for reasons of conscience; they then do a civilian alternative service of one to two years. The monthly salary of the conscripts is around 460 NIS (around 98 euros). If you refuse to do military service, you may be sentenced to imprisonment.

A characteristic of the Israeli defense system is the comparatively high international involvement of its reservists , who due to the regular reserve service (one month per year for non-commissioned officers and men up to the age of 42 and 51 for officers , for women up to the age of 24). Age) maintain a high level of education and employability. The armed forces also conduct regular exercises in cooperation with the USA and other NATO countries and often send their junior leaders to these countries for training.

IAI Lavi Israeli Production
- a representation of Israeli defense technology
Dabur class patrol boat at sea.
Israeli F-15 I Ra'am , a variant of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 E Strike Eagle suitable as a nuclear weapon carrier
Soldiers of the Netzach Yehuda Battalion
Shavit at the start - a launcher consisting of 2 Jericho - medium-range missile was developed.
Soldiers of the Caracal Battalion

The backbone of the army is the armored force with around 1,500 modern battle tanks of the Merkava type . In addition, there are about 2000 older models, v. a. M60 (Magach) , mainly in reserve units, in use. The air force has around 500 combat aircraft and 200 helicopters; These come almost exclusively from US production, but were often modified during construction or subsequently by Israeli armaments companies for the specific requirements of the Israeli armed forces and usually have Israeli armaments (such as Delilah , Nimrod and Spice ) and electronics (such as Litening ) Production. The Israeli Navy has, inter alia. about 40 patrol boats , ten rocket boats, three corvettes and four modern submarines of the Dolphin class . The German armaments industry is involved in the development and delivery of the Dolphin submarines. In addition, the engine of the Merkava IV tank was developed by MTU Friedrichshafen and is produced under license from L-3 Communication Combat Propulsion Systems (previously General Dynamics ). In return, Germany was equipped with the Israel-designed Spike anti-tank missiles . The Bundeswehr also operates the Israeli Heron drones .

The Israeli infantry have a variety of weapons. Most commonly used is the American M16 (rifle) in different versions. However, Israeli-made weapons such as IMI Negev , Tavor TAR-21 , IMI Galatz , IMI Galil , Uzi and Baby Eagle are also in use .

Israeli defense companies include: Israel Weapon Industries , Israel Aerospace Industries , Rafael and IMI .

For air defense, Israel has had the Patriot air defense system (version PAC 2) since 1991 and the Hawk air defense system since the 1960s .

Israel has had the Arrow (English: "Arrow", original Hebrew name: חץ; "Chetz") missile defense system (Version Arrow 2) against central and intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2000 , but had for a long time against fire with Qassam missiles , which the Hamas from the Gaza strip from sets in, and the Katyusha rockets of Hezbollah from southern Lebanon because of their short range with corresponding thereto flight time no repellent. The Iron Dome defense system (original Hebrew name:כיפת ברזל kipat barzel , German for 'iron dome' ). The first batteries went into operation near Beersheba in March 2011 and were able to intercept Hamas rockets shortly afterwards. David's Sling defense system is also planned against missiles with a range of between 70 and 250 kilometers . To increase protection against ballistic missiles , the improved PAC 3 version of the Patriot air defense system has recently been in use and an improved version of Arrow (Arrow 3) is under development.

Israel has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is widely believed to have had nuclear weapons developed at the Negev Nuclear Research Center since the 1960s . In the 1970s there was secret joint nuclear weapons research with South Africa . Experts assume that Israel has around 200 nuclear warheads . The Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu published a number of insights into the Israeli nuclear weapons program, for which he was charged and convicted. The official policy of the government is not to comment on this question, that is, neither admit nor deny ownership (the so-called policy of “atomic ambiguity”). An interview in December 2006, in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert named Israel as well as France, the USA and Russia in a list of nuclear powers, was viewed by the international press as an indirect admission of Israeli possession of nuclear weapons and at the same time as a threat and a reply to Iran . On December 4, 2012, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution with 174 votes to 6 that Israel should immediately join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and allow the IAEA to control the nuclear facilities in the country.

Israel was number 1 on the Global Militarization Index (GMI) in 2017 . Israel spent just under 4.7 percent of its economic output or $ 16.5 billion on its armed forces in 2017.


Israeli police emblem

The police of Israel (Hebrew: משטרת ישראל, Mischteret Yisrael ) employs approximately 30,000 full-time staff. These are supported by 33,000 volunteers (as of 2016). The tasks of the police include law enforcement, road traffic control and the defense against threats to public order and security. It reports to the Ministry of Public Security of Israel and was founded in 1948. The emergency number is 100.

The regional breakdown corresponds to the six districts of Israel . The functional breakdown takes place according to the task fields in numerous departments such as Investigations & Intelligence (German for investigation and information ) or Policing and Security (German for control and security ).

