Golda Meir

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Posted by sonny 04/04/2009 @ 03:10

Tags : golda meir, former israeli politicians, israel, middle east, world

News headlines
Jane Fonda -- 46 Years Later, She's Finally "Legit" on Broadway - KFSM
"WHETHER WOMEN are better than men I cannot say -- but I can say they are certainly no worse," said the Israeli leader Golda Meir. GREAT BRITAIN'S Daily Telegraph, one of my pop culture guilty pleasures, is holding the feet of Tory grandees to the fire...
'A Woman Called Golda' - San Francisco Chronicle
She will always be remembered as a woman called Ilsa in "Casablanca," but even with her very last performance Ingrid Bergman went out in a blaze of awards, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Golda Meir, a chain-smoking Jewish...
Actress Tovah Feldshuh brings 'Golda's Balcony' to KC - Kansas City Star
By ROBERT TRUSSELL Tovah Feldshuh says it is essential that she appear to chain-smoke in her portrayal of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. On this most reasonable people can agree: Tovah Feldshuh is a handsome woman. The charismatic Broadway star and...
Students show old-school dancing sure can be a brand new thrill - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Kathleen Grusenski, a Danceworks employee who spent two hours a week teaching tap at Golda Meir Elementary School and two hours a week teaching ballroom at MacDowell Montessori, found that she loved teaching. "I learned I want to go into education with...
A secret US-Israel accord on nukes? - Jewish Telegraphic Agency
By Eric Fingerhut · May 6, 2009 The origins of the US shield of Israel's nuclear program date to a 1969 summit between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, documents released in the past few years show. There is no one piece of paper...
The last man who witnessed Israel's declaration of independence - Ha'aretz
When he talks now of Golda Meyerson (he still hasn't got used to calling her Golda Meir), Berlin (even with a university to remind him of his "new" name, he still hasn?t got used to calling him Meir Bar Ilan) and the legendary religious Zionist leader...
Are Muslims Taking Over Europe? - Arabisto.com
You can say that some Europeans (and Americans) are getting the Golda Meir insomnia disorder: the late Israeli prime minister reportedly couldn't sleep at night worrying about how many Palestinian kids are being born. She and her friends tried to deal...
Critics Rebuke Pope Benedict XVI - The New American
Prominent Jews such as the aforementioned Lapide; Golda Meir; Rabbi Isaac Herzog, chief rabbi of Israel; Albert Einstein; Moshe Sharett; and many, many others all praised Pius roundly for his work on behalf of their people. And such benevolence toward...

Golda Meir

Golda Meir

Golda Meir (IPA: , Hebrew: גּוֹלְדָּה מֵאִיר‎, Arabic: جولدا مائير‎, born Golda Mabovitch, 3 May 1898 – 8 December 1978, known as Golda Meyerson from 1917–56) was the fourth prime minister of the State of Israel.

Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel on 17 March 1969, after serving as Minister of Labour and Foreign Minister. Israel's first and the world's third female to hold such an office, she was described as the "Iron Lady" of Israeli politics years before the epithet became associated with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Former prime minister David Ben-Gurion used to call Meir "the best man in the government"; she was often portrayed as the "strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people".

Meir was born Golda Mabovitch (Ukrainian: Голда Мабович) in Kiev in the Russian Empire (today Ukraine) to Blume Naidich and Moshe Mabovitch, a carpenter. Golda wrote in her autobiography that her earliest memories were of her father boarding up the front door in response to rumors of an imminent pogrom. She had two sisters, Sheyna and Tzipke, as well as five other siblings who died in childhood. Golda was especially close to Sheyna. Moshe Mabovitch left to find work in New York City in 1903. In his absence, the rest of the family moved to Pinsk to join her mother's family. In 1905, Moshe moved to Milwaukee in search of higher-paying work and found employment in the workshops of the local railroad yard. The following year, he had saved up enough money to bring his family to the United States.

Blume ran a grocery store on Milwaukee's north side, where by age eight Golda had been put in charge of watching the store when her mother went to the market for supplies. Golda attended the Fourth Street Grade School (now Golda Meir School) from 1906 to 1912. A leader early on, she organized a fundraiser to pay for her classmates' textbooks. After forming the American Young Sisters Society, she rented a hall and scheduled a public meeting for the event. She went on to graduate valedictorian of her class despite not knowing English at the beginning of her schooling.

At 14, she went to North Division High School and worked part-time. Her mother wanted her to leave school and marry, but she rebelled. She bought a train ticket to Denver, Colorado, and went to live with her married sister, Sheyna Korngold. The Korngolds held intellectual evenings at their home where Meir was exposed to debates on Zionism, literature, women’s suffrage, trade unionism and more. In her autobiography, she wrote: "To the extent that my own future convictions were shaped and given form... those talk-filled nights in Denver played a considerable role." In Denver, she also met Morris Meyerson, a sign painter, whom she later married at the age of 19.

She attended the Milwaukee Normal School (now University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) in 1916, and probably part of 1917. The same year, Golda took a position at a Yiddish-speaking Folks Schule. While at the Folks Schule, she came more closely into contact with the ideals of Labor Zionism. In 1913, she began dating Morris Meyerson, and they married on 24 December 1917. She was a committed Labor Zionist and he was a dedicated socialist. Together, they left their jobs to join a kibbutz in Palestine in 1921. She gradually became more involved with the Zionist movement. At the end of World War II, she took part in the negotiations with the British that resulted in the creation of the state of Israel. In 1948, she became Israel's first ambassador to the Soviet Union. That position lasted seven months, and she returned to Israel in 1949 to become Minister of Labor. In 1956, she became Foreign Minister, and served in this capacity until her retirement in 1965. Golda Meir changed her name from "Meyerson" to "Meir" in 1956.

On 26 February 1969, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died of a heart attack, at which time many members of the Knesset asked Golda to return to politics. She became prime minister of Israel with the Labor Party's support. Meir's greatest crisis came during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. While prime minister, she spent much of her time developing support for Israel by meeting with western leaders. In 1974, the labor coalition broke up and Meir left office. She died four years later.

In 1913, Golda returned to North Division high school in Milwaukee, graduating in 1915. While there, she became an active member of Young Poale Zion, which later became Habonim, the Labor Zionist youth movement. She spoke at public meetings, embraced Socialist Zionism and hosted visitors from Palestine.

After graduating from the Milwaukee State Normal School (a predecessor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), she taught in public schools. She formally joined Poale Zion in 1915.

Golda and Morris married in 1917. Settling in Palestine was Golda’s precondition for the marriage. Golda had intended to make Aliyah straight away but her plans were disrupted due to all transatlantic passenger services being canceled due to the first world war. Instead she threw her energies into Poale Zion activities. A short time after their wedding, Golda embarked on a fundraising campaign for Poale Zion that took her across the United States. Finding herself pregnant, she underwent an abortion because she felt "her Zionist obligations simply did not leave room for a child." The couple moved to Palestine in 1921 together with Golda’s sister Sheyna.

In Palestine, the couple joined a kibbutz. Their initial application to kibbutz Merhavia in the Jezreel Valley was rejected, but in the end they were accepted. Golda’s duties included picking almonds, planting trees, working in the chicken coops and running the kitchen. Recognizing her leadership abilities, the kibbutz chose her as its representative to the Histadrut, the General Federation of Labour. In 1924, Golda and her husband left the kibbutz and resided briefly in Tel Aviv before settling in Jerusalem. There they had two children, a son Menachem (born 1924) and a daughter Sarah (born 1926). In 1928, Golda was elected secretary of Moetzet HaPoalot (Working Women’s Council), which required her to spend two years (1932–34) as an emissary in the United States. The children went with her, but Morris stayed in Jerusalem. Morris and Golda grew apart and eventually divorced. Morris died in 1951.

