Official Name: The State of Israel
Form of Rule: Parliamentary Democracy
Area: 22,072 square kilometers
Population: 7.4 million persons
Distribution by Religion: 75.6% Jews, 16.6% Muslim, 1.6% Christian and 1.6% Druze, 0.40% non-Arab Christians and 3.9% unclassified by religion.
Official Languages: Hebrew, Arabic
Currency: New Shekel
GDP per Person: $28,365 (calculated according to purchasing power)
Quality of Life Classification: 24th place in world
International Dialing Code: 972
Internet Suffix: il
Israel is a country in the Middle East, on the narrow region connecting Africa and Asia. The State of Israel occupies most of the region known as the Land of Israel.
Israel is a developed country, located in a region that is geographically and climatically diversified. There are snow-capped mountains in the north alongside dry wildernesses in the south, and desolate areas alongside modern lively cities.
Israel’s ethnic and religious mosaic is rich and fascinating, and it has numerous cultural institutions and entertainment centers. Thanks to its rich history and sanctity for the three monotheistic religions, it has many ancient and holy sites. Most of the year, the climate in Israel is pleasant, and you can tour the country the whole year round. However, it is recommended to visit during fall and spring (September – November, April – June), when the temperature is especially pleasant.
The State Emblems
The flag of the State of Israel is composed of two blue stripes against a white background, with a blue Shield of David (hexagram) between them.
The national anthem of the State of Israel is Hatikvah (“The Hope”). The lyrics were written by the poet, Naphtali Herz Imber (1856–1909), and the melody is a Romanian folk song quoted by the Czech composer, Bedrich Smetena, in his cycle “My Homeland.” In 1933, Hatikvah was chosen as the Zionist movement’s anthem and, upon the establishment of the State of Israel, was accepted as the national anthem. However, the song was only officially recognized by the Knesset as Israel’s national anthem in 2004.
The emblem of the State of Israel is the seven-branched menorah (candelabrum) with olive branches at both sides, and with the name, Israel, appearing beneath. The source of the Menorah is an engraving on the Arch of Titus in Rome, depicting the victory march of the Roman commander, Titus, after he crushed the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans and destroyed the Temple in 70 CE. The source of the olive branches is a prophecy of the prophet Zechariah.
The candelabrum of the Temple in Jerusalem engraved on the Arch of Titus symbolizes not only the illustrious past of the people of Israel, but also its defeat and the beginning of its exile. So, the choice of this specific candelabrum not only linked the new state to its illustrious past – it also, so to speak, brought the Menorah back from its long exile, thus indirectly symbolizing the end of the Diaspora.
Form of Rule in Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary democracy, headed by the president, whose role is essentially symbolic and representative. The country is, in fact, managed by three authorities: the legislative authority (the Knesset), the executive authority (the government), and the judiciary authority.
The legislative authority in Israel is the Knesset (the name of the parliament in Israel), which has 120 members chosen in general elections once every four years. The Knesset enacts laws, makes political decisions, chooses the president and the government, and supervises the government’s activity.
The executive authority in Israel is the government. It is responsible for executing the laws enacted by the Knesset and for the proper governance of the State. The prime minister is a Knesset member whom the president charged with the role of forming the government, and who formed a government that gained the confidence of the Knesset. Since the establishment of the state, no single party has enjoyed an absolute majority in the Knesset. Therefore, all of Israel’s governments have always been coalition governments.
The third authority in Israel is the judiciary, which is responsible for maintaining law in the state. At the head of the legal system stands the Supreme Court. It hears appeals against judgments of the lower courts, and also sits as a High Court of Justice for petitions submitted by civilians against the State authorities. Besides the ordinary, or civilian, legal system, Israel has courts which the law has bestowed with unique authority in specific matters. Among these courts are the Labor Court, the Military Court, and the religious courts (Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze), which deal with matters of personal status such as marriage and divorce.