There is also the border police ( Hebrew מִשְׁמַר הַגְּבוּל Mishmar HaGvul or מג״ב Magav for short ), which maintains several special units for combating terrorism, including the JAMAM .

The head of the police ( Nitzav or Rav Nitzav ) is appointed by the Israeli government on the recommendation of the Minister for Internal Security . He is supported by a deputy.

Intelligence services

The Mossad (המוסד למודיעין ולתפקידים מיוחדים, "Institute for Enlightenment and Special Tasks"; actually Mosad Merkazi leModi'in uLeTafkidim Mejuchadim , "General Intelligence and Security Service") is the Israeli foreign intelligence service .

Next to him is the domestic secret service Schin Bet and the military secret service Aman .

Settlement policy

Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which has been occupied since 1967

In the areas occupied since June 1967, over 400 Jewish settlements and so-called outposts have been established, which are inhabited by Jewish Israelis. The total number of Jewish-Israeli settlers amounts to almost 600,000, of which around 391,000 live in the West Bank (as of 2016) and 201,200 in East Jerusalem (as of 2014). As of August 2005, around 7,500 Israelis lived in the Gaza Strip among more than a million Palestinians. The settlements are often lavishly built on the American model. You are protected against attacks by a massive security apparatus. A network of special roads, some of which may only be used by Israeli citizens, offers a good transport infrastructure between the settlements and Israeli territory. At the same time, it makes development in the Palestinian autonomous areas more difficult. The freedom of movement of the Palestinian population is additionally restricted by Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints.

In August 2005, the Sharon government, in close coalition with the Labor Party, cleared all settlements in the Gaza Strip and four smaller settlements in the West Bank. This was a unilateral and globally recognized step by Israel that was not worked out within the framework of the “ roadmap ” (see Sharon Plan ). From Sharon’s environment, however, it was also heard that efforts should be made to expand the largest settlements in the West Bank. In return, territorial concessions are to be made to the Palestinians. Militant Palestinian organizations present this partial withdrawal of Israel as a separate victory over Israel. Ariel Sharon's successor in office, Ehud Olmert, has offered the Palestinians through his so-called convergence plan to grant the Palestinians a Palestinian state against the establishment of the course of the barriers currently being built across the Green Line in Palestinian territory accept.

Internationally, the Jewish communities and settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are predominantly viewed as violating international law. The law authorizes the temporary seizure of land in occupied territories exclusively for military purposes, but not for its own permanent settlement citizens, agriculture and other civilian uses. Israel has a different assessment of the legal situation, but is thus internationally isolated. In several resolutions the United Nations called on Israel in vain to stop building settlements.


Page with some of the first Israeli laws

The law of Israel today has its origins in three different legal traditions: the law of the Ottoman period , the law of the British mandate period in the form of common law and the positive law of the Israeli legislature since 1948.

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 did not initially bring about any profound changes: The Law and Administration Ordinance 1948 allowed all applicable law to come into force unless it was changed by new legislative acts. To the present day, a large part of Israel's law in the area of ​​commercial and company law has therefore been substantively English law, even if the case law of English jurisdiction has no longer been binding since 1972. Ottoman law is only relevant in a few areas, as the Israeli legislature has particularly reorganized contract and property law. In the long term, the current private law is to be transferred to the order of the continental European legal system in the form of a civil code. English law is thus giving way more and more to an independent Israeli jurisprudence that is methodologically close to common law .

Legal system

The Israeli legal system consists of the laws that the Knesset enacts and, in part, of the ordinances that the British mandate passed until 1948, which in turn have been adopted by the Knesset and individually revised. The Israeli legal system can best be characterized as a "mixed" system, because it belongs to the Western legal systems, was heavily influenced by Anglo-American law , but also contains aspects that are typical of Roman-style civil law. In addition, certain features of the legal system are influenced by the fact that Israel is a Jewish state. The Supreme Court's rights to judge Knesset laws are limited. Legal interpretation is limited to formal issues such as the execution of laws and the validity of subordinate legislation.

In December 1985, Israel informed the UN Secretariat that the compelling case law of the International Court of Justice would no longer be accepted.


The Supreme Court building

The independence of the judiciary, divided into secular and religious courts, is guaranteed by the basic laws.

The judges of the secular courts are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a special nomination committee composed of the judges of the Supreme Court , members of the bar and public figures. Judges are appointed for life and are required to retire at the age of 70.

The secular jurisdiction is divided into three levels: on the first and second level there are magistrate and district courts for processes in civil and criminal law as well as youth, traffic, military, labor and municipal appeals courts.

At the head of the judiciary, as the highest appellate body, is the Supreme Court with its seat in Jerusalem . The “High Court for Justice” (“Beit-Din Gawoah LeTzedek” = “BaGaTz”) is formed from the judges of the Supreme Court and is made up of three, five or seven judges, depending on the importance of the case. This court is the only and highest appellate instance in matters of principle and offers (similar to the Federal Constitutional Court) the possibility of taking legal action against the government as well as all representatives and institutions of the state and having their measures checked for legality, and possibly even suspending them.