In 1934, when Meir returned from the United States, she joined the Executive Committee of the Histadrut and moved up the ranks to become head of its Political Department. This appointment was important training for her future role in Israeli leadership.

In June 1946, the British cracked down on the Zionist movement in Palestine, arresting many leaders of the Yishuv. They had been provoked by paramilitary Zionist activities. Meir took over as acting head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency during the incarceration of Moshe Sharett. Thus she became the principal negotiator between the Jews in Palestine and the British Mandatory authorities. After his release, Sharett went to the United States to attend talks on the UN Partition Plan, leaving Meir to head the Political Department until the establishment of the state in 1948.

In January 1948, the treasurer of the Jewish Agency was convinced that Israel would not be able to raise more than $7–8 million from the American Jewish community. Meir traveled to the United States and managed to raise $50 million, which was used to purchase arms in Europe for the nascent state. Ben-Gurion wrote that Meir’s role as the "Jewish woman who got the money which made the state possible," would go down one day in the history books.

As head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, Meir called the mass exodus of Arabs before the War of Independence in 1948 as "dreadful" and likened it to what had befallen the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Meir was one of twenty-four signatories (two of them women) of the Israeli declaration of independence on 14 May 1948. She later recalled, "After I signed, I cried. When I studied American history as a schoolgirl and I read about those who signed the Declaration of Independence, I couldn't imagine these were real people doing something real. And there I was sitting down and signing a declaration of establishment." Israel was attacked the next day by the joint armies of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq in the Israeli War of Independence.

Armed with the first Israeli-issued passport, Meir was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the Soviet Union. During her brief stint there, which ended in 1949, she attended high holiday services at the synagogue in Moscow, where she was mobbed by thousands of Russian Jews chanting her name. The Israeli 10,000 shekel banknote issued in November 1984 bore a portrait of Golda on one side and the image of the crowd that turned out to cheer her in Moscow on the other.

In 1949, Meir was elected to the Knesset as a member of Mapai and served continuously until 1974. From 1949 to 1956, she served as Minister of Labour, introducing major housing and road construction projects.

On October 29th 1957 she was slightly injured in the foot when a 'Mills grenade' was thrown into the debating chamber of the Knesset. David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Carmel were more seriously injured. The attack was carried out by 25 year old Moshe Ben Yaakov Dueg. Born in Aleppo, his motives were attributed to a dispute with the Jewish Agency, though he was also described as 'mentally unbalanced'.

In the early 1960s, Meir was diagnosed with lymphoma. In January 1966, she retired from the Foreign Ministry, citing exhaustion and ill health, but soon returned to public life as secretary general of Mapai, supporting the Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, in party conflicts.

After Levi Eshkol’s sudden death on 26 February 1969, the party elected Meir as his successor. Meir came out of retirement to take office on 17 March 1969, serving as prime minister until 1974. Meir maintained the coalition government formed in 1967, after the Six-Day War, in which Mapai merged with two other parties (Rafi and Ahdut HaAvoda) to form the Israel Labour party.

In 1969 and the early 1970s, Meir met with many world leaders to promote her vision of peace in the Middle East, including Richard Nixon (1969), Nicolae Ceausescu (1972) and Pope Paul VI (1973). In 1973, she hosted the chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt in Israel.

In August 1970, Meir accepted a U.S. peace initiative that called for an end to the War of Attrition and an Israeli pledge to withdraw to "secure and recognized boundaries" in the framework of a comprehensive peace settlement. The Gahal party quit the national unity government in protest, but Meir continued to lead the remaining coalition.

In the wake of the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, Meir appealed to the world to "save our citizens and condemn the unspeakable criminal acts committed." Outraged at the perceived lack of global action, she authorized the Mossad to hunt down and assassinate the Black September and PFLP operatives who took part in the massacre. The 1986 TV film Sword of Gideon, based on the book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jonas, and Steven Spielberg’s movie Munich (2005) were loosely based on these events.

In the days leading up to the Yom Kippur War, Israeli intelligence was not able to determine conclusively that an attack was imminent. However, on 5 October 1973, Meir received official news that Syrian forces were massing on the Golan Heights. The prime minister was alarmed by the reports, and felt that the situation reminded her of what happened before the 1967 war. Her advisers, however, assured her not to worry, saying that they would have adequate notice before a war broke out. This made sense at the time, since after the 1967 war, most Israelis felt it unlikely that Arabs would attack again. Consequently, although a resolution was passed granting her power to demand a full-scale call-up of the military (instead of the typical cabinet decision), Meir did not mobilize Israel’s forces early. Soon, though, war became very clear. Six hours before the outbreak of hostilities, Meir met with Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan and general David Elazar. While Dayan continued to argue that war was unlikely and thus was in favor of calling up the air force and only two divisions, Elazar advocated launching a full-scale pre-emptive strike on Syrian forces.

Recent biographer Elinor Burkett comes to the interpretation that Meir was the "real hero" of the war and not the Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, who considered surrender.

Her party won the elections in December 1973, but she resigned on 11 April 1974, bowing to what she felt was the "will of the people." and what she felt was a sufficient premiership as well as the pending pressures of forming a coalition; "Five years are sufficient...It is beyond my strength to continue carrying this burden."Yitzhak Rabin succeeded her on 3 June 1974.

In 1975, Meir was awarded the Israel Prize for her special contribution to the State of Israel.She also published her autobiography, My Life in the same year.

On 8 December 1978, Golda Meir died of cancer in Jerusalem at the age of 80. She was buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on 12 December 1978.

Golda Meir’s story has been the subject of many fictionalized portrayals. In 1977, Anne Bancroft played Meir in William Gibson’s Broadway play Golda. Ingrid Bergman and the Australian actress Judy Davis played Meir in the television film A Woman Called Golda (1982), opposite Leonard Nimoy. In 2003, the American Jewish actress Tovah Feldshuh portrayed her on Broadway in Golda’s Balcony, Gibson’s second play about Meir’s life. The one-woman show was controversial in its implication that Meir considered using nuclear weapons during the Yom Kippur War. Valerie Harper portrayed her in the touring company and in the film version of Golda’s Balcony. Supporting actress Colleen Dewhurst portrayed her in the 1986 TV-movie Sword of Gideon. In 2005, actress Lynn Cohen portrayed Meir in Steven Spielberg’s film Munich. Later on, Tovah Feldshuh assumed her role once again in the 2006 English-speaking French movie O Jerusalem. She is being played by the Polish actress Beata Fudalej in the 2009 film The Hope by Márta Mészáros.

In Israel, the term "Golda's shoes" (na'alei Golda), a reference to the sturdy orthopedic shoes that Golda favored, has become a euphemism for all that is ugly and old-fashioned.

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Golda Meir Library

Golda Meir Library seen from Hartford Avenue

The Golda Meir Library is the main library of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Library has more than 4.5 million catalogued items, many of which are available electronically through Electronic Reserve, web-based online catalog, searchable databases and indexes. The building was first constructed in 1967 and then expanded with the addition of the East Wing in 1974 and conference center in 1987. The Library was named for Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, who graduated in 1917 from the Milwaukee State Normal School, an institution to which UWM traces its lineage.

