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The Home of Academic Studies on Israel

ISRAEL OVERVIEW [+ / -]

AGRICULTURE

The history of scientific research in Israel is an integral part of the story of the return of the Jewish people to its homeland. Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), the first to actively promote the idea of a modern Jewish state in the Land of Israel, envisaged it not only as the physical home of the Jewish people but also as a major scientific center that could revolutionize the world. This desire to transform the land, then a barren and disease ridden region, into a modern state was a key factor in subsequent scientific inquiry and technological development. Agricultural research, specifically, dates back to the end of the 19th century with the establishment of the Mikveh Israel School (1870). The Agricultural Station, set up in Tel Aviv in 1921, eventually developed into the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), today Israel's major institution of agricultural research and development. Today, agriculture in Israel is comprised of plant crops, afforestation and gardening, raising livestock, and livestock products. Diversification and growth in types of plant crops and livestock breeding has increased over time. Methods of cultivation have also improved, and Israel continues to develop more efficient forms of irrigation, greenhouses, and mechanical equipment for processing and harvesting crops. Additionally, despite the fact that Israel's georgraphy is not necessarily conducive to agriculture, Israel is at the forefront of the world in agricultural research and development. Israeli farmers and scientists have teamed with researchers throughout the world to establish new and innovative technologies to maximize efficiency, minimize waste and create greater output. They have also developed new ways of making agriculture thrive in arid and semi-arid climates such as Israel.

ARCHAEOLOGY

Archeology provides a invaluable link between Israel's past and present. Due to Israel’s long and rich prehistoric and ancient history, and its small size, the country maintains the highest ratio of ancient sites per area in the world. The Israel Antiquities Authority has counted more than 14,000 sites and some 6,000 archaeological excavations and surveys have been carried out in the area (including in the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank). Thus, Israel is the most intensively excavated region in the world today. Some of the most important discoveries have been found in Qirbet Qumran, Hazor, Megiddo, Rehov, Bet Shean, Caesarea, Banias, the Negev, and Tel Dan. The thousands of uncovered sites not only provide an opportunity to study the rich history of Jewish civilization in the area they also shedd light on the culture, society and daily life of Israel's many other inhabitants throughout the centuries.

ARCHITECTURE

Israeli architecture is a mixture of centuries of historical building styles and prevailing international design trends. Notably eclectic, modern Israeli buildings combine traditional materials and motifs with the needs of modern, urban populations. The architecture in Jewish towns and settlements in modern Israel was conditioned, on the whole, more by the urgent housing requirements of the various immigration periods than by any other consideration. The aesthetic aspect mostly reflected the trends prevalent in the architects' countries of origin. Architectural styles in Israel include the Le Corbusier style, the Brazilian and the Japanese, brutalism, and plasticism. There are also attempts to adapt foreign ideas to specific conditions in Israel, particularly in terms of protection against the sun, and to draw inspiration from ancient Oriental architecture. Here and there one can find regional motifs, such as the use of a vaulted concrete shell, or the mixture of concrete and stone.

CULTURE & ART

Despite the constant threat of terrorism and war, Israel is home to a thriving and vibrant cultural life symbolized by internationally renowned artists, musicians and actors. Israeli artists, writers, dancers, actors and musicians have made an impact far beyond their number, while an increasing variety of international festivals and events, such as the Israel Festival, the Jerusalem International Book Fair, the International Poetry Festival, the Karmiel Dance Festival and many others, have become notable events in the world's cultural calendar. Increasingly, Israeli movies and television programs are being praised across international borders and Israel has become one of the more attractive places for world-renowned singers and musicial bands to kick off tours in Europe and Asia.

EDUCATION

Education in Israel is a precious legacy that dates back to biblical times. Following the tradition of past generations, education continues to be a fundamental value in Israel's society and is recognized as the key to its future. The educational system aims to prepare children to become responsible members of a democratic, pluralistic society in which people from different ethnic, religious, cultural and political backgrounds coexist. The educational system is based on Jewish values, love of the land and the principles of liberty and tolerance. It seeks to impart a high level of knowledge, with an emphasis on scientific and technological skills essential for the country's continued development.

ENVIRONMENT

For Israel, concern for all living things and prohibitions against environmental degradation may be traced back to biblical sources. Indeed, the first chapters of the Book of Genesis emphasize the vital link between humanity (adam) and the earth (adamah) and introduce the concept of stewardship by enjoining man to work the earth and to watch over it. Israel's rebirth in modern times was sparked by this age-old commitment of the people to their land. Inspired by this profound sense of heritage, efforts are also being made to both preserve what is currently there and reintroduce plant and animal life which existed in biblical times and have since either disappeared from the region or are threatened with extinction. In juxtaposition to its small geographical size, a wide range of of physical conditions and a rich variety of flora and fauna characterize Israel. The country's location at the junction of three continents, coupled with the climatic changes throughout the history of this region, has been largely responsible for the great diversity of species.

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

In the State of Israel, as in other democratic states, the democratic rule is rooted in the following principles and institutions: basic laws that lay down the order of government and of the citizens' rights; the holding of elections to the house of representatives and to municipal councils every few years, following which, a central government and local authorities are set up, based on the principle of the rule of the majority, with the rights of the minority guaranteed by law; the principle of the separation between the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judiciary, to which the institution of state control has been added; freedom of the press.

