Israel is a lend and a people. The history of the Jewish people, and its roots in the Land of Israel, spans some 35 centuries. In this land, its cultural, national and religious identity was formed; here, its physical presence has been maintained unbroken throughout the centuries, even after the majority was forced into exile.The people of modern day Israel share the same language and culture shaped by the Jewish heritage and religion passed through generations starting with the founding father Abraham (ca. 1800 BCE). Thus, Jews have had continuous presence in the land of Israel for the past 3,300 years. After the exile by the Romans, the Jewish people migrated to Europe and North Africa. In the Diaspora (scattered outside of the Land of Israel), they established rich cultural and economic lives, and contributed greatly to the societies where they lived. In 1948, Jewish Community in Israel under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion reestablished sovereignty over their ancient homeland. Declaration of independence of the modern State of Israel was announced on the day that the last British forces left Israel (May 14, 1948). With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish independence, lost almost 2,000 years earlier, was renewed.
Tourism in Israel is one of the country’s major sources of income, with 2.7 million tourists in 2009. Israel is small but it features diverse geographical features: an urbanized coastal plain, evergreen mountains in the North, and various forms of desert in the South. Israel stands at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Israel’s longest coastline (and its western boundary) is the Mediterranean Sea. Nothing underscores the variety of Israel’s attractions more than realizing that within a few hours you can go from the snowy heights of Mount Hermon to the Judean Desert and the saltiest sea on earth, the Dead Sea, while visiting ancient biblical cities, covered markets and a high-rise metropolis on the way. This is what makes Israel truly a destination with something for everyone. Israel’s northern part is the land of forested mountains, valleys and streams, clear blue sea with sandy beaches, modern cities, and plenty of historical spots. The coral reefs along Eilat’s coast remain relatively pristine and the area is recognized as one of the prime diving locations in the world. Israel has numerous sites of importance to Christianity, from the Old City of Jerusalem to Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and many other sites around Israel. Israel, the land of the Bible, is the home for every Jew, where the old customs and commandments of the Torah are reflected in everyday life through Shabbat and the holidays, as well as in scared sites such as the Western wall. Israel is emerging as a popular destination for medical tourists. In 2006, 15,000 foreigners travelled to the country for medical procedures, bringing in $40 million of revenue.
Education in Israel is a precious legacy. Following the tradition of past generations, education continues to be a fundamental value and is recognized as the key to the future. Expenditure on education accounts for approximately 10% of GDP, and most schools are subsidized by the state. According to the Webometrics ranking, six of Israel’s universities place in the top 100 schools of Asia. Four universities place in the top 150 in the world according to the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Academic Ranking of World Universities, and three are in the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings (i.e. amongst the “Top 200 World Universities”). Science and technology in Israel is one of the country’s most developed sectors. In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world, except the U.S. (3,500 companies mostly in hi-tech). The percentage of Israelis engaged in scientific and technological inquiry, and the amount spent on research and development (R&D) in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), is amongst the highest in the world. Israel ranks fourth in the world in scientific activity as measured by the number of scientific publications per million citizens. Israel’s percentage of the total number of scientific articles published worldwide is almost 10 times higher than its percentage of the world’s population.
Israeli scientists have contributed to the advancement of agriculture, computer sciences, electronics, genetics, medicine, optics, solar energy and various fields of engineering. Israel is home to major players in the high-tech industry and has one of the world’s most technologically-literate populations. In 1998, Tel Aviv was named by Newsweek as one of the ten most technologically influential cities in the world.
Israel’s infrastructure is modern and well developed. To cope with its growing population and to improve the functioning of the economy, Israel is making large investments to upgrade its infrastructure. Major projects include the construction of a new terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport; a tunnel through Mt. Carmel to provide a bypass route around Haifa; the Cross-Israel Highway, a major north-south artery; and mass transit systems planned for Jerusalem, Beer Sheva, and the Tel Aviv region.
After having enjoyed for many years one of the fastest GDP growth rates among world economies, Israel is continuing the economic recovery it began in 2003, after a two-year distinct slowdown in almost all economic activities. This trend continued in 2007, according to all economic parameters. In the years 2006-2007, Israel’s gross domestic product (GDP) continued its rapid growth, reaching 5.1 percent in 2006, in spite of the Second Lebanon War, which caused a temporary loss of 0.7% of the GNP. The speedy recovery and the continuation of the rapid growth were again led by the business sector, which expanded by 6.4 percent, resulting in a $20,138 per capita GDP in 2006.In 2006-2007 Israel continued to achieve its main macroeconomic objectives: a very low, sometimes even negative rate of inflation, a very low budget deficit, and a limited increase in public expenditure. At the same time, Israel continued to attract foreign investments as well as enjoying a rapid growth in exports and a positive trade balance for the first time. These trends continued in the first half of 2007 and the forecast for the whole year was of continued economic growth with no inflation, a low budget deficit, and economic stability on all fronts.
With a population of more than 7 million, Israel has been internationally acclaimed throughout the years, in particular for its extraordinary achievements in agriculture and agrotechnology, irrigation, solar energy, and in many hi-tech industries and start-ups. Based on intensive R & D, even in traditional industries, Israel today is not only the land of milk and honey but also the land of hi-tech, including software, communications, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and nanotechnology.
Free-trade agreements reached over the past three decades with the United States, the European Union and several countries in Latin America have facilitated Israel’s expanding exports of goods and services – more than $60 billion in 2006 – as well as its participation in international business enterprises that contributed to the country’s accelerated growth. Tourism is a leading industry in Israel. In 2010, it constituted 6.4% of the country’s GDP