Several outstanding research collections are especially noteworthy at Golda Meir Library. The largest of these is the American Geographical Society Library. The AGSL, one of the largest geography libraries in the world, houses a vast number of historical and detailed maps, many rare and valuable books, research and technical reports, photographs, satellite images, digital data, and relevant serials. The University Archives consists of the Milwaukee Area Research Center, the UW-Milwaukee Manuscript Collection, and records of the University. The Archives contains historical resources from Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin, including private papers from individuals, records from businesses and organizations as well as records from UW-Milwaukee. Special Collections supports a broad range of research and teaching activities in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, and includes the UW-Milwaukee Authors’ Collection. Beginning in the summer of 2001, selected local photographic collections have been digitized as part of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections (UWDC) to provide quality digital resources from the UW academic libraries to faculty, staff and students, citizens of the state, and researchers, worldwide. Additional library collections at Golda Meir Library include those of the Curriculum Library, Multimedia Library and the Music Library. The UW-Milwaukee Curriculum Library provides resources and services to students and faculty in education and school library media programs. The UWM Multimedia Library is a growing collection of VHS videotapes, DVDs, laserdiscs, audio books and CD-ROMs supporting many disciplines. The UWM Music Library is the second largest collection of music-related materials in Wisconsin.

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Golda Meir School

Golda Meir School is located in Wisconsin

The Golda Meir School (originally Fourth Street School) for gifted and talented students is a Milwaukee Public Schools district elementary school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was renamed in honor of Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, who attended the institution from 1906 to 1912. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

Situated next to the historic Schlitz Brewing Complex of the same era, the Fourth Street School was designed in 1889 by noted Milwaukee architect Henry Koch in Romanesque Revival style. It was completed by 1890 and opened its doors on September 2, 1890.

H-shaped in plan, the school has four stories (basement included) and contains 16 classrooms along with an auditorium. A single story heating plant was added in 1915, with a fuel room to follow in 1937. Fire escapes and enclosure of the stairways brought the building up to code in 1957. Renovation of the interior and exterior took place in 1976, during which a cafeteria was added.

In commemoration of the events of September 11, 2001, a "Labyrinth of Peace" was drawn on to the school playground. The single circuit labyrinth is used as a tool for students to reflect on what peace means to them.

Golda Meir recounts in her book My Life that she "learned a lot more than fractions or how to spell at Fourth Street School..." When she was in fourth grade, Meir undertook her first public works project by organizing a fundraiser to pay for her classmates' textbooks. She rented a hall and scheduled a public meeting for the event.

On October 3, 1969 Golda Meir revisited the school, accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and local Aldermen Vel Phillips and Orville Pitts. The school has since been named in her honor in 1979.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1990.

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Israel

Flag of Israel

Israel (Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל‎, Yisra'el; Arabic: إِسْرَائِيلُ‎, Isrā'īl) officially the State of Israel ( מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (help·info), Medinat Yisra'el; Arabic: دَوْلَةُ إِسْرَائِيلَ‎, Dawlat Isrā'īl), is a country in the Middle East located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan in the east, and Egypt on the southwest, and contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Also adjacent are the West Bank to the east and Gaza Strip to the southwest. Israel is the world's only predominantly Jewish state with a population of about 7.37 million people, of which approximately 5.57 million belong to the majority Jewish ethnoreligious group. The largest ethnic minority group is the segment denominated as Arab citizens of Israel, while minority religious groups include Muslims, Christians, Druze, Samaritans and others, most of which are found within the Arab segment.

The modern state of Israel has its religious roots in the Biblical Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), a concept central to Judaism since ancient times, and the heartland of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Following the birth of political Zionism in 1897 and its acceptance by the British Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations adopted the British Mandate of Palestine after World War I, which was "in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine..." In 1947, following years of communal strife, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab; partition was accepted by Zionist leaders but rejected by Arab leaders. This external decision immediately led to civil war in Palestine and later, on May 14, 1948, following the simultaneous British withdrawal and the Israeli declaration of independence, led to the invasion by surrounding Arab states. Israel was subsequently victorious in confirming its independence; as a result of the war, the new Jewish state gained control of areas beyond those in the UN Partition Plan. Since then, Israel's very right to exist and its boundaries have been variously disputed. Israel has fought a series of wars with neighboring Arab states, and in consequence, Israel controls territories beyond those beyond those delineated in the 1949 Armistice Agreements; their status remains in dispute. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, though efforts to resolve conflict with the Palestinians have so far only met with limited success, partly due to vigorous religious and nationalistic opposition on both sides.

Israel is a representative democracy with a parliamentary system and universal suffrage. The Prime Minister serves as head of government and the Knesset serves as Israel's legislative body. In terms of nominal gross domestic product, the nation's economy is estimated as being the 44th-largest in the world. Israel ranks highest among Middle Eastern countries on the bases of human development, freedom of the press, and economic competitiveness. Jerusalem is the country's capital, seat of government, and largest city, while Israel's main financial center is Tel Aviv.

Over the past three thousand years, the name "Israel" has meant in common and religious usage both the Land of Israel and the entire Jewish nation. According to the Bible, Jacob is renamed Israel after successfully wrestling with an angel of God.

The earliest archaeological artifact to mention "Israel" (other than as a personal name) is the Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt (dated the late 13th century BCE) where it refers to the people of the land. The modern country was named Medinat Yisrael, or the State of Israel, after other proposed names, including Eretz Israel ("the Land of Israel"), Zion, and Judea, were rejected. In the early weeks of independence, the government chose the term "Israeli" to denote a citizen of Israel, with the formal announcement made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Sharett.

The Land of Israel, known in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael, has been sacred to the Jewish people since Biblical times. According to the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people, by God, as their homeland; scholars have placed this period in the early 2nd millennium BCE. According to the traditional view, around the 11th century BCE, the first of a series of Israelite kingdoms and states established rule over the region; these Israelite kingdoms and states ruled intermittently for the following one thousand years. The sites holiest to Judaism are located within Israel.

Between the time of the Israelite kingdoms and the 7th-century Muslim conquests, the Land of Israel fell under Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Sassanian, and Byzantine rule. Jewish presence in the region dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE and the resultant large-scale expulsion of Jews. In 628/9, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius conducted a massacre and expulsion of the Jews, at which point the Jewish population probably reached its lowest point. Nevertheless, a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel remained. Although the main Jewish population shifted from the Judea region to the Galilee, the Mishnah and part of the Talmud, among Judaism's most important religious texts, were composed in Israel during this period. The Land of Israel was captured from the Byzantine Empire around 636 CE during the initial Muslim conquests. Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads, Abbasids, and Crusaders over the next six centuries, before falling in the hands of the Mamluk Sultanate, in 1260. In 1516, the Land of Israel became a part of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the region until the 20th century.

Jews living in the Diaspora have long aspired to return to Zion and the Land of Israel. That hope and yearning was articulated in the Bible, and is a central theme in the Jewish prayer book. Beginning in the 12th century, Catholic persecution of Jews led to a steady stream leaving Europe to settle in the Holy Land, increasing in numbers after Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. During the 16th century large communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities, and in the second half of the 18th century, entire Hasidic communities from eastern Europe settled in the Holy Land.

The first large wave of modern immigration, known as the First Aliyah (Hebrew: עלייה), began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe. While the Zionist movement already existed in theory, Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism, a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane. In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), offering his vision of a future state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.