Personal status issues such as marriage and divorce, maintenance, guardianship and adoption of minors fall under the jurisdiction of the jurisdiction or administration of the respective religious community, according to Ottoman legal tradition. These religious courts are the rabbinical courts for the Jewish religious communities, Muslim Sharia -dishes, the religious courts of the Druze and the ecclesiastical courts of the ten recognized Christian communities in Israel. Several hundred non -religious or mixed-religious couples therefore have to travel abroad every year to get married and then have this recognized in Israel. For partners who do not belong to any religious community there is now a legal institution similar to civil marriage, and several legislative initiatives to introduce civil marriage have failed in recent years due to resistance from the orthodox parties.

Although the legislature lies exclusively within the competence of the Knesset, the Supreme Court has the possibility of drawing attention to desired changes in the law; As the Supreme Court, the court has the authority to decide whether a law complies with the basic laws of the state.

Human rights

Israel has strong and independent institutions that guarantee political rights and civil liberties for most of the population. Freedom House therefore classifies Israel as “free”.

At the end of 2011, Amnesty International reported that Israel had displaced more than 1,000 Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and destroyed more than 500 houses, apartments and water supply installations this year ; the displacement and destruction had doubled compared to the previous year. This trend goes hand in hand with the intensification of Israeli settlement construction and the increase in violent attacks by settlers on Palestinians.

After Israel had long accused the UN Human Rights Council of being one-sided in its criticism of Israel and therefore boycotted it, there were signs of a turnaround in 2013. In June 2018, however, Israel welcomed the US withdrawal from the Human Rights Council. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the council of obsessively concentrating on Israel.

In July 2020, the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din accused the Israeli government of apartheid in the occupied territories. In January 2021, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem designated Israel as an apartheid regime. In April 2021, Human Rights Watch charged the Israeli government with apartheid and other crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem. Similar allegations had been made in the past.


Until 1999, torture of Palestinian prisoners by Israeli security forces was widespread and systematic. In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that prisoners should no longer be tortured during interrogation.

However, Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein issued an ordinance stating that intelligence agents who nonetheless tortured prisoners would not go to court if they could prove that it was “immediately necessary, the life, freedom of people or property in front of you to preserve the concrete risk of serious damage ”, and that“ there is no other way of ensuring this ”. Senior officials were required to approve the methods, and the interrogators were required to keep detailed records of the number of beatings, the painful forced positions, and any other so-called special means. In the 2000s there were around a thousand torture complaints against the secret service, all of which were dismissed by the authorities; Legal proceedings were not allowed. In 2014, the number of cases of torture by the Israeli intelligence service rose sharply again.

In November 2018, the Supreme Court (Judges Yosef Elron, Isaac Amit and David Mintz) dismissed a lawsuit against the Secret Service for torture, ruling that the "special interrogation methods" used by the Secret Service against Plaintiff Firas Tbeish - sleep deprivation , beatings , painful positions, violent shaking to the point of unconsciousness - as an exception, as described in the 1999 court ruling, are justified. Judge Mintz spoke of a "judgment that says torture is prohibited, except in the most exceptional cases".

In September 2019, the Palestinian Samir Arbid was arrested and nearly tortured to death by Shin Bet staff. After being tortured by the Shin Bet, Arbid passed out in critical condition with countless broken bones and trauma as well as kidney failure and a suspected heart attack and had to be ventilated. Judicial authorities approved the torture of Arbid. The Israeli authorities opened an investigation when the ill-treatment became known, but Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit closed the investigation into the torturers in January 2021.



New Israeli Shekel - banknotes and coins
An aerial view of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area
The Gulfstream G200 - a transcontinental business
jet aircraft developed by Israel Aerospace Industries .

Israel has a technologically highly developed market economy with a large state share. A major employer is therefore the public service , in which 33% of Israeli workers are employed. 17% work in industry, 20% in tourism, trade and finance; 28% work in other areas (services, etc.).

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures equivalent to US $ 88.7 billion , which was offset by revenues equivalent to US $ 80.7 billion. This results in a budget deficit of 2.4% of GDP .
The national debt in 2016 was $ 121.1 billion, or 62.0% of GDP. Israel has had some successes in restructuring its national budget in recent years.

In 2006 the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was in the following areas:

Israel has about half of its sovereign external debt with the US, its main source of political, economic, and military support. A relatively large proportion of Israel's foreign debt is held by private investors in the form of State of Israel Bonds . The combination of American loan guarantees and direct borrowing from private investors enables Israel to borrow at cheap rates, sometimes below market rates. This policy is also tolerated and supported by Germany in order to achieve the strategic goal of securing the existence of the Jewish state.

