The State of Israel gained independence in 1948, and is a democratic society with 8.5 million inhabitants. It is home to Jews, Arabs (Muslim and Christian), Bedouin, Druze, amongst others.
Geographically, it is a small country, and is comprised of areas and climates that differ vastly from one another. It has the humid and warm western Mediterranean coastal plain, the cool mountains of the Galilee in the north, the dry hills of Judea in the east and the extremely hot Negev Desert in the south.
Within its small perimeters, Israel is abundant in fascinating archeological and Biblical sites, such as Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Masada, Tiberias, Acre, Jaffa, Sea of Galilee, and many more. Israel has a rich history, going back more than 3000 years: the Canaanite period, Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Empires, Islamic, Crusader, Mamluk, Ottoman and British periods, have each left their marks.
In the last century, Israel has seen the revival of the Hebrew language and the evolution of a flourishing culture, including literature, music, dance and art. Throughout those years, universities, research centers and scientific institutes were established, and a sophisticated high-tech industry was formed. In Israel one may encounter different multi-faceted cultures, from modern cosmopolitan cities, such as Tel Aviv, to Israel's unique communal society, the Kibbutz. Israel's cuisine reflects its multicultural society based on different food traditions from all over the world. From falafel stands to gourmet restaurants, Israel offers a wide spectrum of Mediterranean, Oriental, European and Asian food as well as a variety of refined, locally produced wines.
Jerusalem, Israel's capital, is situated in the Judean Hills. It is the largest city in Israel, both in population and size, and is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a history going back 5000 years. Jerusalem is a city holy to the Jewish, Christian and Moslem faiths. The streets are steeped in history, while a modern and bustling city has grown around these sites. The ancient and the modern are intertwined into a single and unique harmony.
The Old City, with its quaint alleys and captivating heritage, is highly recommended. Whether you seek religious sanctity or cultural enrichment, the Old City offers it all. The Western Wall, The City of David, The Via Dolorosa and The Dome of the Rock, are just a few of the many historical and biblical sites which attract visitors.
Once you leave the Old City, the new city offers many other sites of cultural, music, art, and gastronomical interest. There are many museums to visit, including the top ranking Israel Museum with the Shrine of the Book, Bible Lands Museum, Museum for Islamic Art, etc. Visitors may also stroll through neighborhoods with inspiring, magnificent views, such as Yemin Moshe, the German Colony and Ein Kerem.
Ben Gurion Airport is merely a 40 minute drive from Jerusalem, while other major cities and important sights such as Masada, Dead Sea, Haifa and Tel Aviv are easily accessible.
Photo credit: goisrael.com, Noam Chen
Photo credit: Zoli Keller