The Second Aliyah (1904–1914), began after the Kishinev pogrom. Some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine. Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews, but those in the Second Aliyah included socialist pioneers who established the kibbutz movement. During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which "view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". At the request of Edwin Samuel Montagu and Lord Curzon, a line was also inserted stating "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country". The Jewish Legion, a group of battalions composed primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Palestine. Arab opposition to the plan led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of the Jewish organization known as the Haganah (meaning "The Defense" in Hebrew), from which the Irgun and Lehi split off.

In 1922, the League of Nations granted the United Kingdom a mandate over Palestine under terms similar to the Balfour Declaration. The population of the area at this time was predominantly Muslim Arab, while the largest urban area in the region, Jerusalem, was predominantly Jewish.

The third (1919–1923) and Fourth Aliyah (1924–1929) brought 100,000 Jews to Palestine. From 1921 the British subjected Jewish immigration to quotas and most of the territory slated for the Jewish state was allocated to Transjordan.

The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews. This caused the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 and led the British to cap immigration with the White Paper of 1939. With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine. By the end of World War II, Jews accounted for 33% of the population of Palestine, up from 11% in 1922.

After 1945 the United Kingdom became embroiled in an increasingly violent conflict with the Jews. In 1947, the British government withdrew from commitment to the Mandate of Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews. The newly created United Nations approved the UN Partition Plan (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181) on November 29, 1947, dividing the country into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Jerusalem was to be designated an international city — a corpus separatum — administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status. The Jewish community accepted the plan, but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee rejected it. On December 1, 1947 the Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a 3-day strike, and Arab bands began attacking Jewish targets. Civil war began with the Jews initially on the defensive but gradually moving into offence. The Palestinian-Arab economy collapsed and 250,000 Palestinian-Arabs fled or were expelled.

On May 14, 1948, the day before the end of the British Mandate, the Jewish Agency proclaimed independence, naming the country Israel. The following day five Arab countries — Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq — invaded Israel, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Morocco, Sudan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia also sent troops to assist the invaders. After a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were established. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949. During the conflict 711,000 Arabs, according to UN estimates, or about 80% of the previous Arab population, fled the country. The fate of the Palestinian refugees today is a major point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the early years of the state, the Labor Zionist movement led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics. These years were marked by mass immigration of Holocaust survivors and an influx of Jews persecuted in Arab lands. The population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958. Most arrived as refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma'abarot. By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in these tent cities. The need to solve the crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany that triggered mass protests by Jews angered at the idea of Israel "doing business" with Germany.

During the 1950s, Israel was frequently attacked by Palestinian fedayeen, mainly from the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip. In 1956, Israel joined a secret alliance with The United Kingdom and France aimed at recapturing the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians had nationalized (see the Suez Crisis). Despite capturing the Sinai Peninsula, Israel was forced to retreat due to pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union in return for guarantees of Israeli shipping rights in the Red Sea and the Canal.

At the start of the following decade, Israel captured Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Final Solution hiding in Argentina, and brought him to trial. The trial had a major impact on public awareness of the Holocaust, and to date Eichmann remains the only person executed by Israel, although John Demjanjuk was sentenced to die before his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Israel.

Arab countries over the years refused to regard Israel as having a right to exist, and Arab nationalists led by Nasser called for the destruction of the state. In 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel's access to the Red Sea. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli for a pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, Israel achieved a decisive victory in which it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. The 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories. Jerusalem's boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980, reaffirmed this measure and reignited international controversy over the status of Jerusalem.

The failure of the Arab states in the 1967 war led to the rise of Arab non-state actors in the conflict, most importantly the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which was committed to what it called "armed struggle as the only way to liberate the homeland". In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which those responsible for the Munich massacre were tracked down and assassinated. From 1969 to 1970, Israel fought the War of Attrition against Egypt.

On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. The war ended on October 26 with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but suffering great losses. An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin's Likud party took control from the Labor Party. Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state. In the two years that followed, Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians across the Green Line, a plan which was never implemented. Begin's government encouraged Israelis to settle in the West Bank, leading to friction with the Palestinians in those areas.

On June 7, 1981, Israel heavily bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in Operation Opera, disabling it. Israeli intelligence had suspected Iraq was intending to use it for weapons development. In 1982, Israel intervened in the Lebanese Civil War to destroy the bases from which the Palestine Liberation Organization launched attacks and missiles at northern Israel. That move developed into the First Lebanon War. Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone until 2000. The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule, broke out in 1987 with waves of violence occurring in the occupied territories. Over the following six years, more than a thousand people were killed in the ensuing violence, much of which was internal Palestinian violence. During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO and many Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi missile attacks against Israel.

In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party promoted compromise with Israel's neighbors. The following year, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, on behalf of Israel and the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to self-govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A declared intent was recognition of Israel's right to exist and an end to terrorism. In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.

Arab public support for the Accords was damaged by the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, continuation of settlements, and checkpoints, and the deterioration of economic conditions. Israeli public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by Palestinian suicide attacks. While leaving a peace rally in November 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a far-right-wing Jew who opposed the Accords. The country was shocked.

At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron, and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority.

Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David Summit. During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it. After the collapse of the talks, the Second Intifada began.

Ariel Sharon became the new prime minister in a 2001 special election. During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier. In January 2006, after Ariel Sharon suffered a severe stroke which left him in a coma, the powers of office were transferred to Ehud Olmert.

In July 2006, a Hezbollah artillery assault on Israel's northern border communities and a cross border abduction of two Israeli soldiers sparked the Second Lebanon War. The clashes were brought to an end a month later by a ceasefire (United Nations Resolution 1701) brokered by the United Nations Security Council.

On November 27, 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to negotiate on all issues and strive for an agreement by the end of 2008. On September 6, 2007, the Israeli Air Force launched Operation Orchard in Syria, bombing what it suspected to be a nuclear site. In April 2008, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad told a Qatari newspaper that Syria and Israel had been discussing a peace treaty for a year, with Turkey as a go-between. This was confirmed by Israel in May 2008.

In December 2008, a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel collapsed; Hamas said this was because Israel had not lifted a blockade on the Gaza strip and Israel said it was because Hamas was firing rockets into Israel from Gaza. Israel responded by launching Operation Cast Lead with a series of airstrikes. On 3 January 2009, Israeli Troops entered Gaza marking the start of a ground offensive. On Saturday, January 17, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire, conditional on elimination of further rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, and began withdrawing over the next several days. Hamas later announced its own ceasefire, with its own conditions of complete withdrawal and opening of border crossings. A reduced level of mortar fire originating in Gaza continues, though Israel has so far not taken this as a breach of the ceasefire. The frequency of the attacks can be observed in the thumbnailed graph. The data corresponds to the article "Timeline of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict", using mainly Haaretz news reports. The usual IDF responses are airstrikes on weapon smuggling tunnels.

Israel is located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the southwest. The sovereign territory of Israel, excluding all territories captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, is approximately 20,770 square kilometers (8,019 sq mi) in area, of which two percent is water. The total area under Israeli law, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 sq mi).

The total area under Israeli control, including the military-controlled and partially Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi).

Despite its small size, Israel is home to a variety of geographic features, from the Negev desert in the south to the mountain ranges of the Galilee, Carmel, and the Golan in the north. The Israeli Coastal Plain on the shores of the Mediterranean is home to seventy percent of the nation's population.

East of the central highlands lies the Jordan Rift Valley, which forms a small part of the 6,500-kilometer (4,040-mi) Great Rift Valley. The Jordan River runs along the Jordan Rift Valley, from Mount Hermon through the Hulah Valley and the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the Earth. Further south is the Arabah, ending with the Gulf of Eilat, part of the Red Sea.