In 2015, economic growth was estimated at 2.4% and thus below the previous year's growth of 2.8%. The gross domestic product of Israel totaled 305 billion US dollars in 2014, the gross domestic product per capita was 37,731 US dollars in the same year. Unemployment was around 5.4% in 2015. In 2017 it was 4.3%. The total number of employees is estimated at 4 million for 2017, 47.2% of them women. In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Israel ranks 16th out of 137 countries (2017-2018). In 2017, Israel ranked 36th out of 180 countries in the Economic Freedom Index .

Israel is dependent on imports for fossil fuels (crude oil, natural gas, coal), grain , beef , raw materials and military equipment. There are small amounts of petroleum , phosphates , potash and kaolin in the country . It is not known whether Israel has precious metals and stones as additional mineral resources. However, large gold deposits are suspected. In the case of natural gas, there are signs of a change in import dependency since four deposits were discovered off the Mediterranean coast. Since 2014, Israel has been producing natural gas from the "Tamar" gas field, which is about 90 kilometers from Haifa , which is then sent to the southern Israeli city of Ashdod for further processing . In the medium term, the plan is to work with Cyprus to export natural gas as liquid gas to Europe.

Not least because of its limited resources of arable land, water and raw materials, Israel has intensively developed its agricultural and industrial sectors in recent decades. Yet Israel is not an agricultural self-sufficiency. Most of the feed grain in particular has to be imported. Israel has significant capacities in oil refining , diamond cutting and manufacturing of semiconductors . Significant export items are cut diamonds, cutting-edge technology , military equipment, software , pharmaceuticals , fine chemicals and agricultural products (fruits, vegetables and flowers, and recently also caviar ). Israel invests more money per capita in research and development than any other country. A silicon wadi has developed in the region around Tel Aviv , in which 422 companies were founded in the first nine months of 2011 alone . The innovative Israeli startup scene in the field of cutting-edge technologies is considered exemplary worldwide.

A big problem is the water supply. With additionally developed new methods for economical land irrigation (see section Science and Technology ) an attempt is made to cope with the water scarcity. The water supply is also a political bone of contention, which in the past has led to tensions with neighboring Syria.

Influence of immigration

Immigrants from the former Soviet Union brought in scientists and academics who are of considerable value to Israel's future. The influx, combined with the opening of new markets after the end of the Cold War , revitalized Israel's economy and ensured rapid growth during the 1990s. As the government tightened fiscal and monetary policies from 1996 and the flow of immigrants slowed, growth began to slow. On the other hand, inflation fell to a record low in 1999.

Social situation

According to a 2008 report by the National Insurance Institute (המוסד לביטוח לאומי) poverty continues to rise in Israel, although GDP per capita rose by 12.4% between 2004 and 2006 alone. In 2007, in Israel excluding the territories occupied in 1967, 24.7% of the total population and 35.9% of children were below the poverty line . The high level of poverty among children is a record among developed countries.

According to the Israeli definition, the poverty line in 2007 was a monthly income of 2028  shekels (approx. 364 euros) for a single person, 3244 shekels (600 euros) for a childless couple and 5191 shekels (944 euros) for a family of four.

The so-called working poor are a major problem due to the extremely low wages in many sectors: 40% of all households below the poverty line have at least one employed person.

The summer of 2011 saw the largest protests in recent history due to the unsatisfactory social situation in Israel. Up to half a million people demonstrated, mainly in Tel Aviv, against the high cost of living and called for social justice and a welfare state .

According to the December 2015 National Social Insurance report, 31% of Israel's children are currently growing up in poverty. This has resulted in a slight improvement in the situation in recent years. Overall, however, 22% of Israelis are still considered poor. According to the report, the poverty rate is particularly high among ultra-Orthodox Jews and the Arab minority of the Palestinians in the country. Here it is around 50% in each case.

Working week

The official working week in Israel begins with Sunday (Hebrew “Yom Rishon”, “first day”) as the first day of the week. During the Sabbath from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening, most shops are closed and almost no services are offered. However, there are strong differences between more religious and more secular places.


The King David Hotel , Jerusalem

Tourism in Israel is an important economic factor in the country. The Ministry of Tourism is responsible .

Many travel destinations in Israel are sites of Christianity such as the Old City of Jerusalem , Nazareth , Bethlehem and the Sea of ​​Galilee . There are also numerous historical sites such as the cities of Caesarea Maritima , Bet She'an and Akkon , the Masada fortress and a section of the former spice route from Petra to Gaza. Beach holidays are possible on the Mediterranean coast, the Red Sea and the Dead Sea . There are also diving areas and resorts on the Red Sea ( Eilat ) . There are also nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel . Due to the very good transport infrastructure, individual trips can be carried out easily.

The place with the highest number of tourists is Jerusalem with around 3.5 million visitors annually. Tel Aviv was visited by 1.676 million tourists. Origin of tourists by highest number (first): United States, Russia, France and United Kingdom. In 2008 the Israeli government provided 10 million shekels (approx. € 2.077 million) for tourism advertising in Europe.

