Middle East Encyclopedia

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Israel (Hebrew: , Yisra'el), officially called the State of Israel (Hebrew: (helpinfo), Medinat Yisra'el; Arabic: دَوْلَةْ إِسْرَائِيل, Dawlat Isrā'īl), is a country in Southwest Asia located on the southeastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It has borders with Lebanon in the north, Syria and Jordan in the east, and Egypt on the southwest.  Also adjacent are the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which are partially administrated by the Palestinian National Authority and by a separate Hamas led government in Gaza.

The modern state of Israel has its roots in the unique relation of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, which has been central to Judaism for over three thousand years and later to other religions. In 1922 the League of Nations approved a British Mandate of Palestine with the object of creating a Jewish National Home.

In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab (See UN General Assembly Resolution 181). On May 14, 1948, Israel declared independence. Since independence, Israel has been in conflict with many of the neighboring Arab countries. Major confrontations include the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. In the course of the conflict Israel's boundaries have been subject to constant dispute and change. In recent years, Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and there are been efforts to reach permanent agreements with the Palestinians.

Israel is the world's only Jewish state, and today has a population of about 7.1 million, about 75% of whom are Jews from a diversity of Jewish backgrounds. It is also home to Muslims, Christians, Druze, and Bahai, mostly of local Arab background, as well as other religious and ethnic minority groups. Jerusalem is the capital and seat of government, though it is not recognized as the capital by most countries.

Due to its broad array of political rights and civil liberties, Israel is considered a liberal democracy, despite inequalities evident in treatment of Israeli Arabs. Despite Israel's political problems and the vast sums it spends on military defense, the country is an active competitor in the global market and is considered a developed country and the most progressive in the region in terms of free elections, freedom of the press, business regulations, economic competition, and overall human development.

(Adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel

See also Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Brief History

MAPS: Map of Israel  Map of Israel

Country Stub - More information to be provided

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:   

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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