HEALTH & MEDICINE

Since its inception, Israel has been very successful in pursuing effective Public Health policies. Israel's high standards of health services, top-quality medical resources and research, modern hospital facilities, and an impressive ratio of physicians and specialists to population are reflected in one of the highest average life expectancies in the world. Despite its status as a young nation composed of immigrants principally from North Africa, the former Soviet Union and Central Europe, Israel's quality of life is still very high. Israel also managed to absorb thousands of Holocaust survivors in addition to many immigrants suffering from tuberculosis, malnutrition, heart disease and every type of cancer. Over the past twenty years, Israel has also become a world leader in medical technology innovation and Israeli doctors and institutions have made significant contributions in virtually every field of medicine.

IMMIGRATION

Despite their dispersal throughout the world, the Jewish people never abandoned the ideal of resurrecting their national home in the land of Israel. The longing to return and settle in this homeland was also never lost. Throughout the centuries following their expulsion by Rome in 70 CE, Jews maintained a presence in the Land and uninterrupted contact with Jews abroad enriched the cultural, spiritual and intellectual life of both communities. When the State of Israel was established in May 1948, its Proclamation of Independence stated: "The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of the exiles; it will foster the development of the country for all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel" In his speech opening the inaugural Knesset in 1949, Israeli President Chaim Weizmann echoed this sentiment and made clear that the aim of the Jewish state would be, before everything else, "to gather in the exiles from all parts of the world." Since that time, Israel has absorbed millions of Jewish immigrants from all over the world, creating an immense melting pot of cultural heritage and societal traditions.

ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES

Formed out of the ashes of the Holocaust when more than six million Jews were murdered, the State of Israel dedicated itself to the ideal of Jewish defense and security for the future. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), or Tzahal in Hebrew, is the actualization of this ideal. The IDF is comprised of the Army, Air Force, and Navy and today ranks among the world's most battle-tested and well-trained armed forces. Since its founding in 1948, the IDF has fought in ten wars or extended conflicts and has taken part in some of the most daring missions in the history of modern warfare. The IDF mission statement is, “To defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the State of Israel."

ISRAELI ARABS

Israel is home to a highly diverse population from many different ethnic, religious, cultural and social backgrounds. Israel is not a theocracy; it is governed by the rule of law as drafted by a democratically elected parliament. Israel has no state religion, and all faiths enjoy freedom of worship. It is informed by Jewish values and adheres to many Jewish religious customs (such as holidays), but this is similar to the United States and other nations that are shaped by the Judeo-Christian heritage and also have expressly religious elements. Of Israel's more than 7.8 million citizens in 2012, more than 1.6 million, constituting just over 20 percent, are Arab Israelis, many of whom are descendants of residents living there from before the establishment of the State of Israel. Although defined collectively as Arab citizens of Israel, the Arab Israeli sector includes a number of different, though primarily Arabic-speaking, groups each with its own distinct identity. Muslim Arabs, the largest group, constitute three-quarters of the Arab Israeli sector and most are Sunni Muslims. Nearly one-tenth of Israel's Muslim Arabs are Bedouins, formerly nomadic shepherds. Christian Arabs form the second largest group in the Arab Israeli sector. The Druze, some 110,000 Arabic-speakers living in 22 villages mostly in northern Israel, is a separate cultural, social and religious community.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

When Israel declared independence in 1948, its small population was immediately forced to deal with very real existential threats from the neighboring Arab nations as well as figure out ways to absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing persecution in other areas of the world. Given the country's struggle for survival and the urgency of providing for the most basic needs of a population which tripled itself in a decade, it was hard to imagine that Israel would make significant progress in economics or technology. And yet, now more than 60 years after its establishment, Israel has become an economic and technological powerhouse. Much of the progress is due to innovative abilities in the applied sciences and technology. As a country almost bereft of natural resources, special emphasis was placed on the need for advanced education and scientific research. In fact, the combination of the educational and scientific infrastructure with the country's most pressing problems unexpectedly made for a creative synthesis which set development into motion.

SPORTS

As in most of the world, sports are both an important part of Israeli society and a big business. The most popular sports in Israel are soccer and basketball, though Israeli athletes have excelled in a wide range of sports and some have even advanced to the most advanced levels of competition in Europe and the United States. Israel has taken part in every summer Olympics games since 1952, has qualified for the World Cup once and the UEFA Champions League four times, and has won the Euro-League basketball championship five times. In addition, Israel hosts the quadrennial Maccabiah, or International Jewish Olympics, which have become an worldwide spectacle drawing some of the finest Jewish athletes.

WATER

Water is considered as a national resource of utmost importance in Israel as it is vital to ensure the population's well-being and quality of life and to preserve the rural-agricultural sector. Located on the edge of a desert belt, however, Israel has always suffered a scarcity of water. Archeological discoveries reveal that local inhabitants even thousands of years ago were already concerned with water conservation, as evidenced by a variety of systems designed to collect, store, and transfer rainwater from one place to another.

WOMEN IN ISRAEL

The State of Israel was established on the principle of equality of social and political rights for all its citizens irrespective of religion, race or sex. This image is, however, somewhat misleading. There are many areas in which traditions, social institutions, religious rules, and even laws have kept women at a disadvantage: in the workplace, in divorce proceedings, in national service and even as victims of violence. Changes in the political and economic climate, such as the Middle East conflict onflict in the Middle East and the influx of thousands of guest workers, have created new problems. There are still difficulties facing women in Israel today, but overall the women's movement has fought for, and won, many advancements for their place in society. Today, women are represented in every level of government, a woman judge presides over the Supreme Court, a woman sits in the highest command of the IDF and women take positions in all of the top high-tech industries.

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