Most tourists arrive from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport . There are entry problems if there are visas or entry stamps from Arab countries in the passports of tourists (except for Jordan and Egypt).


Israel's banking system has its roots in the Zionist movement in the early 20th century before Israel was founded. The World Zionist Organization with Theodor Herzl founded the Anglo Palestine Company (APC) on February 27, 1902 (later renamed Bank Leumi). The three largest banks in Israel are Hapoalim , Leumi and Israel Discount Bank , which make up over 60% of Israel's banking system. All banks in the state are overseen by the Central Bank of Israel .


Road traffic

The most important mode of transport is the road. Israel has a total of 18,096 km of paved roads and 2.4 million motor vehicles. The number of motor vehicles per 1000 people is 324, which is relatively low compared to other industrialized countries. 5715 buses are active in regular services in Israel. The intercity buses operated by the Egged bus cooperative are of particular importance .

Rail transport

The railway network of Israel Railways , which after decades of neglect has been modernized and expanded for several years, is of increasing importance . The route network of the Israeli state railway company amounts to 949 km. After major investments in the 1990s, the number of passengers per year increased from 2.5 million (1995) to 35 million (2008). The railways also transport around 6.8 million tons of freight per year.

A tram line has been operating in Jerusalem since 2011. An extensive tram network is being prepared for Tel Aviv. A first line is already under construction.

Duty-free at Ben Gurion Airport

Air traffic

The most important airport is Ben Gurion Airport near Lod in the greater Tel Aviv area. In 2014 it had 14.9 million passengers. Other airports: Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv, Haifa Airport , Eilat Airport , the new airport Ramon few kilometers north of Eilat, Rosh Pina airport . The Atarot Airport in Jerusalem since 2001 out of service. The largest airline is El Al , based at Ben Gurion Airport, which currently serves 44 destinations worldwide. Air traffic to and from Israel is subject to particularly strict security regulations due to the constant terrorist threat.


Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat are the country's three port cities. The port of Haifa , located on the Mediterranean coast, is the oldest and largest port in the country, while the port in Ashdod is one of the few deep-water ports in the world and was built on the open sea. There is also a port in Eilat, which is used for trade with the countries of the Far East. There are also smaller ports in Hadera , Tel Aviv and Ashkelon , but they only supply coal, natural gas or oil for nearby electric power stations. There are marinas in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Herzliya , Haifa and Eilat. Cruise ships occasionally dock in Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat. Seasonal ferry connections to Cyprus and further to Greece only operate from Haifa.

Border crossings

Israel can only be reached across land borders from Jordan and Egypt . The border with Syria and Lebanon is closed to civilians.

The official border crossings with Jordan are:

  • the Sheikh Hussein Bridge over the Jordan at Bet She'an
  • the Allenby Bridge over the Jordan near Jericho (West Bank)
  • the Arava crossing at Eilat and Aqaba

The official border crossings with Egypt are:

  • the Kerem-Shalom crossing in the Gaza Strip
  • the Nizanna transition
  • the Netafim crossing north of Eilat
  • the Taba crossing south of Eilat.

Since the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the Karni and Erez crossings have been considered de facto border posts ( de jure status has yet to be determined). The Rafah crossing , between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, is no longer operated by the Israelis.


The last mile for telephone connections and ADSL is provided by Bezeq . Around 2003, Hot also began offering telephone and Internet over the cable television network. In 2016, 78.9 percent of the population used the Internet. The IT industry in Israel is one of the most competitive in the world.


The Israeli education system is administered and financed by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport and the cities.

Schools and colleges

In Israel, school attendance is compulsory for children between the ages of five and sixteen . School attendance is free up to the age of 18. As a rule, three to four year olds attend a paid kindergarten. In Israel, the median school attendance increased from 10.8 years in 1990 to 12.8 years in 2015. It is one of the highest in the world.

The school system is tailored to the multicultural population. There are different state schools, the curriculum of which is adapted to specific aspects, such as the language and religion of the students. The smaller proportion of Israeli students attend private schools that operate under the auspices of religious and international organizations.

In 2018, expenditure per elementary school student in Hebrew state schools was 15,300 shekels , in public religious schools shekels 19,300, and in official Arab schools shekels 16,900.

In 2019, expenditure per student per year in “normal” Jewish secondary schools was 32,800 shekels, in state religious secondary schools 43,100 shekels and in state Arab secondary schools 26,800 shekels, i.e. H. spending per student in religious Jewish schools was 61 percent higher than that in Arab schools, and that of “normal” Jewish middle schools was 22 percent higher.

In the upper level, students can choose between an academic, technological, agricultural or military subject. After passing the final exam, you receive the Bagrut .

Around 216,000 students are enrolled in one of the country's higher education institutions. The Technion and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are world-famous . The eight universities in Israel offer a wide range of courses in the natural sciences and humanities, see list of universities in Israel .