Unique to Israel and the Sinai Peninsula are makhteshim, or erosion cirques. The largest makhtesh in the world is Ramon Crater in the Negev, which measures 40 kilometers by 8 kilometers (25 mi by 5 mi). A report on the environmental status of the Mediterranean basin states that Israel has the largest number of plant species per square meter of all the countries in the basin.

Temperatures in Israel vary widely, especially during the winter. The more mountainous regions can be windy, cold, and sometimes snowy; Mount Hermon's peak is covered with snow most of the year and Jerusalem usually receives at least one snowfall each year. Meanwhile, coastal cities, such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, have a typical Mediterranean climate with cool, rainy winters and long, hot summers. The highest temperature in the continent of Asia (53.7 °C or 129 °F) was recorded in 1942 at Tirat Zvi kibbutz in the northern parts of the Jordan-valley. From May to September, rain in Israel is rare. With scarce water resources, Israel has developed various water-saving technologies, including drip irrigation. Israelis also take advantage of the considerable sunlight available for solar energy, making Israel the leading nation in solar energy use per capita.

Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic country with universal suffrage. The President of Israel is the head of state, but his duties are largely ceremonial. A Parliament Member supported by a majority in parliament becomes the Prime Minister, usually the chairman of the largest party. The Prime Minister is the head of government and head of the Cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership in the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties, with a 2% electoral threshold, which commonly results in coalition governments. Parliamentary elections are scheduled every four years, but unstable coalitions or a no-confidence vote by the Knesset often dissolves governments earlier. "The average life span of an Israeli government is 22 months. The peace process, the role of religion in the state, and political scandals have caused coalitions to break apart or produced early elections." The Basic Laws of Israel function as an unwritten constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws.

Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel's six districts. The third and highest tier in Israel is the Supreme Court, seated in Jerusalem. It serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against decisions of state authorities. Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court as it fears the court would be biased against it due to political pressure. Israel's legal system combines English common law, civil law, and Jewish law. It is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent) and is an adversarial system, where the parties in the suit bring evidence before the court. Court cases are decided by professional judges rather than juries. Marriage and divorce are under the jurisdiction of the religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian. A committee of Knesset members, Supreme Court justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges.

Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties in Israel. Israel is the only country in the region ranked "Free" by Freedom House based on the level of civil and political rights; the "Israeli Occupied Territories/Palestinian Authority" was ranked "Not Free." Similarly, Reporters Without Borders rated Israel 50th out of 168 countries in terms of freedom of the press and highest among Southwest Asian countries. Nevertheless, groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have often disapproved of Israel's human rights record in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel's civil liberties also allow for self-criticism, from groups such as B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.

The State of Israel is divided into six main administrative districts, known as mehozot (מחוזות; singular: mahoz) – Center, Haifa, Jerusalem, North, Southern, and Tel Aviv Districts. Districts are further divided into fifteen sub-districts known as nafot (נפות; singular: nafa), which are themselves partitioned into fifty natural regions. For statistical purposes, the country is divided into three metropolitan areas: Tel Aviv and Gush Dan (population 3,150,000), Haifa (population 996,000), and Beersheba (population 531,600). Israel's largest city, both in population and area, is Jerusalem with 732,100 residents in an area of 126 square kilometers (49 sq mi). Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Rishon LeZion rank as Israel's next most populous cities, with populations of 384,600, 267,000, and 222,300 respectively.

In 1967, as a result of the Six-Day War, Israel gained control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza strip and the Golan Heights. Israel also took control of the Sinai Peninsula, but returned it to Egypt as part of the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

Following Israel's capture of these territories, settlements consisting of Israeli citizens were established within each of them. Israel has applied civilian law to the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, incorporating them into its territory and offering their inhabitants Israeli citizenship. In contrast, the West Bank has remained under military occupation, and it, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are seen by the Palestinians and most of the international community as the site of a future Palestinian state. The status of East Jerusalem in any future peace settlement has at times been a difficult hurdle in negotiations between Israeli governments and representatives of the Palestinians. Most negotiations relating to the territories have been on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which calls on Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in return for normalization of relations with Arab states, a principle known as "Land for peace".

The West Bank was annexed by Jordan in 1948, following the Arab rejection of the UN decision to create two states in Palestine. Only Britain recognized this annexation and Jordan has since renounced its claim to the territory. The West Bank was occupied by Israel in 1967. The population are mainly Arab Palestinians, including refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. From their occupation in 1967 until 1993, the Palestinians living in these territories were under Israeli military administration. Since the Israel-PLO letters of recognition, most of the Palestinian population and cities have been under the internal jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and only partial Israeli military control, although Israel has on several occasions redeployed its troops and reinstated full military administration during periods of unrest. In response to increasing attacks as part of the Second Intifada, the Israeli government started to construct the Israeli West Bank barrier, which opponents note is partially built within the West Bank.

The Gaza strip was occupied by Egypt from 1948-1967 and then by Israel from 1967-2005. In 2005, as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, Israel removed all of its residents and forces from the territory. However, Israel still controls Gaza's airspace and sea access and has on occasion sent troops into the area. Gaza has a border with Egypt and an agreement between Israel, the EU, the PA and Egypt governed how border crossing would take place (it was monitored by European observers), However the election of a Hamas government has led to problems in implementing it resulting in the border crossing being closed much of the time. Inner control of Gaza is in the hands of the Hamas government.

Israel maintains diplomatic relations with 161 countries and has 94 diplomatic missions around the world. Only three members of the Arab League have normalized relations with Israel; Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties in 1979 and 1994, respectively, and Mauritania opted for full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999. Two other members of the Arab League, Morocco and Tunisia, which had some diplomatic relations with Israel, severed them at the start of the Second Intifada in 2000. Since 2003, ties with Morocco have been improved, and Israel's foreign minister has visited the country. Under Israeli law, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen are enemy countries and Israeli citizens may not visit them without permission from the Ministry of the Interior. Since 1995, Israel has been a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, which fosters cooperation between seven countries in the Mediterranean Basin and the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Foreign relations with United States, Turkey, Germany, the United Kingdom and India are among Israel's strongest. The United States was the first country to recognize the State of Israel, followed by the Soviet Union. The United States may regard Israel as its primary ally in the Middle East, based on "common democratic values, religious affinities, and security interests". Their bilateral relations are multidimensional and the United States is the principal proponent of the Arab-Israeli peace process. U.S. and Israeli views differ on some issues, such as the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, and settlements. Although Turkey and Israel did not establish full diplomatic relations until 1991, Turkey has cooperated with the State since its recognition of Israel in 1949. Turkey's ties to the other Muslim-majority nations in the region have at times resulted in pressure from Arab states to temper its relationship with Israel. Germany's strong ties with Israel include cooperation on scientific and educational endeavors and the two states remain strong economic and military partners. India established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992 and has fostered a strong military and cultural partnership with the country since then. The UK has kept full diplomatic relations with Israel since its formation having had two visits from heads of state in 2007. It also has a strong trade relationship, Israel being the 23rd largest market. Relations between the two countries were also made stronger by former prime minister Tony Blair's efforts for a two state resolution. The UK is seen as having a "natural" relationship with Israel on account of the British Mandate of Palestine. Iran had diplomatic relations with Israel under the Pahlavi dynasty but withdrew its recognition of Israel during the Iranian Revolution.

