Jerusalem, Israel's capital (population 788,100), has stood at the center of the Jewish people’s national and spiritual life since King David made it the capital of his kingdom some 3000 years ago. Today it is a flourishing, vibrant metropolis, the seat of the government and Israel’s largest city.
Tel Aviv-Yafo (population 404,300), which was founded in 1909 as the first Jewish city in modern times, is today the center of the country’s industrial, commercial, financial and cultural life.
Haifa (population 268,200), a known coastal town since ancient times, is a major Mediterranean port and the industrial and commercial center of northern Israel.
Be'er Sheva (population 195,400), named in the Bible as an encampment of the patriarchs, is today the largest urban center in the south. It provides administrative, economic, health, education and cultural services for the entire southern region.
The executive branch
The legislative branch
The judicial branch
System of Government
Israel is a parliamentary democracy with legislative, executive and judicial branches. The head of the state is the president, whose duties are mostly ceremonial and formal; the office symbolizes the unity and sovereignty of the state. The Knesset, Israel's legislative authority, is a 120-member unicameral parliament which operates in plenary session and through 12 standing committees. Its members are elected every four years in universal nationwide elections. The government (cabinet of ministers) is charged with administering internal and foreign affairs. It is headed by a prime minister and is collectively responsible to the Knesset.
Israel is a country of immigrants. Since its inception in 1948, Israel's population has grown almost ten-fold. Its 7.8 million inhabitants comprise a mosaic of people with varied ethnic backgrounds, lifestyles, religions, cultures and traditions. Today Jews comprise some 75.4% of the country’s population, while the country's non-Jewish citizens, mostly Arabs (20.5%), number about 24.6%.
Israel on the world map
Israel is located in the Middle East, along the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. It lies at the junction of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.
Long and narrow in shape, the country is about 290 miles (470 km.) in length and 85 miles (135 km.) in width at its widest point.
Although small in size, Israel encompasses the varied topographical features of an entire continent, ranging from forested highlands and fertile green valleys to mountainous deserts, and from the coastal plain to the semitropical Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. Approximately half of the country’s land area is semi-arid.
Israel's climate is characterized by much sunshine, with a rainy season from November to April. Total annual precipitation ranges from 20-30 inches (50-70 cm.) in the north to about an inch (2.5 cm.) in the far south. Regional climatic conditions vary considerably: hot, humid summers and mild, wet winters on the coastal plain; dry, warm summers and moderately cold winters, with rain and occasional light snow, in the hill regions; hot, dry summers and pleasant winters in the Jordan Valley; and semi-arid conditions, with warm to hot days and cool nights, in the south.
Education and Science
School attendance is mandatory from age five, and free through age 18. Almost all three- and four-year-olds attend some kind of preschool program.
Israel's institutions of higher education include universities, offering a wide range of subjects in science and humanities, and serving as research institutions of worldwide repute, colleges offering academic courses and vocational schools. The country’s high level of scientific research and development and the application of R&D compensate for the country’s lack of natural resources.
The social service system is based on legislation which provides for workers’ protection and a broad range of national and community services, including care of the elderly, assistance for single parents, programs for children and youth, adoption agencies, as well as prevention and treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse.
The National Insurance Institute provides all permanent residents (including non-citizens) with a broad range of benefits, including unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, survivors’ benefits, maternity grants and allowances, child allowances, income support payments and more.