In addition, there is a large number of academic universities that do not have university status, but are allowed to issue recognized academic diplomas and often cooperate with universities, see list of academic universities in Israel .

Tens of thousands use adult education programs. Special language schools are available for new immigrants, where Hebrew is offered in intensive courses.


The library system Israel has a turbulent history. It developed increasingly under the immigration of German book experts after 1933. The first director of the Jewish National and University Library was Hugo Shmuel Bergmann , who previously worked at the German-speaking Charles University in Prague . Bergmann built up the collections accordingly and commissioned specialists for the individual areas. He was able to win over the young Gershom Scholem for the Hebraica collection . The second director was also a German, Gotthold Weil , who had lost his position in the Prussian State Library in Berlin. From 1949, Curt Wormann, also from Germany, took over the position . He had a lasting impact on the Israeli library system , but was criticized for reacting too inflexibly to the needs of new immigrants and the demands of mass immigration after the establishment of the state. However, a distinction should be made between the individual libraries and their purpose. In the case of Tel Aviv's public libraries, this may be the case, but the national and university libraries had to conform to international academic standards.

A legal deposit law has existed since 1953; In 2001 the regulation was renewed and extended from books, magazines and newspapers to audiovisual media; Network resources are still excluded. The right to deposit copies stipulates submission to a total of five institutions. These are the State Archives, the Knesseth Library , the Ministry of Education and the National Library of Israel , which will receive two copies. The Israeli Center for Libraries (ICL) publishes an annual catalog of registered periodicals on CD-ROM and online. So far, the 4800 ISSN been awarded in Israel. The Israeli state has a dense network of libraries in large cities and in the country.

Science and technology

A horizontal parabolic dish, with a triangular structure on its top.
The world's largest solar parabolic mirror in the Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center in the Negev desert

Between 2002 and 2013, the Nobel Prize was awarded to eight Israelis in scientific fields:

The need to transform a relatively sterile, underdeveloped country into a modern industrial state of today has been decisive for its scientific and technical development since the foundation of Israel. Water scarcity, desert-like landscape and lack of labor also led to the development of novel agricultural methods.

Israel today invests an above-average amount in research and development compared to the world scale. The universities, which work closely with industry, provide 80% of the research results. Universities even set up companies to market the practical applications of their research results. More than half of all scientific publications are in the fields of biotechnology , biomedicine and clinical research .

Israeli scientists played a key role in researching the messenger substance interferon . Pharmaceutical research also often benefits from Israeli capacities, for example in the development of the drug Copaxone . Advanced medical diagnostic and treatment equipment is developed in Israel and exported worldwide. These include devices for computed tomography and magnetic resonance tomography , ultrasound scanners , nuclear medicine cameras, surgical lasers and a miniature camera, which is used as a swallowable capsule to examine the digestive tract.

One focus of Israeli research is electronics and communication technology. Israel is one of the leading countries in the research and development of optical fibers , electro-optical control systems and heat-sensitive night vision devices . In addition to software for large and office computers, robots are developed for a wide variety of applications.

In 1983 the Israel Space Agency was founded. Since 1988 Israel has been able to launch satellites into space with the help of its own rocket ( Shavit ). In addition, various display systems, aeronautical computers, instruments and flight simulators have been developed. In 2003, Ilan Ramon was the first Israeli in space within the STS-107 mission . He and his six NASA colleagues had a fatal accident when the Columbia space shuttle reentered.

The scarcity of water drove the development of computer-controlled irrigation systems. In this context, the drip method was also developed, in which the water is directed directly to the roots of the plants. It is thanks to intensive research that the huge underground reservoir of brackish water under the Negev could be made usable: Various plants such as cherry tomatoes thrive well with this water, which is pumped up from a depth of a thousand meters and has a temperature of 42 degrees Celsius has.

After a severe supply crisis in 2008, the water management system was radically modernized. Leaks in water pipes are systematically fought with high-tech (Aquarius detector). With the latest technology, highly effective management and collective effort, water shortages in Israel are a thing of the past.

Desalination plants in Israel
place Installation Output
(million m³)
Ashkelon 2005 118
Palmachim 2007 090
Hadera 2009 127
Sorek 2013 150
Ashdod 2015 100
Source: Israelnetz 4/19

As of 2017, five seawater desalination stations are in operation. They cover over 70 percent of the nation's water needs. Technical improvements have made the desalination process much more energy efficient and, above all, cheaper. One cubic meter of ready-to-drink tap water is obtained for less than 50 ct. In addition to domestic consumption, Israel supplied 79 million cubic meters of drinking water to the Palestinian National Authority and 52 million cubic meters to Jordan.

World record in water recycling: 86 percent of the wastewater from households is used for agriculture. For comparison: USA, 1 percent. The annual per capita consumption (as of 2016, total, including all sectors) of 280 cubic meters is very low in an international comparison (USA 1540 m³).