The Israel Defense Forces consists of the Israeli Army, Israeli Air Force and Israeli Sea Corps. It was founded during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War out of paramilitary organizations – chiefly the Haganah – that preceded the establishment of the state. The IDF also draws upon the resources of the Military Intelligence Directorate (Aman), which works with the Mossad and Shabak. The involvement of the Israel Defense Forces in major wars and border conflicts has made it one of the most battle-trained armed forces in the world.

The majority of Israelis are drafted into the military at the age of eighteen. Men serve three years and women serve two years. Following compulsory service, Israeli men join the reserve forces and do several weeks of reserve duty every year until their forties. Most women are exempt from reserve duty. Arab citizens of Israel (except the Druze) and those engaged in full-time religious studies are exempt from military service, although the exemption of yeshiva students has been a source of contention in Israeli society for many years. An alternative for those who receive exemptions on various grounds is Sherut Leumi, or national service, which involves a program of service in hospitals, schools and other social welfare frameworks. As a result of its conscription program, the IDF maintains approximately 168,000 active troops and an additional 408,000 reservists.

The nation's military relies heavily on high-tech weapons systems designed and manufactured in Israel as well as some foreign imports. The United States is a particularly notable foreign contributor; they are expected to provide the country with $30 billion in military aid between 2008 and 2017. The Israeli- and U.S.-designed Arrow missile is one of the world's only operational anti-ballistic missile systems. Since the Yom Kippur War, Israel has developed a network of reconnaissance satellites. The success of the Ofeq program has made Israel one of seven countries capable of launching such satellites. The country has also developed its own main battle tank, the Merkava. Since its establishment, Israel has spent a significant portion of its gross domestic product on defense. In 1984, for example, the country spent 24% of its GDP on defense. Today, that figure has dropped to 7.3%.

Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity toward its nuclear capabilities, though it is widely regarded as possessing nuclear weapons. After the Gulf War in 1991, when Israel was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles, a law was passed requiring all apartments and homes in Israel to have a mamad, a reinforced security room impermeable to chemical and biological substances.

Israel is considered one of the most advanced countries in Southwest Asia in economic and industrial development. The country is ranked 3rd in the region on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index as well as in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report. It has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world (after the United States) and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside North America. In 2007, Israel had the 44th-highest gross domestic product and 22nd-highest gross domestic product per capita (at purchasing power parity) at US$232.7 billion and US$33,299, respectively. In 2007, Israel was invited to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which promotes cooperation between countries that adhere to democratic principles and operate free market economies.

Despite limited natural resources, intensive development of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the past decades has made Israel largely self-sufficient in food production, apart from grains and beef. Other major imports to Israel, totaling US$47.8 billion in 2006, include fossil fuels, raw materials, and military equipment. Leading exports include fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, software, chemicals, military technology, and diamonds; in 2006, Israeli exports reached US$42.86 billion. Israel is a global leader in water conservation and geothermal energy, and its development of cutting-edge technologies in software, communications and the life sciences have evoked comparisons with Silicon Valley. Intel and Microsoft built their first overseas research and development centers in Israel, and other high-tech multi-national corporations, such as IBM, Cisco Systems, and Motorola, have opened facilities in the country. In July 2007, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought an Israeli company Iscar, its first non-U.S. acquisition, for $4 billion. Since the 1970s, Israel has received economic aid from the United States, whose loans account for the bulk of Israel's external debt. In 2007, the United States approved another 30 billion dollars in aid to Israel over the next ten years.

Tourism, especially religious tourism, is another important industry in Israel, with the country's temperate climate, beaches, archaeological and historical sites, and unique geography also drawing tourists. Israel's security problems have taken their toll on the industry, but the number of incoming tourists is on the rebound. Three million tourists visited Israel in 2008.

Israel has the highest school life expectancy in Southwest Asia, and is tied with Japan for second-highest school life expectancy on the Asian continent (after South Korea). Israel similarly has the highest literacy rate in Southwest Asia, according to the United Nations. The State Education Law, passed in 1953, established five types of schools: state secular, state religious, ultra orthodox, communal settlement schools, and Arab schools. The public secular is the largest school group, and is attended by the majority of Jewish and non-Arab pupils in Israel. Most Arabs send their children to schools where Arabic is the language of instruction.

Education is compulsory in Israel for children between the ages of three and eighteen. Schooling is divided into three tiers – primary school (grades 1–6), middle school (grades 7–9), and high school (grades 10–12) – culminating with Bagrut matriculation exams. Proficiency in core subjects such as mathematics, Bible, Hebrew language, Hebrew and general literature, English, history, and civics is necessary to receive a Bagrut certificate. In Arab, Christian and Druze schools, the exam on Biblical studies is replaced by an exam in Islam, Christianity or Druze heritage. In 2003, over half of all Israeli twelfth graders earned a matriculation certificate.

Israel's eight public universities are subsidized by the state. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel's oldest university, houses the Jewish National and University Library, the world's largest repository of books on Jewish subjects. In 2006, the Hebrew University was ranked 60th and 119th in two surveys of the world's top universities. Other major universities in the country include the Technion, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, the University of Haifa, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Israel's seven research universities (excluding the Open University) have been ranked in the top 500 in the world. Israel ranks third in the world in the number of citizens who hold university degrees (20 percent of the population). During the 1990s, an influx of a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union (forty percent of whom were university graduates) helped boost Israel's high-tech sector. Israel has produced four Nobel Prize-winning scientists and publishes among the most scientific papers per capita of any country in the world. In 2003, Ilan Ramon became Israel's first astronaut, serving as payload specialist of STS-107, the fatal mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Israel has embraced solar energy, its engineers are on the cutting edge of solar energy technology and its solar companies work on projects around the world. Over 90% of Israeli homes use solar energy for hot water, the highest per capita in the world. According to the Ministry of National Infrastructures, the country saves an estimated 2 million barrels of oil a year because of its solar energy use. The high annual incident solar irradiance at its geographic latitude creates ideal conditions for what is an internationally renowned solar research and development industry in the Negev Desert.

As of 2008, Israel's population is 7.28 million. Of those, over 260,000 Israeli citizens lived in the West Bank settlements such as Ma'ale Adumim and Ariel, and communities that predated the establishment of the State but were re-established after the Six-Day War, in cities such as Hebron and Gush Etzion. 18,000 Israelis live in the Golan Heights. In 2006, there were 250,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem. The total number of Israeli settlers is over 500,000 (6.5 % of the Israeli population). Approximately 7,800 Israelis lived in settlements in the Gaza Strip until they were evacuated by the government as part of its 2005 disengagement plan.

Israel has two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew is the primary language of the state and spoken by the majority of the population. Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority and Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab lands. Most Israelis can communicate reasonably well in English, as many television programs are in English and many schools begin to teach English in the early grades. As a country of immigrants, dozens of languages can be heard on the streets of Israel. A large influx of people from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia have made Russian and Amharic widely spoken in Israel. Between 1990 and 1994, the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union increased Israel's population by twelve percent. Over the last decade, immigration flows have also included significant numbers of workers from countries such as Romania, Thailand, China, and a number of countries in Africa and South America; gauging precise numbers is difficult because of the presence of "undocumented" immigrants, but estimates run in the region of 200,000. Retention of Israel's population since 1948 is about even or greater, when compared to other countries with mass immigration. Emigration from Israel (yerida) to other countries, primarily the United States and Canada, is described by demographers as modest but is often cited by Israeli government ministries as a major threat to Israel's future.

