Israel


Israel is a small yet diverse Middle Eastern country with a long coastline on the eastern Mediterranean Sea and a small window on the Red Sea at the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba). Israel is bordered by Egypt and the Gaza Strip to the southwest, by Jordan and the West Bank to the east, and by Syria and Lebanon to the north. It shares borders to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea with the West Bank and Jordan.

Israel has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, with Neanderthal remains from the region dating back 50,000 years. Its strategic location serving as the gateway from Asia to Egypt and Africa had made Israel an ideal target for conquerors through the ages. The first nation to have influence was the great Egyptian civilization. Approximately 1000 B.C, an independent Judean Kingdom was set up under King Saul. The land lay to the south of Phoenicia.

After intermittent civil war, the land was conquered by the Assyrians and Persians and in ~330 BC by Alexander the Great. A newly independent Jewish state, ruled by the Maccabees, was conquered in 63 BC by the Romans. Around 30 CE, Jesus of Nazareth began his ministry in the Galilee. Israel is a representative democracy with a parliamentary system, proportional representation and universal suffrage. The Prime Minister serves as head of government and the Knesset serves as Israel's unicameral legislative body. Israel has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. It is a developed country, an OECD member, and its economy, based on the nominal gross domestic product, was the 41st-largest in the world in 2010. Israel has the highest standard of living in the Middle East.

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