In 2017 a tunnel project was started to bring water from the desalination plant ( reverse osmosis plant ) near Tel Aviv to Jerusalem . 4 meters in diameter, 13.5 kilometers long and 125 meters under massive rock. With a transport capacity of 65,000 cubic meters per hour.

The unavailability of conventional energy sources made intensive development of alternative energy sources such as solar, thermal and wind energy necessary. Israel does not operate a nuclear power plant because it does not want the International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA ) to monitor its nuclear facilities . Since 2007 it has been planning to build a 2000 megawatt reactor in the Negev desert, where the Negev Nuclear Research Center is located near Dimona .


The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta


Israel's culture is closely linked to the cultures of the surrounding neighboring states, but the modern state of Israel is characterized by a number of unique cultural features, for example the fact that the people of the country have integrated influences from over 100 nations into their culture, resulting in a colorful patchwork of diverse ones Cultures became.

Especially the Israeli music is worth mentioning. The Israeli folk dance is well known, as is the interpretation of classical music. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performs nationwide and abroad.

The museum landscape is mainly characterized by kibbutzim , some of which are home to small museums, for example the house of the ghetto fighters in kibbutz Lochamej haGeta'ot . There are larger museums in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, such as the Israel Museum with the Shrine of the Book or the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum .

Well-known writers come from Israel, including the satirist Ephraim Kishon , who is also known in German-speaking countries .

The formerly provincial Israeli film industry has been recognized worldwide since the early 2000s. Dealing with sexuality and homosexuality in Israel shows considerable differences compared to the much more restrictive neighboring countries.

public holidays

In Israel, Jewish holidays are the only public holidays in the state. The most important are Rosh Hashanah , Yom Kippur , Sukkot , Hanukkah, and Passover .

In addition to these holidays, there are a number of national holidays:


Israeli cuisine includes local dishes as well as dishes from the country by Jewish immigrants. Most Israeli food is kosher and prepared in accordance with the halacha . Since most of Israel's residents are either Jewish or Muslim, pork is consumed very rarely or not at all. Israeli cuisine is a mixture of several Jewish traditions.


Israeli literature is primarily written in the New Hebrew language. There are also authors who write in Arabic , Russian , Yiddish and other languages. The Hebrew Book Week is held every June and the Sapir Prize is awarded. Some prose authors are also known in translation in the German-speaking area: Amos Oz , David Grossman and Zeruya Shalev . Known in the field of poetry are Jehuda Amichai , Nathan Alterman and Rachel .

music and dance

The Israeli music is very versatile; it combines elements of western and eastern music. There is a noticeable tendency to mix different styles, influences from the diaspora and newer musical styles such as Hasidic songs, Asian and Arabic pop music , hip-hop or heavy metal .

Of great importance is the folk dance , which benefits from the cultural heritage of many immigrant groups. Israel has several professional ballet and modern dance companies. Well-known Israeli choreographers are Ohad Naharin , Rami Beer , Barak Marshall and many others.


Israel has a well-developed film industry. In addition to the teenage comedy series Eis am Stiel , the more serious productions by directors such as Josef Cedar , Eran Riklis and Eytan Fox also gained international notoriety. Films with a historical background in Israel such as Massada or Jesus Christ Superstar were partly shot on original locations. The television series Hatufim - In the Hand of the Enemy was not only extremely successful abroad, but also served as a template for the US series Homeland . Israeli actors like Gal Gadot also appear in international blockbusters. Israeli productions have been nominated ten times in the Oscar category for the best foreign language film .


The Habima Theater in Tel-Aviv

There is great interest in the theater; the repertoire includes the full range of classical and contemporary drama in translations, as well as plays by local authors. Habimah , one of the three most important theater companies, was founded in Moscow in 1916 and has been in Tel Aviv since 1931.


Israel's museum landscape is remarkably diverse. Haifa , Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have well-known art museums, and many cities and kibbutzim have a large number of smaller museums devoted to a wide range of topics, for example the house of the ghetto fighters in kibbutz Lochamej HaGeta'ot . The most famous museums include the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran and an extensive collection of Jewish religious and folk art, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and the Diaspora Museum on the campus of Tel Aviv University .


In Israel there are very different types of media for the different language groups in the country. The main newspapers are Maariw , Haaretz , The Jerusalem Post and Jedi'ot Acharonot . Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post also appear in English. The radio station Kol Israel also broadcast a program on shortwave abroad until March 2008 , partly with its own productions, partly as a takeover of the program for immigrants Reshet Reka . The armed forces radio station, Galei Zahal, is also significant . In addition to newspapers and radio programs in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Russian, there are also some in German and Yiddish . The most important German-language publication in Israel was the now discontinued daily newspaper Israel-Nachrichten from Tel Aviv. A follow-up project has appeared on the Internet under the same name since January 2013. Another multilingual internet newspaper is The Times of Israel .