Making up 16.2% of the population, Muslims constitute Israel's largest religious minority. About 2% of the population are Christian and 1.5% are Druze. Members of many other religious groups, including Buddhists and Hindus, maintain a presence in Israel, albeit in small numbers. The Christian population includes both Arab Christians and Messianic Jews.

The city of Jerusalem is of special importance to Jews, Muslims and Christians as it is the home of sites that are pivotal to their religious beliefs, such as the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Other landmarks of religious importance are located in the West Bank, among them the birthplace of Jesus and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The administrative center of the Bahá'í Faith and the Shrine of the Báb are located at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa and the leader of the faith is buried in Acre. Apart from maintenance staff, there is no Bahá'í community in Israel, although it is a destination for pilgrimages. Bahá'í staff in Israel do not teach their faith to Israelis following strict policy.

Israel's diverse culture stems from the diversity of the population: Jews from around the world have brought their cultural and religious traditions with them, creating a melting pot of Jewish customs and beliefs. Israel is the only country in the world where life revolves around the Hebrew calendar. Work and school holidays are determined by the Jewish holidays, and the official day of rest is Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Israel's substantial Arab minority has also left its imprint on Israeli culture in such spheres as architecture, music, and cuisine.

Israeli literature is primarily poetry and prose written in Hebrew, as part of the renaissance of Hebrew as a spoken language since the mid-19th century, although a small body of literature is published in other languages, such as Arabic and English. By law, two copies of all printed matter published in Israel must be deposited in the Jewish National and University Library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2001, the law was amended to include audio and video recordings, and other non-print media. In 2006, 85 percent of the 8,000 books transferred to the library were in Hebrew. The Hebrew Book Week (He: שבוע הספר) is held each June and features book fairs, public readings, and appearances by Israeli authors around the country. During the week, Israel's top literary award, the Sapir Prize, is presented. In 1966, Shmuel Yosef Agnon shared the Nobel Prize in Literature with German Jewish author Nelly Sachs.

Israeli music contains musical influences from all over the world; Yemenite music, Hasidic melodies, Arabic music, Greek music, jazz, and pop rock are all part of the music scene. The nation's canonical folk songs, known as "Songs of the Land of Israel," deal with the experiences of the pioneers in building the Jewish homeland. Among Israel's world-renowned orchestras is the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been in operation for over seventy years and today performs more than two hundred concerts each year. Israel has also produced many musicians of note, some achieving international stardom. Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Ofra Haza are among the internationally acclaimed musicians born in Israel. Israel has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest nearly every year since 1973, winning the competition three times and hosting it twice. Eilat has hosted its own international music festival, the Red Sea Jazz Festival, every summer since 1987.

Continuing the strong theatrical traditions of the Yiddish theater in Eastern Europe, Israel maintains a vibrant theatre scene. Founded in 1918, Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv is Israel's oldest repertory theater company and national theater.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is one of Israel's most important cultural institutions and houses the Dead Sea scrolls, along with an extensive collection of Judaica and European art. Israel's national Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, houses the world's largest archive of Holocaust-related information. Beth Hatefutsoth (the Diaspora Museum), on the campus of Tel Aviv University, is an interactive museum devoted to the history of Jewish communities around the world. Apart from the major museums in large cities, there are high-quality artspaces in many towns and kibbutzim. Mishkan Le'Omanut on Kibbutz Ein Harod Meuhad is the largest art museum in the north of the country.

Sports and physical fitness have not always been paramount in Jewish culture. Athletic prowess, which was prized by the ancient Greeks, was looked down upon as an unwelcome intrusion of Hellenistic values. Maimonides, who was both a rabbi and a physician, emphasized the importance of physical activity and keeping the body in shape. This approach received a boost in the 19th century from the physical culture campaign of Max Nordau, and in the early 20th century when the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kook, declared that "the body serves the soul, and only a healthy body can ensure a healthy soul".

The Maccabiah Games, an Olympic-style event for Jewish athletes, was inaugurated in the 1930s, and has been held every four years since then. The most popular spectator sports in Israel today are association football and basketball. In 1964 Israel hosted and won the Asian Nations Cup.

In the Seventies Israel was excluded from the 1978 Asian Games following the organizers' refusal to invite the country as a result of pressure by participating middle eastern countries. The exclusion led Israel to shift from Asia to Europe and cease competing in Asian competitions. In 1994, UEFA agreed to admit Israel and all Israeli sporting organizations now compete in Europe. Ligat ha'Al is the country's premier soccer league, and Ligat HaAl is the premier basketball league. Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. has won the European championship in basketball five times.

Beersheba has become a national chess center and home to many chess champions from the former Soviet Union. The city hosted the World Team Chess Championship in 2005, and chess is taught in the city's kindergartens. In 2007, an Israeli tied for second place in the World Chess Championship.

To date, Israel has won seven Olympic medals since its first win in 1992, including a gold medal in windsurfing at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Israel has won over 100 gold medals in the Paralympic Games and is ranked about 15th in the all time medal count. The 1968 Summer Paralympics were hosted by Israel.

For dependent and other territories, see Dependent territory.

1 Partly or significantly in Europe.  2 The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not officially recognized by the United Nations; see Political status of Taiwan. 3 Partly or significantly in Africa.  4 Partly or wholly reckoned in Oceania.

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Prime Minister of Israel

Coat of arms of Israel.svg

The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and is the most powerful political officer in Israel (the title of President of Israel, despite being head of state, is an honorary position). He or she wields executive power in the country, and has an official residence in Jerusalem, the "Agion House", at the corner of Balfour and Smolenskin streets in Rehavia. The current Prime Minister is Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, who was also the ninth person to hold the position (excluding caretakers).

Following an election, the President nominates a Prime Minister after asking party leaders whom they support for the position, though between 1996 and 2001 the Prime Minister was elected in a separate election to the rest of the Knesset. In Hebrew the position is called Rosh HaMemshala (Hebrew: ראש הממשלה‎, literally "Head of Government"), a term also applied to foreign Prime Ministers. Occasionally, the title of "Premier" is used when referring to the Prime Minister.

The office of Prime Minister came into existence on 14 May 1948, the date of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, when the provisional government was created. David Ben-Gurion, leader of Mapai and head of the Jewish Agency became Israel's first Prime Minister. The position became permanent on 8 March 1949, when the first government was formed.

Ben-Gurion retained his role until the late 1953, when he resigned in order to settle in the Kibbutz of Sde Boker. He was replaced by Moshe Sharret. However, Ben-Gurion returned in little under two years to reclaim his position.

He resigned for a second time in 1963, annoyed at a lack of support from colleagues, and broke away from Mapai to form Rafi. Levi Eshkol took over as head of Mapai and Prime Minister. He became the first Prime Minister to head the country under the banner of two parties when Mapai formed the Alignment with Ahdut HaAvoda in 1965. In 1968 he also became the only party leader to date to command an absolute majority in the Knesset, after Mapam and Rafi merged into the Alignment, giving it 63 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

On 26 February 1969, Eshkol became the first Prime Minister to die in office, and was temporarily replaced by Yigal Allon. However, Allon's stint as Interim PM lasted less than a month, as the party persuaded Golda Meir to return to political life and become Prime Minister in March 1969. Meir was Israel's first, and so far only female Prime Minister, and only the third female leader in the world (after Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Indira Gandhi).

Meir resigned from the post in 1974 after the Agranat Commission published its findings on the Yom Kippur War, even though it had absolved her of any blame. Yitzhak Rabin took over, though he also resigned towards the end of the eighth Knesset's term after a series of scandals including the suicide of Housing Minister Avraham Ofer after a police investigation began into allegations he used party funds illegally, Asher Yadlin (the governor-designate of the Bank of Israel) being found guilty of accepting bribes and sentenced to five years in prison, and Rabin's wife, Leah, being found to have an overseas bank account, illegal in Israel at the time.

