November 25, 2012 6:07 pm

Israel is a country that is both very old and very new. The kingdom of Israel was founded about 3,000 years ago by an ancient tribe called the Hebrews or Israelites. It later split apart and was conquered. Many other countries ruled this land until 1948. That year, Israel once again became an independent country. It was reborn as a homeland for the Jewish people.
The ancient Israelites are the ancestors of the Jewish people. Over the last 2,500 years, the Jews scattered to different parts of the world. Yet they held on to their traditions and religion.
Facts About Israel
Official name
State of Israel
Jerusalem (Note: Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital but the United Nations does not recognize this claim.)
Official language
6,500,000 people
Rank among countries in population
Major cities
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Haifa
8,470 square miles
21,900 square kilometers
Rank among countries in area
Highest point
Mt. Meron
3,963 feet/1,208 meters
Israeli sheqel
A movement called Zionism developed in the late 1800s. Its purpose was to unite the Jews and create a Jewish homeland. It succeeded in 1948 when the country of Israel was created.
The Jewish homeland was created after World War II ended in 1945. During the war, nearly 6 million European Jews were murdered by Germany’s Nazi government. This event, known as the Holocaust, convinced many people of the need for a Jewish state.
Thousands of immigrants poured into Israel after 1948. The country is so new that most of its Jewish citizens are immigrants or the children of immigrants. These immigrants come from more than 100 countries. In Israel, they learned to speak Hebrew. This is the ancient language of the Jewish Bible, which Christians know as the Old Testament.
About 80 percent of Israelis are Jewish. The rest are Arabs. Arabs were living in what is now Israel before 1948. Today, Jews and Arabs live separately in Israel. They speak different languages—Hebrew and Arabic. They are divided by religion, too. Most Arabs are Muslims. The rest are Christians or Druze.
Israel has a dry, desert climate. In 1948, large areas of the country were not farmed because they could not be watered. The new Jewish settlers irrigated the land. They started farms called kibbutzim. The members of kibbutzim own and work land together.
By using modern methods and machinery, Israeli farmers made the desert bloom. The amount of land being farmed in Israel has tripled since 1948. Israel produces oranges, melons, olives, nuts, grains, and many other crops. It grows more than enough food for its own needs. Yet only 3 percent of its workers are farmers!
Most Israelis work in factories and offices. Jerusalem is the largest city and center of the government. Tel Aviv-Yafo is the second largest city and the country’s business and manufacturing center. Israel is a world leader in high technology. It makes equipment for use in medicine, communications, computers, and other fields. Israel also makes some of the world’s best military equipment.
Before Israel was founded, the land on which it is located was known as Palestine. In 1880, only about 5 percent of the people who lived here were Jewish. The rest were Arabs.
Around that time, the idea of Zionism was born in Europe. European Jews had long been targets of unfair treatment. Jews had difficulty defending themselves against attacks because they were a minority—a small group—wherever they lived.
Zionists said Jews needed a country of their own. Inspired by this dream, Jewish immigrants began moving to Palestine.
The Holocaust—the murder of nearly 6 million European Jews—helped make clear the need for a Jewish homeland. In 1948, the newly created United Nations voted to divide Palestine. It was to become two new countries. One would be Israel. The other would be a new Arab nation.
The Arabs in and around Palestine did not accept this plan. They attacked the new country, hoping to wipe it out. Israel fought back. Many Arabs living in the area were forced to flee and became refugees. They are now known as the Palestinians. The new Arab nation was never created.
Arabs and Israelis fought more wars. Each time, Israel held its own or won. Overall, it gained territory. Its conquered, or occupied, territory now includes the West Bank, a large area on the west bank of the Jordan River.
Most Palestinian refugees who fled in 1948 now live in the West Bank. They resent living under Israeli control. The Palestinians in these occupied territories have rebelled several times since 1987.
Palestinians have also made war on Israel through terrorism. Small groups or individuals have set off bombs to kill Israelis. Sometimes these terrorists carry bombs on their bodies and die in the explosions. Terrorist attacks have made daily life difficult for many Israeli citizens.
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