Freedom of the press applies in Israel , and harsh criticism of the government and authorities is possible without risk. The freedom of the press is recognized as a fundamental right by case law. However, national security issues are subject to military censorship and occasional blackouts. The censorship authority decides in advance whether media reports on certain topics endanger the security of Israel. Their decisions can be sued in court. In order to censor a publication, there must be an "immediate likelihood of genuinely damaging the security of the state". In the ranking of the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders , in which the countries of the world are listed according to the degree to which freedom of the press is realized in them, Israel was ranked 101 out of 180 in 2016 (2013: 112th place). Israel was thus placed third in the Middle East - after Tunisia and Lebanon . In 2019, Israel was ranked 88th.

In addition to the publishing press, there is extensive Israeli journalism in blogs , web forums and social networks . Since 2003, articles in Hebrew and English have been published on the Haokets (“The Sting”) website, founded by Professors Ishak Saporta and Yossi Dahan . The author's blog +972 , which has existed since 2010, has also become known. Both are politically left-wing.

Newspaper market

Israel's newspaper market is very diverse. Israelis are seen as keen newspaper readers; in total, an average circulation of 600,000 pieces is achieved. The main daily newspapers are in Hebrew , but newspapers are also available in many other languages, including Arabic , English , Polish , French , Yiddish , Russian , Hungarian and German .


The basketball club Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Menora Mivtachim Arena

Most sports federations are now members of the European umbrella organizations (e.g. UEFA , ULEB, etc.) at the international level , which is why Israeli teams take part in their competitions. Membership in Asian organizations was no longer possible due to boycott measures by Arab member associations.

Israel has several well-known sports clubs, especially in the popular sports of basketball and soccer , which are also quite well-known in international comparison. First and foremost, Maccabi Tel Aviv should be mentioned, whose basketball team won the European Cup in 1977, 1981, 2001 (SL), 2004, 2005 and 2014 , and in football, according to the old organization, the Asian Cup of national champions in 1968 and 1971.

Further, Hapoel Tel Aviv , which was allowed to claim the Asia Champions Cup 1967 itself, Hapoel Petah Tikva , Maccabi Netanya , Maccabi Haifa , Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa famous football clubs.

In 2004, Hapoel Jerusalem won the ULEB Cup of the Union of European Leagues of Basketball .

The Hapoel clubs belong to the Confédération Sportive Internationale du Travail , which organizes workers' and popular sports.


About history

To society and the economy

  • Shmuel N. Eisenstadt : The Transformation of Israeli Society. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-518-57858-8 .
  • Nurith Gertz: Myths in Israeli culture: captives of a dream. Vallentine Mitchell, London et al. 2000, ISBN 0-85303-386-2 .
  • Uta Klein : Military and Gender in Israel. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-593-36724-6 . (Review)
  • Gershon Shafir, Yoav Peled: Being Israeli. The Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship. Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-521-79672-5 .
  • Roland Kaufhold , Till Lieberz-Groß (ed.): German-Israeli encounters. In: psychosocial. No. 53 (1/2003).
  • Israel , Information on Civic Education Issue 336, Federal Agency for Civic Education 2018 (with maps)
  • Tsafrir Cohen, Mieke Hartmann, Tali Konas (eds.): Israel - a view from within . Contributions to the debate on politics, economy, society and culture. Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-00-057561-7 ( [PDF; 74.2 MB ; accessed on October 17, 2017] full text).
  • Dan Senor, Saul Singer: Start-up Nation Israel: What we can learn from the most innovative country in the world. Hanser, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-446-42921-5 .
  • Anat Feinberg , Miriam Magall: Culture in Israel. An introduction. Bleicher Verlag, Gerlingen 1993, ISBN 3-88350-031-3 .

To politics

Reports and reflections


Web links

Portal: Israel and Palestine  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Israel and Palestine
Wiktionary: Israel  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Israel  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
 Wikinews: Israel  - on the news
Wikimedia Atlas: Israel  - geographical and historical maps
Wikivoyage: Israel  travel guide
Wikisource: Israel  - Sources and full texts


Individual evidence

  1. According to the nation-state law passed in parliament on July 19, 2018, only Hebrew. Israel passes controversial "nationality law". In: Frankfurter Rundschau . July 19, 2018. Retrieved July 20, 2018 .
  2. According to the nation-state law, the whole and united Jerusalem . This is where the President's residence, government offices, the Supreme Court and the Knesset , Parliament are located. The United Nations and the majority of its member states do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
  3. Change of power in Israel. Tagesschau , June 14, 2021, accessed on June 14, 2021 .
  4. Israel Central Bureau of Statistics : בפתחה של שנת 2020 - יותר מ -1.9 מיליון תושבים במדינת ישראל (PDF), published December 31, 2019, accessed January 8, 2020.
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Coordinates: 31 ° 36 '  N , 34 ° 49'  E

This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on October 24, 2006 .