Menachem Begin became the first right-wing Prime Minister when his Likud won the 1977 elections, and retained the post in the 1981 elections. He resigned in 1983 for health reasons, passing the reins of power to Yitzhak Shamir.

After the 1984 elections had proved inconclusive with neither the Alignment or Likud able to form a government, a national unity government was formed with a rotating Prime Ministership - Peres took the first two years, and was replaced by Shamir midway through the Knesset term.

Although the 1988 elections produced another national unity government, Shamir was able to take the role alone. Peres made an abortive bid to form a left-wing government in 1990, but failed, leaving Shamir to rule until 1992.

Rabin became the Prime Minister for the second time when he led Labour to victory in the 1992 elections. After his assassination on 4 November 1995, Peres took over as Prime Minister.

During the thirteenth Knesset, (1992–1996,) it was decided to have separate elections for Prime Minister in a style similar to American Presidential elections. This was an attempt to deal with the increasingly fragmented nature of the Knesset, which had 13 parties with six seats or less as a result of the 1988 elections (though ironically the 1992 elections had produced a Knesset with only 10 parties, which alongside the 1973 and 1981 elections was a record low; this was largely as a result of a few parties merging). The aim was to give more power to the head of the government by freeing the position of dependency upon the support of minor parties in the Knesset, which had previously been used to bring down governments over relatively trivial matters.

The first Prime Ministerial election took place in 1996 alongside simultaneous Knesset elections. The result was a surprise win for Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud, after early results suggested Peres would win, prompting the phrase "went to sleep with Peres, woke up with Netanyahu." However, the Knesset elections produced a win for Labour, meaning that despite his theoretical position of power, Netanyahu had to rely on the support of religious parties to form a viable government.

Ultimately Netanyahu failed to hold the government together, and early elections for both Prime Minister and the Knesset were called in 1999. Although five candidates announced their intention to run, the three representing minor parties (Benny Begin of Herut – The National Movement, Azmi Bishara of Balad and Yitzhak Mordechai of the Centre Party) dropped out before election day, and Ehud Barak beat Netanyahu in the election. However, the new system had failed again, as although Barak's One Israel party (an alliance of Labour, Gesher and Meimad) won the Knesset election, they garnered only 26 seats, the lowest ever by a winning party, meaning that a coalition with six smaller parties was once again necessary.

In early 2001, Barak resigned following the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada. However, the government was not brought down, and only elections for Prime Minister were necessary. In the election itself, Ariel Sharon comfortably beat Barak, taking 62.4% of the vote. However, because Likud only had 21 seats in the Knesset, Sharon had to form a national unity government. Following Sharon's victory, it was decided to scrap separate elections for Prime Minister and return to the previous system.

The 2003 elections were carried out in the same manner as prior to 1996. Likud won 38 seats, the highest by a party for over a decade, and as party leader Sharon was duly appointed PM. However, towards the end of his term and largely as a result of the deep divisions within Likud over Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, Sharon broke away from his party to form Kadima, managing to maintain his position as Prime Minister and also becoming the first Prime Minister not to be a member of either Labour or Likud (or their predecessors). However, he suffered a stroke in January 2006, in the midst of election season, leading to Ehud Olmert become Acting Prime Minister in the weeks leading to the elections. He was voted by the cabinet to be Interim Prime Minister, days after the 2006 elections, after Sharon reached 100 days of incapacitation, that required an appointment of an Interim Prime Minister (the pre-election Government alway continues to govern until a new one is sworn in) becoming Israel's third Interim Prime Minister,just days before forming his own new Government, in the aftermath of the elections, to become the official Prime Minister of Israel.

If the Prime Minister dies in office, the Cabinet chooses an Interim Prime Minister, to run the government until a new government is placed in power. Yigal Allon served as Interim Prime Minister following Levi Eshkol's death, as did Shimon Peres following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

According to Israeli law, if a Prime Minister is temporarily incapacitated rather than dies (as was the case following Ariel Sharon's stroke in early 2006), power is transferred to the Acting Prime Minister, until the PM recovers (Ehud Olmert took over from Sharon), for up to 100 days. If the Prime Minister is declared permanently incapacitated, or that period expires, the President of Israel oversees the process of assembling a new governing coalition, and in the meantime the Acting Prime MInister or other incumbent minister is appointed by the Cabinet to serve as Interim Prime Minister.

In the case of Sharon, elections were already due to occur within 100 days of the beginning of his coma thus the post-election coalition building process pre-empted the emergency provisions for the selection of a new Prime Minister. Nevertheless, Olmert was appointed Interim Prime Minister on 16 April 2006, after the elections, just days before he had formed a government on 4 May 2006, to become the official Prime Minister.

Aside from the position of Acting Prime Minister, there are also Vice Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers.

A total of twelve people have served as Prime Minister of Israel, five of whom have served on two non-consecutive occasions. Additionally, one person, Yigal Allon has served solely as an Interim Prime Minister. The other two who have served as Interim Prime Minister have gone on to become the Prime Minister.

1 In 1965 Mapai merged with Ahdut HaAvoda to form the Labour Alignment, later renamed Alignment.

2 Eshkol died while in office. Yigal Allon briefly served as acting prime minister until he was replaced by Meir.

3 Rabin resigned and called for early elections in December 1976. After he was re-elected as the Alignment's leader, he resigned as candidate for the upcoming elections on 7 April 1977, but continued to serve as prime minister until Begin's first government was formed.

4 After the 1984 elections, Likud and the Alignment reached a coalition agreement by which the role of prime minister would be rotated mid-term between them. Shimon Peres of the Alignment served as prime minister for the first two years, and then the role was passed to Yitzhak Shamir. After the 1988 election Likud was able to govern without the Alignment, and Yitzhak Shamir became prime minister again.

5 Rabin was assassinated while in office. Shimon Peres served as acting PM until 22 November 1995.

6 On 21 November 2005, PM Sharon, along with several other ministers and MKs, split from Likud over the issue of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and negotiations over the final status of the West Bank. Sharon formed a new party, Kadima, which would go on to compete in the following elections of March 2006. Sharon continued as Prime Minister.

7 As the result of Ariel Sharon suffering a severe stroke on 4 January 2006, and being put under general anaesthetic, Ehud Olmert served as the Acting Prime Minister (Hebrew: ממלא מקום ראש הממשלה בפועל‎) from 4 January to 14 April, according to Basic Law: The Government: "Should the Prime Minister be temporarily unable to discharge his duties, his place will be filled by the Acting Prime Minister. After the passage of 100 days upon which the Prime Minister does not resume his duties, the Prime Minister will be deemed permanently unable to exercise his office." Basic Law: the Governmet 2001, section 16b In Sharon's case, this occurred on 14 April 2006, upon which Olmert became Interim Prime Minister.

8 Olmert officially resigned on 21 September 2008. With this his cabinet became an interim government, and he was the "interim" prime minister until the establishment of a new governing coalition (he was officially the prime minister, however, the government under him was an interim government, in this case).

As of April 2009, five former Prime Ministers were alive, six if you include the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the oldest being Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir also has the longest life span of any PM. The most recent to die was Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated on 4 November 1995. Ariel Sharon has been in a persistent vegetative state since his stroke on 4 January 2006.

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Source : Wikipedia